The Murder of John Hartman and the Fairbanks Four

“You’re trying to fill my brain with things I didn’t do.”

Rabinowitz Courthouse, Fairbanks

At 2:45 am on October 11th, 1997, three friends in Fairbanks were heading home from a bar when they discovered the badly beaten body of 15-year-old John Hartman. Someone had kicked the boy’s head so many times that he was unrecognizable. He died the following evening when his parents agreed to take him off life support.


O’Donoghue, Brian. 7-12-2014. Vent attorney alleges ‘prosecutorial misconduct. Fairbanks Daily News-Miner.

Fairbanks Four when Charged

O’Donoghue, Brian. 9-28-2014. The Fairbanks four: The elusive hunt for truth. Fairbanks Daily News-Miner.

Boyce, Rod. 8-30-2015. Keeping the public informed – Inside the decision to publish in a divisive case. Fairbanks Daily News-Miner.

Friedman, Sam. 10-6-2015. ‘Fairbanks Four’ trial begins. Fairbanks Daily News-Miner.

Friedman, Sam 11-10-2015. Attorneys for ‘Fairbanks Four’ wrap up case. Fairbanks Daily News-Miner.

Friedman, Sam. 12-18-2015. The four freed. Fairbanks Daily News-Miner.

Fairbanks Four after Release

Buxton, Matt. 12-30-2015. Fairbanks Four announce fundraiser for their attorney whose husband died in Anchorage plane crash. Fairbanks Daily News-Miner.

Friedman, Sam. 12-18-2016. 1 year out: What’s happened since December 17, 2015, when the Fairbanks Four were released? Fairbanks Daily News-Miner.

Engman, Eric. 6-14-2017. Arlo Olson, key witness in Fairbanks Four trials, dies in reported jail suicide. Fairbanks Daily News-Miner.


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Robin Barefield is the author of four Alaska wilderness mystery novels, Big Game, Murder Over Kodiak, The Fisherman’s Daughter, and Karluk Bones. Sign up to subscribe to her free, monthly newsletter on true murder and mystery in Alaska.