Alaska News Nightly: February 4, 2011

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Man Charged with Nearly 11-Year-Old Murder
Len Anderson, KSKA – Anchorage
This afternoon, standing before the Homicide Victims’ Memorial in downtown Anchorage, Police Chief Mark Mew announced that a former city resident had been charged for the March 2000 murder of Genevieve Tetpon. Tetpon was 28 at the time of her death.

Mew said Thursday a Grand Jury in Anchorage had issued a true bill for the arrest.

Torian was arrested at his workplace without incident. He’s been charged with one count of first degree murder and one count of second degree murder.  He will remain in custody while awaiting extradition proceedings in South Dakota.

In March, 2000, Tetpon’s body was found in the woods along Arctic Valley Road.  Her death was caused by stabbing.   At the time of the killing, Torian was an Anchorage high school student.   According to Sergeant Slawomir Markiewicz who described some details of the investigation, the case had remained cold until in 2009 a fourth officer – Detective Dave Cordie was assigned the case.

Mew says Tetpon’s death was one of a series of murders involving Alaska Native Women in 1999 and 2000.   With Tetpon’s alleged killer now arrested and if successfully prosecuted, that would be three solved, with the Della Brown and Cynthia Henry cases already closed.

And like Tetpon and Brown and Henry, the names of those two victims are also listed on Homicide Victims Memorial where today’s arrest announcement was made.

Bill May End State’s Involvement in AGIA
Dave Donaldson, APRN – Juneau
Friday, legislators got their first look at a bill that could lead to closing the state’s involvement in the state-licensed AGIA gas pipeline project from the North Slope to North American markets.

Bethel Farm Produces Likely First Agricultural Export from Region
Shane Iverson, KYUK – Bethel
Tim Myers, of Myers Farm in Bethel has been supplying fresh vegetables to people in Bethel for several years now. This last season he had enough produce to ship some out to customers in villages.  And just this week, Myers put a shipment on a cargo plane headed out of the region.  It’s likely that his shipment is the regions first agricultural export, ever.

Former Trooper Alleges Witness Lied Under Oath at 2006 Waterman Trial
Ellen Lockyer, KSKA – Anchorage
The state’s case against alleged matricide conspirator Rachelle Waterman was shaken Friday when the final defense witness took the stand.   Former Alaska State Trooper Anna Goemer, who also worked with the city police force in Ketchikan and as a campus cop, testified that she knew that a key witness in Waterman’s first trial had lied under oath.

Goemer said that Craig Police Chief Mark Habib had told her after  Waterman’s first trial in 2006 that  he had lied about who took some photos connected to the murder of  Lauri Waterman.

Mark Habib was a Craig police officer when he worked on the 2004 murder, and he was called as a witness earlier in Waterman’s current trial.  Trooper Robert Claus, who also testified, was present when investigators questioned Rachelle Waterman.

In an effort to pinpoint the exact lies, Assistant District Attorney Jean Seaton attempted to have Goemer read transcripts of Habib’s 2006 testimony, but judge William Carey would not allow it, saying Habib’s transcript is not part of Goemer’s testimony.

Seaton said prosecutors would have to bring Habib back to the witness stand, although that would not be possible Friday.

Potentially more damaging to the state’s case was Goemer’s claim that she had alerted state District Attorney Stephen West about her information, and gotten no reply.  West is arguing the case for the state.

In earlier testimony, defense witness Doctor Marty Beyer strengthened the defense’s claim that at the time of the murder, Rachelle Waterman was an intellectually mature but emotionally needy teenager, one who suffered extreme low self esteem due to early trauma.  Beyer is a psychologist who had evaluated Rachelle Waterman twice.

She said Waterman was unusually unable to assess risk, and did not foresee consequences of her relationship with an older boyfriend.  That boyfriend, Jason Arrant, is in prison for the murder of Lauri Waterman.

Beyer also testified that Rachelle Waterman had told her that she had been raped at age 13, and that she told her mother, but  her mother did not believe her.  As a result, there are no medical or police records of the sexual assault.

Preparations Keep Yukon Quest Mushers, Organizers Busy
Emily Schwing, KUAC – Fairbanks
Pre-Race jitters, warm temperatures and veterinary checkups have kept Yukon Quest mushers, and race organizers busy in the Yukon Territory this week.  KUAC’s Emily Schwing has more on race preparations heading into the start of the 28th annual Yukon Quest.

High Schoolers Competing in 14th Annual Alaska Tsunami Ocean Sciences Bowl
Jerzy Shedlock, APRN – Anchorage
High school students from 14 Alaska Coastal communities will converge on the Seward Marine Science Center this weekend to showcase their knowledge of marine science in the 14th annual Alaska Tsunami Ocean Sciences Bowl.

This year, teams from Dillingham, Sitka, Kotlik and Scammon Bay will compete for the first time. Several schools are sending more than one team. A total of 20 teams will compete in the three-day event starting today.

Students receive a research topic in the fall and prepare a 20-page paper to be presented at the competition. The paper is then reviewed by scientists from the University of Alaska Fairbanks in December. The chosen teams present a 20 minute oral presentation as well as compete in a quiz competition, which will take place Saturday and Sunday.

Longtime Tsunami Bowl organizer Phyllis Shoemaker says the regional competition has grown every year since its inception in 1998.

The competition is funded by various grants with main support coming from the Consortium of Ocean leadership—a group of several agencies based in Washington D.C. Other sponsors include the UAF School of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences, and the Alaska Sea Grant College Program, and other sources.

Juneau Doulgas High School Teacher Ben Carney is coaching two teams for the bowl. He meets with the teams once a week to discuss various Oceanographic concepts and the paper portion of the competition. Carney is very confident of his students. His teams have won four years in a row.

The event is meant to encourage students to continue to study fisheries and marine science during their post secondary education. Shoemaker says marine-related knowledge is important to Alaskans as a whole.

The teams will be competing for prizes that include tuition at UAF, and the chance to represent Alaska at the National Ocean Sciences Bowl later this spring in Galveston, Texas.

Sacred Sites Included in Sealaska Lands Bill
Ed Ronco, KCAW – Sitka
We’re taking an in-depth look at Sealaska’s lands bill, which will soon be reintroduced in Congress. Among its components is the selection of about 200 sacred sites. As part of our series on the legislation, KCAW’s Ed Ronco explains what the sacred sites are, and why they’re included in the bill.

Governor Looks to Double Size of Southeast State Forest
Ed Schoenfeld, CoastAlaska – Juneau
Governor Sean Parnell wants to double the size of the state forest in southern Southeast Alaska. He recently introduced legislation with the goal of increasing the amount of timber available for harvest. Some are concerned that could damage fish or wildlife habitat.