Kolivosky Meets John Kenneth Peel

“What Happened in Craig” That Capt. Kolivosky shared Jerry Mackie’s discomfort with the young man who seemed nervous in their presence was enough for him to take the next step. He wanted to know who he was. And what he knew. He soon learned this young man’s name was John.

“The Washington State driver’s license told Kolivosky this man was John Kenneth Peel. His season at an end, he’d been enjoying a beer while waiting to board his Tyee Airlines flight to Ketchikan.

“Kolivosky explained why they were questioning him: someone had been seen leaving the Investor fire and some people thought he fit the description. John Peel replied that he knew the Investor crew. They were friends of his. He had worked for them — had fished with them — the previous season on Mark’s old boat, The Kit. His curiosity aroused, Kolivosky asked Peel if he knew anything else. Peel said he had no additional information.

“Kolivosky handed back the driver’s license and let Mr. Peel go, but he wasn’t entirely satisfied. This guy fit the description. Twenties. Medium length blonde hair. Five foot ten. One hundred fifty pounds. What was particularly uncanny, as far as Kolivosky was concerned, was the fact that Mackie had picked this guy out of a crowd.

John Kenneth Peel (photo courtesy Alaska State Archive)

“Of all the people Mackie could have picked, this was the one person who happened to know the Investor crew. This was the one guy who happened to have fished with them the previous season. This was the one guy who happened to have been friends with the victims.

“Still, the Captain took a measured approach when he wrote up the encounter in his notes. His entry for September 8th was cryptic.

"1:20. Attempt to locate witnesses. Hill Bar. John Peel. 
Possible suspect. Negative."

There was something else about John Peel, something unknown to Capt. Kolivosky at the time. Peel’s boat, a cannery vessel named the Libby 8, was broken down most of that summer. The 8’s crew had been unable to hit the fishing grounds. Unable to make the money they’d hoped for. But John Peel was resourceful.

Court records indicate that Peel was also selling pot that summer in Craig. Selling pot, in part, to make up for his lousy fishing season. That helped explain why he was acting “hinkey” at the Hill Bar: while the possession of small quantities of pot had been decriminalized in Alaska, selling it was still a crime.

Copyright Leland E. Hale (2018). 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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