Onboard the Libby No. 8

The Investor was designed with all the modern conveniences. A spacious stateroom. Electrical appliances. A washer and dryer. A working shower. And, for a fishing boat, she had rather generous bunks. The Libby 8 had none of these things. There was a diesel stove that belched and roared and left a persistent tang in the air. A tiny head accessible only from the deck. A cramped galley. Bunks that were squeezed into the dark and dingy bow. These boats were worlds apart. And yet, as authorities would soon learn, their worlds had intersected, at least for a moment.

Libby 8 at dock, Ketchikan 1994 (copyright Leland E. Hale)

The troopers’ first interview was with Brian Polinkus, who crewed the Libby 8 the summer of the murders — and was crewing her again. Polinkus provided an initial glimpse into the intersection between the Investor and the Libby 8. According to Polinkus, John Peel brought Dean Moon and Jerome Keown on board the Libby 8 the night before the murders. The Investor crewmen arrived in the afternoon, he said, some time around three or four o’clock. They stayed fifteen or twenty minutes, then left.

On board the Investor (Alaska State Archives)

We were “just shootin’ the shit with ’em,” Polinkus reported. He remembered talking about Irene Coulthurst, who “didn’t really like the position she was in, you know, fishing on a boat and the kids. So she wanted to fly home. And they said that she was outta’ here the next day or somethin’.”

Polinkus was reaffirming what had become a familiar theme — the sense of tension on the boat. But if these murders were the result of violence amongst friends and acquaintances, then who knew whom was crucial. Flothe asked a more direct question. 

“If Dean Moon and Jerome Keown had a best friend on board the Libby 8,” he asked, “who would that be?”

”Oh, John Peel,” Polinkus answered.

And when Flothe asked who else on board the Libby 8 was good friends with Moon and Keown, Polinkus said, ”That was it. John Peel was the only guy, really. You know, he just introduced ’em to me.”

Hill Bar, Craig, Alaska (copyright Leland E. Hale)

As for the remainder of that Sunday, Polinkus was unclear. He remembered going to the Hill Bar, but wasn’t sure who went with him. “I might’ve been there with John Peel,” he said. Asked about guns, Polinkus said there was a .22 long rifle in the skipper’s stateroom and that John Peel had a .30-30.

Excerpts from the unpublished original manuscript, “Sailor Take Warning,” by Leland E. Hale.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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