ANCHORAGE — No one seems to know why Rick Van Cleve ran off into the cold night, naked and alone, carrying his dark past to the grave.
Just off a strip of Tudor Road laden with home-improvement stores, fast-food joints and shops, a woman walking her dog in Cuddy Family Midtown Park found his naked body partially exposed in a snowbank last Wednesday afternoon. Police identified his remains Tuesday, saying hypothermia likely played a role in his death.
The last time anyone saw him was the beginning of the month, when the 47-year-old leapt naked out the third-floor window of the Hampton Inn at Tudor Road and C Street, just blocks away.
But reports of the death stirred long-dormant memories.
For Mark Hiratsuka, those memories involved a brother brutally beaten to death with a hockey stick long ago on a downtown street.
"I didn't think nothing of it until I recognized the name -- Van Cleve -- but it's been about 30 years," he said. "I can still visualize, clearly, my brother's battered head."
On a cold November morning in 1979, a drunken Van Cleve, then just 18, was cruising with a friend when, a little before 6 a.m., they drove up on Mike Hiratsuka near Fourth Avenue and Gambell Street.
"They were 'bopping Natives' is what they called it," said the now-retired Judge Karl Johnstone, who presided over Van Cleve's murder trial. "What they'd do is they would drive down the road and they'd open the door ... and they'd hit them with their door as they drove by."
Apparently angered at some slight earlier that night, Van Cleve randomly picked Hiratsuka as the target for his fury. He parked in a nearby alley, left his companion behind, viciously battered Hiratsuka's head with a hockey stick and returned to the vehicle covered in blood.
In a recorded confession, Van Cleve later told police that shortly before the attack, a group of Natives near Fourth Avenue "had made a bunch of gestures we didn't like too much," according to news reports at the time. "We just saw this Native ... and I don't know, decided ... to take it ... the stuff out on him."
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