Dawn Holmstrom Testifies, Says She Was Scared

As Dawn Holmstrom answered Assistant D.A. Bob Blasco’s questions, her voice was quiet, almost mousy. She was visibly upset. She seemed to shrink into the witness chair.

“Dawn,” Blasco said after a series of preliminary questions, “put yourself at Ruth Ann’s and tell the grand jury what he [John Peel] said.”

Ruth Ann’s Restaurant (pre-fire, copyright Leland E. Hale)

“He started crying,” she said, looking toward the grand jurors for the first time. “And I went — and he told me that it all happened so fast. That he couldn’t believe that he did it.”

“What else did he say, Dawn?” Blasco asked.

But Holmstrom was taken elsewhere by the reality of her revelation. She had just given her friend up to the grand jury. She seemed lost. Bob Blasco tried to bring her back. He implored her to respond by saying, “Dawn?” Holmstrom ignored him. Finally, the assistant district attorney said, “Take your time.” That seemed to bring her around. All of a sudden, she was back to her conversation with John Peel.

“I can’t believe I could have done that,” she said, seeming to repeat his words.

“To who?”

“To them,” she replied.

“To who?”

“To Mark. Because he had told me earlier that he thought Mark had done it or that Mark flew home and left them on the boat.”

“What else did he say after that?” Blasco asked.

“He said that it all happened so fast that he couldn’t believe he did it.”

“What else?”

“That he was scared,” Dawn replied. “They were his friends.”

“Think, Dawn,” Blasco told her. “What did you do with John?”

“I hugged him because he was crying,” she answered.

“Were you scared, Dawn?” Blasco wondered.


“What about him scared you?”

“His eyes,” she replied. “And I… I seen his eyes again when the newspaper came out. His eyes were the same as when…” But Dawn Holmstrom could not go on. She broke down on the witness stand.

Michael Tario (l) and John Peel, Whatcom County Court
(courtesy Bellingham Herald)

“Take your time,” Blasco said, hoping to put her at ease. “Take your time.”

“I know,” she said between sobs. And then she said, “Because he had a mask on and he looked — his eyes looked exactly the same as they did before.” And then she started crying again.

“Take your time,” Blasco said.

“And it scared me,” Dawn sobbed. “And I didn’t know why I was so scared.”

“Did you want to believe what you were hearing,” Blasco asked.

“No,” she said. “Because I never, ever thought about it again.”

“Is John a friend,” Blasco wondered.

“Yeah,” she replied. “He was a good 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 (2019). All rights reserved.


Order “What Happened In Craig,” HERE and HERE. True crime from Epicenter Press about Alaska’s Worst Unsolved Mass Murder.

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