Metlakatla man charged with first-degree murder after allegedly killing neighbor

A blocky courthouse building on a hillside street.
Ketchikan’s state courthouse, located at 415 Main Street. (Eric Stone/KRBD)

A Metlakatla man in his sixties died over the weekend, allegedly at the hands of his neighbor. A 36-year-old man was jailed Saturday, and prosecutors said he’s admitted the crime.

William Taylor faces criminal charges including first-degree murder after allegedly knifing his neighbor, Edward “Buddy” Starrish.

Metlakatla is Alaska’s only Indigenous reserve. With a population around 1,500 people, Mayor Reginald Atkinson said it’s very tight-knit.

“First of all, our hearts go out to both sides of the family there. It has really hit Metlakatla hard. We’re still feeling the impact and the aftermath,” Atkinson said Tuesday.

According to court filings, Metlakatla police got an emergency call shortly after 9 a.m. Saturday. They arrived at Starrish’s home to find him “gravely injured,” lying on the ground outside his home with knife wounds.

He was rushed by ambulance to Metlakatla’s clinic, before a Coast Guard helicopter medevaced him to Ketchikan’s hospital, where authorities said he died later that day.

Officers said they found Taylor at his parents’ home. He’d reportedly confessed to his father, who told police of his son’s confession. Another witness told officers they’d seen Taylor running from Starrish’s home shortly before police arrived.

Prosecutor Timothy McGillicuddy didn’t mince words during a Monday court hearing.

“This was a chilling and brutal premeditated first-degree homicide,” he said.

McGillicuddy told District Court Judge Kevin Miller that once Taylor was brought to Ketchikan by law enforcement, he was briefly hospitalized for an unrelated medical condition. McGillicuddy said Taylor began to confess to state troopers on his own accord while being treated.

“He wasn’t questioned about what he had done,” McGillicuddy said. “But he made a number of statements indicating he had planned to commit this murder, he intended to commit this murder, the brutal way in which he committed the murder, and his motives for doing so.”

McGillicuddy did not say what those alleged motives were, and Metlakatla police said Tuesday they did not know why he allegedly killed his neighbor.

Taylor’s attorney, a public defender in Ketchikan, declined to comment on Tuesday.

“We have tragedies here, but nowhere near this level or magnitude,” said Atkinson, the mayor of Metlakatla. He lives just down the street from Starrish.

He says the community is still processing what happened last weekend

“I can’t imagine what they were going through. We’re still recovering from a state of shock,” he said. “Most of the community is still in the so-called numb phase right now.”

Taylor was jailed Tuesday at Ketchikan Correctional Center. Bail is set at $500,000. He’s due back in court next month.