Chasing Rabbit Holes, Chasing Suspects

When you find yourself frustrated with the never ending dumbfuckery of Jim Robinson, take heed. His story was like so many others on the helter-skelter trail of the Investor killer. You may remember Don Draper (not that Don Draper. The original Don Draper). Or T-Rex Mullins. And while we’re at it, why not Gordon Scott? Remember him? John Glenn Charles? If not, it’s time to reacquaint yourself with these other rabbit warrens.

Trooper’s Report, Island News, Thorne Bay, Alaska, October 8, 1982

And yet, all these years and tall tales later, everything comes down to a simple dictum. It was Trooper Sgt. Chuck Miller who expressed it best. Speaking of the folks he’d interviewed for this case, he said this:


Rabbit Holes

The Jim Robinson aka Kenneth Robertson story is made from the same flaky dough. It looks tantalizingly whole and then it explodes into a thousand pieces. It’s almost too easy to selectively pick the parts that support a particular narrative.


Here’s what the rabbit hole looks like if you want to pin the Investor murders on Jim Robinson:

Jim Robinson Is The Investor Killer

  • He is a known criminal with a long rap sheet.
  • He has a past history of arson, committed in Arizona as an act of revenge against an ex-wife’s boyfriend.
  • Allegedly made threats to murder his ex-wife’s family in Arizona. Possessed a sawed-off 12 gauge shotgun at the time.
  • Implicated in a murder plot in Oklahoma.
  • Arrested for threatening his first wife with explosives outside her home.
  • Arrested for making threatening phone calls in the years that followed, along with multiple assault charges involving his second wife.
  • Known mental health issues. Violent tendencies.
  • Not in the photo array of possible Investor suspects. Maybe overlooked.
John Peel (l) and Chris Heyman (Bellingham Herald; Alaska State Archives)

Here’s what the rabbit hole looks like if you take another set of facts:

Jim Robinson Can’t Be The Investor Killer

  • Robinson doesn’t fit the size profile of the skiff operator (“tall & gaunt” vs 5’10” & 150 lbs.)
  • He doesn’t fit the age profile of the skiff operator (40 years old vs. early 20’s)
  • All eyewitnesses said the skiff operator was someone they hadn’t seen before. But…
  • Paul Page & Sue Domenoske lived in Hollis and came to Craig for supplies. They likely would have recognized him eventually, since Robinson had the only gas station in town.
  • Robinson bought Craig Auto on April 12, 1982. At the time of the murders, he and his wife Charlotte had been in town for five months. They lived in Klawock. Their chances of knowing the Coulthurst’s were fairly slim.
  • The Investor was only in Craig twice that summer — they mostly fished elsewhere (testimony of Roy Tussing). That further reduces the chances they had some kind of grudge match with Jim Robinson.
  • On their last trip to Craig, the Investor crew arrived on a Sunday. They were killed late Sunday night or early Monday morning and found in their burning boat on Tuesday. That’s a short window of opportunity, especially for someone whose business (Craig Auto) was on the road to Klawock, in the opposite direction of North Cove and downtown Craig.
Island News, Thorne Bay Alaska
September 24, 1982
  • Here’s an inconvenient fact… Robinson was an idiot around boats (witness the Red Jacket / Tongass 100 disaster — a knowledgeable boat person would NOT have pushed that venture forward. In fact, knowledgeable boat people warned Robinson not to).
  • But… The skiff operator seen coming from the Investor fire was an expert boat man. Power landing at the cold storage dock. Slipping away from the North Cove dock under power. Opening the Investor’s valves at Ben’s Cove. Jim Robinson doesn’t even make it to the starting line.
  • And finally, there’s this: Phillip Weidner never once hinted that Jim Robinson as a suspect. Weidner seldom fumbled a chance to point the finger at culprits other than John Peel. That was his job. Weidner also had his own investigator snooping around Craig. Why not even a hint of suspicion thrown Robinson’s way?

Which One Is It?

I have never been able to find enough concrete evidence from September 1982 — an absolutely crucial time period — to convince myself that Jim Robinson was the Investor killer. I’m not even sure Maj. Walter Gilmour was convinced. Ever the provocateur, Gilmour wanted me to double-check Robinson as a potential suspect. He would never say whether he agreed with my final assessment or not. He was keeping his options open. Once a cop, always a cop.

Excerpts from the unpublished original manuscript, “Sailor Take Warning,” by Leland E. Hale. That manuscript, started in 1992 and based on court records from the Alaska State Archive, served as the basis for “What Happened in Craig.”

Copyright Leland E. Hale (2020). All rights reserved.


Order “What Happened In Craig,” HERE and HERE. True crime from Epicenter Press.

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