Anchorage police shed more light on summer homicides
ANCHORAGE – Five Anchorage homicide victims have little in common, other than the gun that killed them. Police believe they were all just in the wrong place at the wrong time.
“These victims did not do anything to provoke their deaths, and it’s obvious that they probably never even saw it coming,” said Anchorage police Lt. John McKinnon in an interview with KTVA Wednesday.
The Colt Python .357 revolver APD found on James Dale Ritchie during a shootout Saturday morning was also used on July 3 to kill Jason Netter and Brianna Foisy on the Ship Creek Trail. It was then used on July 29 to kill Treyveonkindell Thompson, who was found dead near an East Anchorage intersection, and again on Aug. 28 at Valley of the Moon Park, where Brie De Husson and Kevin Turner were killed.
Through ballistic evidence, investigators knew the gun used to kill Netter and Foisy was the same gun used in Thompson’s case shortly after the second incident, but withheld that information from the public. McKinnon said the FBI was helping with the investigation and advised against releasing several details of the investigation — counsel the department decided to follow.
After the gun was used a third time to kill De Husson and Turner, APD sent out an unusual warning to Anchorage residents, urging them to stay away from parks and remote areas at night, a warning McKinnon said is still in effect.
When asked at that time if the unsolved homicides were connected, an APD spokesperson said, “Right now we don’t have anything to connect the unsolved crimes.”
McKinnon said they were worried if they said too much the gun might be destroyed.
“It’s unfortunate that sometimes we don’t get to share everything immediately with the public, but that’s what you’re paying us to do. You’re paying us to make the best case possible, and if we shared that information, we truly felt that we would never be able to link these together if we captured somebody,” McKinnon said, later adding, “Do I think we’d change anything? No.”
He also noted that while the discovery is a huge development, they can’t indict a gun, and while they’ve placed the revolver at all three crime scenes, so far their evidence only places Ritchie at one.
“We don’t want to label Mr. Ritchie for anything that he’s not responsible for, and we’re not going to,” McKinnon said. “We’re not gonna say those terms, ‘serial’ or anything like that, it’s not accurate.”
APD said it has enough to support the theory that Ritchie killed Thompson. In addition to matching witness descriptions and the person of interest sketch they developed, McKinnon said a witness has confirmed Ritchie took Thompson’s bike home.
APD released a photo of a similar bike shortly after the shooting, hoping someone would have information. The fate they feared for the gun, came true for the bike.
“What’s happened to the bike, we don’t know. It’s disposed of,” McKinnon said.
Police said they now know Ritchie was monitoring online reports of the homicides, but McKinnon said they haven’t found any evidence that he knew or wanted to target any of the victims, or the officer he shot at. Fortunately for investigators, under Alaska law it is not necessary to prove a motive.
“The fact that the incident occurred is enough,” McKinnon said. “We don’t have to know why they did it, we just need to know that they did do it.”
While they may never find a motive, police hope to close all five cases.
In addition to letting family members of the victims know about the new development, APD spoke to Ritchie’s family. McKinnon said it is a difficult time for all of them.
Shannon Riddle and Jason Sear contributed to this report.
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