Lonesome Death of Beth van Zanten: Zieger Kills Again

With John Rich dead, Gary Zieger still had the stolen dynamite and marijuana stash charges to worry about. His trial came in October, two months after the Rich murder, and he was convicted on all counts. He decided to appeal the ruling. But attorney’s cost money and Zieger didn’t have any, certainly not the ten-thousand-dollar advance his attorney wanted.

But Zieger had an idea where to get it. Jimmy Sumpter owned two of Anchorage’s most popular topless joints, the Kit Kat Club and the Sportsman Too. And he was rumored to keep a huge stash of cash at his house.

Zieger (Stephen Cysewski)

On November 26 something awakened Sumpter at about 2 A.M. He thought it was the sound of a window breaking, but decided it was not a noise but a premonition. That, in turn, gave him good reason to check his clubs. Sumpter was at war with the Brothers motorcycle gang, which was attempting to control the flow of topless dancers into Alaska and to organize the girls at his clubs. These were the cutthroat days in Anchorage, when pipeline money was surging and everybody wanted in on the action.

As Sumpter left the house, the intruder quietly unlocked the broken window, slipped into the house, and went looking for cash and jewelry. When he entered the master bedroom, Sumpter’s forty-year-old wife, Marguerite, heard him and screamed. The burglar shot her and set the bedroom afire, then ran to the basement where he shot Marguerite’s sleeping thirteen-year-old son, Richard Merck, in his bedroom.

Richard’s sixteen-year-old sister had heard her mother’s screams and ran out of the house, unseen. She returned after the intruder left, kicking in a basement window in an attempt to rescue her brother from the growing fire. She found him dead in his bed. Investigators said whoever killed Marguerite Sumpter and her son escaped with twenty thousand dollars in cash and jewelry.”
Excerpt from: Tom Brennan, “Cold Crime”

Jimmy Sumpter, blaming the Brothers gang for the murders, put out a $10,000 reward for information. The Brothers knew better. And soon, the troopers did too. In canvasing Sumpter’s neighborhood, they came across a terrified woman who’d seen a Dodge pickup truck leave the scene. She’d taken its license number. Bang. It belonged to Gary Zieger.

Now, Gary Zieger had two widely divergent groups after him. It was simply a question of who got there first.

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