Courts & Crime

Why have so many Anchorage homeless died this summer?

ANCHORAGE — A string of homeless deaths has alarmed Anchorage street people, their advocates and the general public.

Since spring 12 homes people have been found dead, mostly in Anchorage's parks or woods. It's unusual for so many to die outdoors in Anchorage during good weather.

What's killing Anchorage's homeless?

For some, police say it's pretty clear what happened. The first, Stanley Ivey, died from hypothermia. His body was found in the Chester Creek greenbelt May 7 during spring cleanup; while the days were warm, the temperatures dipped below freezing at night in that part of town.

James Lockery was stomped and beaten to death, police say. Douglas Friday was hit by a truck. Danny Wright drowned in Campbell Creek. He'd been drinking. A lot.

A month before Eugene Williams died in his sleeping bag in the East Anchorage woods, he had a place of his own with cable, a little kitchen and a landlady who did his laundry and gave him rides.

After she told him he couldn't bring his drinking buddies around anymore, he left the security of his $495-a-month room for life outdoors. On July 7, he asked his landlady to drop him off at the Cook Inlet Tribal Council building near the intersection of Bragaw Street and DeBarr Road. He made a little camp nearby.

His body was found there Aug. 9 -- an empty liquor bottle on the ground beside him and prescription medication in his backpack.

The common thread is a well-known suspect: alcohol. Four died, at least in part, because of the ravages of hard drinking; the number may grow when all the investigations are complete.

"I think the tragic truth is that in most of the cases, their lifestyle -- they are pretty much killing themselves through their lifestyle and their choices," said Sgt. Slawomir Markiewicz, head of the Anchorage Police Department homicide unit.

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