Charges: Slain Willow woman's body was 'severely burned'
Alaska State Troopers say a Willow woman who went missing was found murdered and burned Tuesday at a campsite off Petersville Road in Trapper Creek. Her husband, Michael Kilgo, is facing first-degree murder charges in her death.
On Monday, troopers responded to a report that Hattie Labuff-Kilgo had not shown up for work. According to court documents, neighbors told investigators Kilgo told them his wife had gone into Anchorage to visit her daughter.
The neighbor also told troopers he had picked up Kilgo near Petersville Road and the Parks Highway. Kilgo was driving his wife’s ATV and “was armed with a revolver and was soaking wet.”
Kilgo told his neighbor he had gotten Labuff-Kilgo’s truck stuck about 50 miles up Petersville Road and had to drive the ATV out. Troopers said the neighbor reported Kilgo then tried to sell the man the ATV saying, “I won’t be needing it anymore.”
When troopers contacted Kilgo on Monday afternoon, he told them he hadn’t seen his wife since she went to work earlier that day. Troopers asked why he told his neighbors Labuff-Kilgo went to Anchorage but then told troopers she went to work.
Troopers said Kilgo then told them he and his wife went to Petersville together, but he left her with the truck that got stuck and hadn’t seen her since.
“Troopers questioned Michael about why he would leave his wife 50 miles up Petersville Road, and then tell people she was in Anchorage, and Michael didn’t have an answer,” Sgt. Tony Wegrzyn wrote in the complaint.
At about 5:45 p.m. Monday, a woman who said she was Kilgo’s sister called Mat-Su dispatch to report a text message she’d received from her brother:
I love you and my family. Mom is the best, but life has a way of making good people do bad things and worse yet bad people making good people do bad things. Don’t judge, just know you are the best. Sorry for the choice, but it’s my burden to bare. You can’t contact me after this, I’ll be destroying my phone Tell mom I love her, Goodbye.
Troopers sent a “ping” to Labuff-Kilgo’s phone to help find her, but it hadn’t been active in 24 hours so the carrier could not provide a location. They then did a “ping” on Kilgo’s phone and the carrier reported it hadn’t been active since he sent that text message to his sister.
At 6 p.m. Monday, troopers found Labuff-Kilgo’s truck near mile 35 of Petersville Road -- but there was no sign of the missing woman.
Two hours later, they found Kilgo’s truck in the Red Robin parking lot in Wasilla. Troopers determined Kilgo abandoned his truck and took a cab to a residential area.
On Tuesday morning, troopers found Kilgo riding as a passenger in a vehicle involved in a traffic stop. When they detained him, Kilgo said he had a revolver in his backpack.
At about 1 p.m. Tuesday, troopers found Labuff-Kilgo’s body about five miles from where her truck was parked on Petersville Road. Troopers said her remains were in a fire pit, off the roadway in a remote camping pullout.
“Her body had been severely burned and was nearly unrecognizable,” Wegrzyn wrote.
Tools including a hatchet, a splitting maul and a knife were found burned in the pit, Wegrzyn wrote. Blood was also found near the pit.
An autopsy by the state medical examiner's office determined Labuff-Kilgo died of blunt force with sharp-force trauma to the head, and declared her death a homicide.
Troopers arrested Kilgo on murder and evidence-tampering charges on Wednesday. Wegrzyn reported Kilgo calmly stated, “I didn’t do it,” as he was being arrested.
Kilgo was arraigned on the charges Thursday afternoon. Palmer Assistant District Attorney Melissa Wininger-Howard said Kilgo scored low on the state Pretrial Enforcement Division’s risk assessment tool, but she asked the judge to set bail at $500,000 because Kilgo “is an extreme danger to the public.”
“The defendant made efforts to evade police, destroying his cell phone, ditching his vehicle, (sending) the text message to his sister about saying goodbye to his family. So appearance is a concern, performance is a concern,” Wininger-Howard told Judge Tara Logsdon.
Logsdon set Kilgo’s bail at the maximum of $550,000 along with PED supervision and electronic monitoring with house arrest and a steel-cuffed monitor containing a GPS unit.
As he was leaving the courtroom, Kilgo tried to ask the judge a question before the public defender’s office told him to wait until he had private counsel.
“It involved me getting issued two other court papers by a neighbor who I think may have some involvement,” Kilgo said.
His next court appearance is set for Sept. 10.
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