Tag Archives: Murder and Mystery in Alaska

The Sinking of the SS Clara Nevada



Was the wreck of the Clara Nevada a terrible accident or the greatest mass-murder in Alaska history?

Superstitions swirl around boats, and some captains believe bizarre myths. Renaming a vessel remains foremost among the maritime harbingers of bad luck, and if you dare change the name of your boat, you must follow a strict protocol to avoid certain doom. The Clara Nevada did not even complete her maiden voyage under her new name. Is this boat the case study to prove the truth of the old mariner’s superstition, or did her captain plot her demise?

On February 5, 1898, the SS Clara Nevada departed Skagway, Alaska, headed for Juneau and then Seattle. Hurricane-force winds of 90 knots (100 mph 161 km/h) pummeled the vessel with following seas of twelve to fifteen feet (4-5 m) as the helmsman attempted to navigate the infamous Lynn Canal of Alaska’s Inside Passage. When the decrepit old ship reportedly struck a rock and sank, the news surprised no one. Searchers found the body of only one man, the ship’s purser, but news reports speculated no one survived such a horrific accident.

The loss of the Clara Nevada at first seemed a tragic but foreseeable accident, and no one doubted the negligence of the ship’s owners and captain. Before long, though, folks began asking questions, and the Seattle newspapers speculated wildly about the disaster. Crewmen believed to have died in the wreck turned up alive and well. Even the captain materialized and wasted little time beginning his next venture to ferry prospectors to the goldfields.

What happened on February 5, 1898, aboard the Clara Nevada? Was the wreck an accident, or did the captain and a few crewmen perpetrate the worst mass-murder in the history of Alaska?

Sources
The Clara Nevada; Gold, Greed, Murder and Alaska’s Inside Passage. Levi, Steven C. 2011. History Press. This book was my main source for this article. It covers the sinking of the Clara Nevada and the exploits of Captain C.H. Lewis in much more detail than I’ve included here. The author also describes the challenges involved in trying to research a maritime disaster in Alaska in the late 1800s. I highly recommend this book to anyone who would like to learn more about the Clara Nevada or get a feel for the atmosphere in both Seattle and Skagway during the Klondike gold rush.

Gold on the Clara Nevada: Cold Case Gets Hot. National Underwater and Marine Agency. Available at:

Chilkoot Trail

Gold on the Clara Nevada: Cold Case Gets Hot

Eldred Rock Lighthouse, Alaska. Lighthousefriends.com. Available at: https://lighthousefriends.com/light.asp?ID=828
Clara Nevada. Hougen Group. Available at: www.hougengroup.com/yukon-history/yukon-nuggets/clara-nevada/

The Clara Nevada’s sinking may always remain a mystery. 08-26-2012.James, David. Fairbanks Daily News-Miner. Available at: www.newsminer.com/the-clara-nevada-s-sinking-may-always-remain-a-mystery/article_b217c23-97Of-58cd-972d-411d91575508.html

Captain Lewis

The 2007 Hassler Expedition; The Hassler’s last days and the wreck of the Clara Nevada. National Marine Sanctuaries. National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration. Available at: https://sanctuaries.noaa.gov/maritime/expeditions/hassler/last_days.html

SS Clara Nevada.Shipwrecks in Pacific Waters: 1800s. Maritime Heritage. Available at: https://www.maritimeheritage.org/ships/SS-Clara-Nevada.html

Clara Nevada. Skagway Stories. Available at: www.skagwaystories.org/2011/02/04/clara-nevada/

Haunted Inside Passage: Ghosts, Legends, and Mysteries of Southeast Alaska. Dihle, Bjorn. 2017. Alaska Northwest Books.

Eldred Rock

 

 

 

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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.

 


The Unhappy Wife



Sitka, Alaska

We all know married couples who seem to thrive on discord. These are the people we avoid joining for dinner and the ones in whose presence we squirm as they argue, yell, and threaten. We wonder why they got married, and if they divorce, we’re certain no one else would want either one of them. Still, I’ve met couples who not only manage to survive their contentious relationships but enjoy sparring with their partners. Marriage is hard, but most of us try, at least for a while, to make a relationship work, and if it doesn’t work, we leave and go our separate ways. Jane and Scott Coville constantly fought, even before they moved to Alaska and married, but Jane did not divorce Scott; there was no need to sever ties with him because Scott conveniently disappeared. Did he grow disillusioned with Jane, marriage, and life in Alaska? Did Scott take off on his own for an adventure somewhere else, a place far away from his current responsibilities, or did something much more sinister happen to Scott Coville?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sources:

James Pietragallo & Jimmie Whisman. 11-22-2017. Small Town Murder Podcast #45. The Hottest Cold Case Around in Sitka, Alaska. https://www.stitcher.com/podcast/small-town-murder/e/52324451?autoplay=true

Scott Michael Coville. The Charley Project. http://charleyproject.org/case/scott-michael-coville

Grove, Casey. May 31, 2016. Mother in cold case describes years wondering about her son. Anchorage Daily News. https://www.adn.com/alaska-news/article/mother-cold-case-describes-years-wondering-about-her-son/2010/11/28/

Jane Reth. Murderpedia. https://murderpedia.org/female.R/r/reth-jane.htm

Sitka, Alaska. Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sitka,_Alaska

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If you would like to support Murder and Mystery in the Last Frontier? Become a patron and join The Last Frontier Club.
Each month I will provide one or more of the following to club members.
· An extra episode of Murder and Mystery in the Last Frontier available only for club members.
· Behind the scenes glimpses of life and wildlife in the Kodiak wilderness.
· Breaking news about ongoing murder cases and new crimes in Alaska
· Merchandise or discounts on MMLF merchandise or handmade glass jewelry
Become a Patron!

________________________________________________________________________

Check out the store: Murder and Mystery in the Last Frontier merchandise.

___________________________________________________________________________

Subscribe to my free, monthly Murder and Mystery Newsletter for more stories about true crime and mystery from Alaska.
Join me on:
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Visit my website at http://robinbarefield.com
Check out my books at Author Masterminds

______________________________________________________________________________

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.

 

 


The Machete Killer



We’ve all seen the horror movie where a stranger towers over his unsuspecting victim while she sleeps, and she awakes just in time to see him swing the machete toward her head. Imagine if this is no horror movie but a terrible, true event, happening as you struggle to clear your mind from sleep and attempt to focus on your survival instincts. Now, what if you know the maniac wielding the machete, and he is someone close to you? Can you fathom anything so horrible? Elann Moren had no choice; she had to grapple with the situation and spring into action. In one moment, her beautiful, new life turned into a horrible nightmare.

Elann awoke in the middle of the night to see a shadowy figure walk into her bedroom. It was too dark to make out the individual’s features, but she could see the person holding something long and slender in his hand. She thought the object was a stick, and when the shadow began hitting her sleeping boyfriend with the stick, she reached over to grab the offending object and stop the beating. After two of her fingertips fell from her hand, she realized the attacker gripped a machete, not a stick.

 

 

Erin Rogers

 

 

 

Erin Rogers

 

 

 

Bear

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sources

Another 189 years for Alaska machete murderer. Daily News Miner. http://www.newsminer.com/news/alaska_news/another-years-for-alaska-machete-murderer/article_04ea3828-f472-523f-bed3-d5b2ceae7e02.html

Man charged with killing father with machete. MSNBC. http://www.nbcnews.com/id/22101555/ns/us_news-crime_and_courts/t/man-charged-killing-father-machete/#.XlGWEEBFweE

Palmer machete killer’s sentences now total 498 years https://www.adn.com/alaska-news/article/palmer-machete-killers-sentences-now-total-498-years/2010/01/11/

Rogers V State. Find Law. https://caselaw.findlaw.com/ak-court-of-appeals/1607160.html

Hero dog done in by tumor https://www.frontiersman.com/news/hero-dog-done-in-by-tumor/article_7bc08a86-a809-569c-91f3-aa23c18e0fc5.html

___________________________________________________________________

Would you like to help support Murder and Mystery in the Last Frontier? Become a patron and join the Last Frontier Club.

Each month I will provide one or more of the following to club members.

· An extra episode of Murder and Mystery in the Last Frontier available only to club members.

· Behind the scenes glimpses of life and wildlife in the Kodiak wilderness.

· Breaking news about ongoing murder cases and new crimes in Alaska

· Merchandise or discounts on MMLF merchandise or handmade glass jewelry

Follow the link and join the club now!

Become a Patron!

Subscribe to my Murder and Mystery Newsletter

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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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


The Newman Family Murders



This episode covers the 1987 murders of a mother and her two daughters. This crime angered and terrified Anchorage residents, and they wondered who could commit such a brutal act, and would he strike again?

For More Information about the Newman murders:

                  

 

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

 

 


The Hunter: Serial Killer Robert Hansen



Investigators believe Robert Hansen murdered at least thirty women in Alaska between 1971 and 1983. With some of his victims, Hansen brutally raped them and then told them to run while he hunted them down as if they were big game trophies.

Further Reading:

Robert Hansen

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

 

 


The Disappearance of Laura Henderson MMLF 002



What happened to Laura Henderson? One of the most controversial court cases in the history of the state of Alaska resulted from the disappearance of a woman on Kodiak Island in 1986. At best, this case is an example of an inept police investigation, a prosecution determined to win at any cost, and inadequate defense counsel. At worst, this case represents a corrupt police force and perhaps even a corrupt judicial system.  To this day, though, people still ask, “What happened to Laura Henderson?”

 

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The McCarthy Massacre of 1983 – MMLF001



The residents living within a fifty-mile radius of McCarthy, Alaska enjoyed their solitary lives, but they looked forward to gathering and socializing each Tuesday while they waited for their mail plane. Everything changed on March 1st, 1983. Mail day would never be the same again.

 

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