If the newsmedia had been guilty of jumping to conclusions, they hadn’t been alone in their confusion. The Investor case, it seemed, simply had too many people speaking for it. In addition to Lieutenant Shover, there was Alaska State Trooper spokesman Paul Edscom. And Ketchikan district attorney Mary Anne Henry. Some days, they provided contradictory information.
“Bizarre as this thing is, we have much to establish about basic matters, such as motive.”
Lt. John Shover, Alaska State Troopers
In a September 10th news conference, for example, Edscom publicly confirmed what many already suspected. Mark and Irene Coulthurst had been murdered. And, he said, the troopers had recovered additional bodies — but it was impossible to tell exactly how many. “The biggest problem is that the fire was a very hot one and we have just been able to get it put out for good,” Edscom said. “The search for more bodies is continuing.”
Asked if there were any suspects, Edscom replied that troopers “had some definite people in mind.” Edscom further revealed that they’d recovered some evidence from the scene — and that it was being sent to the FBI for analysis.
That same day, Mary Anne Henry brought confusion by way of clarification: she told reporters that no suspects had been identified. But, she added, any crewmember who didn’t die aboard the Investor would be considered a suspect in the murders. Henry also indicated that a total of six bodies had been recovered from the Investor. She said they expected three additional bodies to be identified by that Sunday.
Mary Anne Henry, Ketchikan District Atty. (courtesy Hall Anderson, © Ketchikan Daily News, all rights reserved)
The big takeaway: Investor crew members who survived — if there were any — were now considered prime suspects.
It was an ominous thought, that one. From Bellingham, former Investor crewmember LeRoy Flammang told reporters, “I can’t imagine what happened. There was never any trouble. It was a good crew.”
Still, Flammang had to feel lucky. He had left the boat only a week and a half before the murders, to attend the retirement party of a friend.
Excerpts from the unpublished original manuscript, “Sailor Take Warning,” by Leland E. Hale.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 (2018). All rights reserved.