The family of Terry Spencer sat in Courtroom 1 at the Palmer Courthouse, quietly sharing stories of a man they called a “sledder” who was always up for an outdoor adventure.

A few days earlier, they’d learned 32-year-old Spencer had been found with a gunshot to the head, wrapped up in blue blanket and left on a four-wheeler trail in Wasilla.

Some people in the courtroom started to cry when Cooper Gordon, 39, appeared on the video monitor for his arraignment for Spencer’s murder. Alaska State Troopers said witnesses saw Gordon and Spencer together a few days before Spencer was killed.

After investigators found Spencer’s body, someone close to him gave them access to his Facebook Messenger and Google accounts. According to court documents, a message sent on Oct. 17 around 5:30 p.m. was related to a meeting with Gordon.

Troopers said the Google account tracked Spencer’s location. Based on the condition of Spencer’s body and the location data, they believe Gordon killed Spencer around the time of that message.

Spencer’s 2012 Jeep was not found at the time of his death. Several days later, troopers contacted a person who was driving the vehicle. The person said Gordon gave them the Jeep, and they first noticed he was driving it the day after Spencer was killed. 

Troopers talked with Gordon at his workplace and asked what he knew about Spencer.

“I can’t tell you nothing about him,” Gordon told investigators, according to the complaint filed by troopers.

Gordon then asked for a lawyer.

Troopers found out Gordon had been living in an RV on another person’s property. They obtained a search warrant and found a black bag with the name “Spencer” written on it. The bag contained a 9mm handgun, a .40-caliber Glock in a “We The People” brand holster and a small LED projecter, troopers said.

Friends of Spencer told troopers those items belonged to the victim and they believed they were in his Jeep in the days leading up to his death.

A witness also told troopers they last time they saw Spencer, he was driving the Jeep and Gordon was in the passenger seat. Spencer asked for a pistol he had loaned the witness, took the weapon and drove away.

Gordon is charged with first-degree murder and armed robbery relating to Spencer’s death.

In the courtroom on Friday, a state prosecutor called Gordon a “flight risk and danger to the community” and initially asked the judge to set Gordon’s bail at $1 million with electronic monitoring, house arrest and a third-party custodian.

“We don’t know why Mr. Gordon murdered Mr. Spencer that day. And if we don’t know why, we don’t know how or what conditions to craft to protect the victim and the community,” said Assistant District Attorney Krista Anderson.

“It’s not enough,” Spencer’s mother yelled from her seat.

Spencer’s oldest sister, Audrey Cucullu, told the judge she wanted to make sure bail was high so Gordon didn’t have a chance getting out.

“This wasn’t an accident, this wasn’t something that just happened. This is something that was consciously, consciously committed,” she said. “There’s nothing so far that any court has been able to do keep him from continuing to commit acts of violence.”

Judge Melissa Wininger-Howard set Gordon’s bail at $1 million — $500,000 cash performance and $500,000 cash appearance — along with electronic monitoring and house arrest. Gordon is to have no contact with Spencer’s family or any witnesses in the case or have access to social media.

After the arraignment, Cucullu said her family has been coping with Spencer’s death the best they can. She laughed as she recalled his unique way of fishing.

“He doesn’t say, ‘fish on,” he says things like, ‘yabba dabba doo,'" she said.

(Courtesy: Audrey Cucullu)

Spencer was a huge hockey player and Alaska Aces fan. He was the father to an 8-year-old son and was devoted to his family, Cucullu said. She said Spencer met Gordon at rehab and they had been friends for a couple of years.

Cucullu said they were pleased with the high bail because they said Gordon had been threatening Spencer’s family members and witnesses.

“It’s a very dangerous and challenging situation and we don’t want anyone else getting hurt in all of this,” Cucullu said.

Gordon is scheduled to be back in court on Nov. 4.

Memorial services for Spencer are planned for Monday from 3-6 p.m. at Summit Worship Center, 125 West Riley Avenue in Wasilla. The public is invited.

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