White Mountain Man Charged with New Year’s Day Murder of Girlfriend

Gilbert Olanna, Jr. was arraigned in the Nome court Saturday, facing a first-degree murder charge in the death of Esther Lincoln. (Photo: Matthew F. Smith, KNOM)
Gilbert Olanna, Jr. was arraigned in the Nome court Saturday, facing a first-degree murder charge in the death of Esther Lincoln. (Photo: Matthew F. Smith, KNOM)

A White Mountain man stands accused of murder after investigators allege he came home on New Year’s Day after a night of drinking and got into an argument with his girlfriend before strangling her.

Gilbert Olanna, Jr., 31, was formally charged in Nome court Saturday afternoon on one charge of first-degree murder in the death of White Mountain resident Esther Lincoln. He also faces two felony charges for tampering with evidence and one misdemeanor charge for fourth-degree assault.

Esther Lincoln. (Photo: Luann Harrelson via KTUU)
Esther Lincoln. (Photo: Luann Harrelson via KTUU)

Court documents and investigation from Alaska State Troopers allege that around 9:30 on the morning of New Year’s Day, Olanna arrived outside a neighbor’s house, looking for help from a health aide for his girlfriend, 41-year-old Lincoln.

Court documents state “a health aide responded to the home Lincoln shared with Olanna, and found her on the mattress dead.” The health aide, court records note, “observed bruising on Lincoln’s neck.”

Olanna told investigators he had spent the early morning hours of New Year’s Day “out drinking” and, after returning home, got into an argument with Lincoln. Olanna told investigators that during the fight “his arm slipped below Lincoln’s chin and around her neck.”

He told investigators he held Lincoln “around the neck for several minutes until she went limp.”

When “confronted with evidence” that Lincoln also suffered several head injuries, investigators said Olanna admitted to also striking her on the face, leading to the assault charge.

Olanna told Troopers he cleaned and dressed Lincoln’s body before leaving the house to find the health aide. Troopers wrote Olanna also admitted to deleting photos and videos of Lincoln from his cell phone after investigators had asked to see the phone.

In court Saturday Olanna wept openly as he sat before Nome Magistrate Bob Lewis, who told Olanna that, if convicted on the charge of first-degree murder, he could face a maximum sentence of 99 years in prison and $500,000 in fines. Olanna asked for the court to provide a public defender. Magistrate Lewis entered a “not guilty” plea on his behalf.

District Attorney John Earthman said Olanna’s record includes “in the past 15 years 15 assault convictions,” including an April 2009 conviction of felony assault in Anchorage. Earthman said that list of prior assaults led him to request $100,000 cash bail, to which Magistrate Lewis agreed.

When asked by the court if he had any dependents, Olanna said he support “two people” in his White Mountain home. KTUU reports Olanna is the father of a two-year-old son with Lincoln; the boy is being taken care of by his grandparents. Lincoln’s other son lives with his father in Nome.

The court moved on to other matters as Olanna hung his head and continued to weep. Walking to the exit after the proceedings, Olanna spotted his mother looking on.

“I love you,” he said to her softly. “I’m sorry.”

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Matthew Smith is a reporter at KNOM in Nome.

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