36 years later, still no conviction in Alaska mass murder
It's now been nearly four decades since a family and ship crew were murdered at sea just outside of Craig, Alaska -- and the case still hasn't been solved.
But it is getting new attention thanks to author Leland Hale.
"There's a lot of people killed. And, to me, the core thing [is] whoever did it is still out there. Somebody knows something, it would be great to get that kind of a break," Hale told KTVA's Daybreak in a live interview Thursday about his book What Happened in Craig: Alaska's Worst Unsolved Mass Murder.
Among the eight people killed, were two small children and a pregnant woman -- one of the reasons Hale says he considers it to be the worst cold case in Alaska history.
What Happened in Craig is a work of nonfiction, based upon Hale's own research. The author has spent years sifting through documents from the investigation and interviewing people connected to the case.
The crime dates back to a September 1982 afternoon when first responders were alerted to a small fishing boat engulfed in flames about a mile and half outside of this Southeast community located on Prince of Wales Island. Troopers hoped it was an accident and that the crew and family on board would be found away from the scene. But the vessel soon became a crime scene.
"They thought it was an arson at first, actually. The first clue was somebody'd had a lousy season, they were burning their boat, they want the insurance money and not really so much the case" Hale said. "They found bodies, charred bodies."
The victims include the boat's skipper Mark Coulthurst, his pregnant wife, Irene, their two small children and four boat deckhands -- one of whom was Coulthurst's cousin. Their bodies were found riddled with bullet holes.
Hale describes Coulthurst as a hard-driving, successful guy with a million dollar boat.
"He was a rising star," Hale said. "He could be really tough, really aggressive. We could kind of understand somebody having a beef with him. But why kill his wife, his two kids, his cousin, all the crew members on board?"
Troopers arrested John Peel in connection with the case, but he was later exonerated. With so much of the evidence damaged by the fire, the case has turned cold.
By publishing his own research into what happened in Craig, Hale hopes to reach someone's conscience and revive the investigation.
Hale will be presenting What Happened in Craig: Alaska's Worst Unsolved Mass Murder at the UAA Campus bookstore on Friday from 4-6 p.m.
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