Mark Charlie Junior was arraigned Wednesday in Bethel court on charges of first-degree murder and tampering with physical evidence.

The 27-year-old man was arrested in Bethel Monday in connection with the death of his girlfriend, 26-year-old LeeAnn Berlin. Magistrate Judge Bruce Ward read the charges to Charlie, who appeared by video conference from the Yukon Kuskokwim Correctional Center.

“This is an unclassified felony, with a maximum penalty of 99 years in prison. Do you understand that?”, asked Ward.

Officers responded Monday afternoon to the BNC apartments for a welfare check after Charlie had stopped showing up for work, according to an affidavit filed in court. Upon gaining access to the apartment, Police Sergeant Amy Davis reported smelling a “strong odor”. She found Berlin under a mound of blankets and wrote that her body was beginning to decompose in the warm apartment. Davis also encountered Charlie. In the affidavit, she noted Charlie’s bloodshot eyes and thick speech. She reported finding empty bottles of alcohol and pills on the floor.

Police also found a letter from Charlie saying he was sorry to the Berlin family. In questioning by police, Charlie said he had strangled Berlin on the 17th or 18th of February after drinking with her. He said he had gotten angry at her for “nagging him and annoying him,” according to the document.

Originally from Kasigluk, Berlin, was known to her friends and family as Arna. Her brother, Michael Berlin, says she was outgoing and loved to be around her friends and family. After graduating high school in 2007, she attended the University of Alaska Anchorage for a couple of years. The then moved to Bethel, where she worked for the Yukon Kuskokwim Health Corporation, and then Ravn Air as a ticket agent. The Berlin family says funeral arrangements are pending.

For the charge of tampering with evidence, Charlie faces up to 5 years in prison and a $50,000 fine, if convicted. Judge Ward set bail at $500,000 with a third party custodian. Mr. Charlie was appointed a public defender.

Charlie is on probation for a 2014 misdemeanor assault involving Berlin. He also has a record of assault in 2008 involving other victims. Charlie’s preliminary hearing is scheduled for March 6th.

This story originates from KYUK Public Media and was published with permission.