Facial reconstruction of victim by Jessi Whittom, State of Alaska Medical Examiner’s Office.

I’ve had the temptation to write a true crime column for a long time now. In law school, I was always most interested in criminal law, criminal procedure, evidence, and the various other subjects related to criminal investigations. My last year of law school, I wrote a very long paper detailing the Marc Dutroux murders in Belgium and the restorative justice program. The challenge in writing a column became finding out a way to approach true crime in a unique manner. I listen to somewhere between 20 and 30 true crime podcasts a week. While there are many notable cases, one of the challenges became that these podcasts often cover the same base of subjects. The only way that I saw fit to write a true crime column is if I were to write about the subject in a unique or novel way that could be easily understood by readers.

Created in 2001, the Doe Network is a non-profit organization that works with law enforcement to investigate missing person with John/Jane Doe cases. Based in Tennessee, the Doe Network has been successful in identifications involving a variety of cases including the “tent girl”, Deanna Criswell, Samantha Bonnell and more than 74 other successful case resolutions. As is common with other similar sites like Websleuths, the Doe Network has been criticized by some for generating too much activity for law enforcement to monitor.

The goal of this column is to focus on entries in the Doe Network that have not been publicized. Authoritative sources will be used as much as possible. The importance of this type of research is to focus on what has been called “the missing missing” or the “throwaways” of society including runaways, drifters, the societally marginalized, the homeless, prostitutes, illegal immigrants, the mentally ill, and nursing home or mental hospital patients. The cases will not be confined to the United States either. As a result, this column will be able to focus on jarring and unique true crime cases which are not picked up by podcasts or other sites.

So, here we go for the very first time, down into the dark and bloody ground of Alaska, where there are few serial killers but many missing persons cases.

The Crime Scene 

On August 16, 2001, the body of an unidentified white male, posthumously referred to as 1148UMAK, was found in a wooded area off of at the intersection of Concrete Street and Third Avenue in Anchorage, Alaska. The man was determined to have died from unknown causes with arthritis in the lower back and a hairline fracture along the axis of his left femur. The corpse of the man was not recognizable with partial remains including soft tissues.

The man, who was between 5’6” to 5’10”, had receding gray hair that was worn in a ponytail as well as facial hair that was one to three inches in length, and gray and yellowed at the ends.

1148UMAK was wearing a black Adidas winter jacket with purple lining, a doeskin colored Woolrich brand men’s shirt with buttons up the front, Rustler jeans, and size 8.5 Rawlings brand blue and white tennis shoes.

Adidas, Rustler, and Rawlings are all popular clothing brands that have been in production in close their current form since at least the 1960’s. While dental and DNA records are available for 1148UMAK, there are no distinguishing physical marks or clothing on the subject to indicate an identity. Forensics was able to determine that 1148UMAK had died in February 2001.

Given a large number of homeless shelters are located near Third Avenue, there’s a chance that 1148UMAK was homeless, but this is uncertain because the man was wearing brand name clothing. 1148UMAK might have also been employed as a truck driver given the number of truck driving companies in the area. The tennis shoes belonging to 1148UMAK that were recovered by law enforcement were particularly dirty, suggesting the man either worked in an occupation that exposed him to a large amount of dirt or was homeless.

The Location 

Reconstruction of the victim from the Doe Network.

The actual area where the murder occurred is also unknown. Third Avenue in Anchorage is a two-mile section of road, along which there are several convenient wooded locations where one could dispose of a body. A Google Maps search revealed that there are currently several noteworthy locations along Third Avenue that were in existence in 2001 at the time of the murder:

Bean’s Cafe. Bean’s Cafe is located at the corner of Third Avenue and Karluk Street and offers a resting place for homeless people.

Several courts are located on Third Avenue including the Special Prosecutions and Appeals Court, an Appellate Court, and Superior Court.

Downtown Soup Kitchen Hope Bakery. Since the 1970s, the Downtown Soup Kitchen has helped to provide soup to homeless individuals in Anchorage. The company moved from the nearby 4th Avenue to 3rd Avenue in 2012.

The Marx Brothers Cafe. Located on Third Avenue since 1979, the cafe is an upscale location where the wealthy in Anchorage eat.

Mushin Inn Motel. In 2007, mayor Mark Begich filed a lawsuit declaring the Mush Inn a public nuisance. The Motel drew more police calls, estimated at 535, than any other single building in Anchorage. In 1991, a triple murder/robbery occurred in the Mushin’s “Alaska Room”. Also in 2007, a man was shot and killed in a room at the Mushin. The Mushin has open stairwells where homeless people have been known to sleep as well as specialty rooms called the “Fantasy Room” and “Slumber Room”.

Trucking Companies. There are also several trucking companies in the area including United Freight and Transportation, Carlile Transportation, and ABF Freight.

Urban Sushi. Since 2001, there have been several restaurants introduced to Third Avenue, but Urban Sushi is one of the few restaurants on Third Avenue that existed in 2001.

Theories

There are a variety of theories that can be proposed about the death of 1148UMAK, which include the following:

1148UMAK was killed by Israel Keyes.

Israel Keyes.

Keyes is a serial killer who confessed to his earliest violent crime as the sexual assault of a teenage girl in Oregon sometime between 1996 and 1998. Keyes was known to plan murders well in advance and take extraordinary caution to avoid being caught. Keyes also did not have a victim profile. He never killed people in the same area twice. Keyes moved to Anchorage in 2007 and was later apprehended by the FBI. On December 2, 2012, Keyes committed suicide by self-inflicted wrist cuts and strangulation in his jail cell. While Keyes is certainly a potential suspect, the FBI reports that the first murder by Keyes occurred sometime between July 2001 to October 2001, which would not fit the timeline when forensics suggests that 1148UMAK died, in February 2001. Evidence conclusively ruling out Keyes as a suspect in the murder of 1148UMAK has yet to be revealed.

1148UMAK is Gary Allison. Gary Allison was last seen at Mountain View near Anchorage on January 20, 1997. His wife spoke to him on the phone the day that he disappeared and reported that Allison had a “new friend” and was acting strangely. Allison was never heard from again. Allison looks similar to 1148UMAK, but Allision had several tattoos and 1148UMAK is not reported to have had any.

1148UMAK was murdered by James Dale Ritchie. After a string of unknown murders in Anchorage in 2016, James Dale Ritchie was killed during a shootout with members of the Anchorage Police Department on November 12, 2016. After Ritchie’s death, Ritchie was connected to a Colt Python handgun that had been used to commit the murders. While Ritchie was in Anchorage in 2000 trying to get a struggling business off the ground, there is no evidence connecting Ritchie to the death of 1148UMAK.

The weather killed 1148UMAK. In February 1990, the average high temperature in Anchorage was 16°F during the day and 10°F during the night. If 1148UMAK was trying to sleep outside overnight, he most likely ended up dying from the cold conditions. This theory, however, does not explain the hairline fracture along 1148UMAK’s left femur.

1148UMAK was killed by whoever killed six women in 1999 and 2000. In 1999 and 2000, there were six women murdered in Anchorage whose deaths remain unsolved. Four of the victims were Alaska natives that were homeless or substance abusers including Della Marie Brown (33); Tina Shangin (59), found in a wooded area along Glenn Highway; Genevieve Tepton (29), who was stabbed to death on Arctic Valley Road; Michelle Foster Butler (38), stabbed to death on the corner of East 10th Avenue and Juneau Street; Annie Mann (45), found dead behind an abandoned warehouse; and Vera Hapoff (25), who drowned in the Ship Creek fish ladder. It is my opinion that 1148UMAK was not killed by whoever perpetrated these crimes because 1148UMAK was not a woman.

1148UMAK was killed by someone who knew him. If none of these serial killers were responsible, there’s a significant chance that 1148UMAK was killed by someone who knew him personally.

Conclusion: My theory about 1148UMAK 

1148UMAK was probably staying in the proximity of the Mushin Inn Motel and got into a fight with somebody he knew. Given that 1148UMAK had on a winter jacket and tennis shoes, he was coping with February in Alaska. Given his reported facial hair, extremely dirty shoes, and inexpensive clothing, I think that 1148UMAK was homeless and gaining support from the Downtown Soup Kitchen Hope Bakery and Bean’s Cafe on Third Avenue. Third Avenue and Concrete Street is a busy area with significant traffic even during the winter. 1148UMAK’s fractured femur was likely the result of being struck by a motor vehicle, after which he made his way into the woods where he died.