True Crime: Jeff Pfundt Confronts Uncertainty

You have to put yourself there. In Craig. At the end of the season. You’ve been going practically non-stop. When you’re not fishing, you’re maintaining your gear and keeping everything “shipshape.” The end of the season is the one time you can take a deep breath and afford to relax. All of this leads us to a man named Jeff Pfundt and his boat, the Sheila Ryan.

Pfundt’s boat was rafted up directly behind the Coulturst’s. He was an obvious interview target for Trooper investigators. They came to him in Petersburg on September 14, 1982, as they probed deeper into the events of September 5th and 6th. The night of the Investor murders.

The Sheila Ryan’s proximity to the Investor undeniably promised to make Pfundt a prime witness.

Seine Boats Rafted Up, Craig (copyright Leland E. Hale)

Dream or Reality?

Pfundt could not remember anything. But after Troopers left, he had the sense he was not recalling everything. It took the sound of a night watchman plinking targets at a nearby log dump to jar his memory. He remembered voices raised in argument. He remembered gun shots. Maybe six or eight. And a scream, followed by more gunshots.

When Pfundt told his wife, she reminded him that he’d been dozing off when he heard the watchman taking target practice across the bay. He was dreaming, she suggested. But the switch flipped when Jeff received a flyer from troopers calling on all commercial permit holders to come forward with information. It took Pfundt until November 1982 to reach out again. By then he’d become convinced his memories were not a dream. But not fully convinced.

Rafted Up Seine Boats, Craig (copyright Leland E. Hale)
NOTE proximity of fishing boat on image-left

Survivors Guilt?

Because of what seems distinctly like survivor’s guilt, Pfundt thought he would have done something had it had not been a dream. And he hadn’t done anything.

Jeff Pfundt was not the only one who heard screams and gunshots on September 6, 1982. So too had Larry Demmert, Jr. Demmert’s boat was rafted up in the same column of vessels as the Sheila Ryan. And, like Jim Robinson, Demmert said he saw a man wearing a blue hat. If anyone was well-positioned to hear and see suspicious evidence, it was the fishermen on board these boats.

Jeff Pfundt among them.

Pfundt’s memories — had he been confident in them — would have bolstered Demmert’s testimony. As it was, they only left a hole where the truth could have been.

Copyright Leland E. Hale (2022). All rights reserved.


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

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