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Michael Alan Silka

Silka was one of three children and lived in a two-story brick home in the middle-class community near Chicago.  According to the Hoffman Estates police chief, he came from a decent family, "basically nice people."

Sitka joined the Army after graduating from high school in 1977 and did a tooour of duty at Fort Wainwright as a helicopter mechanic.  After his discharge, he returned to work in Alaska each summer before moving there permanently.


Classification: Spree killer
Characteristics: Motive unknown
Number of victims: 9 +
Date of murders: May 18, 1984
Date of birth: August 20, 1958
Victims: Roger Culp / Fred Burk, 27 / Lyman Klein, 31, his pregnant wife Joyce, and their 2 year old son, Marshall / Dale Madajski, 24 / Larry Joe McVey, 37 / Albert Hagen / Trooper Troy L. Duncan, 34
Method of murder: Shooting
Location: Manley Hot Springs, Alaska, USA
Status: Killed during a shoot-out with the police on May 19, 1984
Monday, 21 May 1984 Chicago Daily Herald

Manley Hot Springs, Alaska

Hoffman Man Dies in Firefight

A "scraggly" drifter from Hoffman Estates apparently killed nine people, including a state trooper, before being gunned down in a shootout near this tiny fishing village.

Troopers armed with automatic rifles used two helicopters to close in Saturday afternoon on 25 year old Michael C. Silka. The heavily armed man shot and killed a trooper in one of the aircraft before he was gunned down, investigators said.

Silka, a 1976 graduate of Hoffman Estates high school, is suspected of murdering a total of nine people, including a pregnant woman and a 2 year old child. Seven of the victims were believed to have been killed on a boat landing near Manley Hot Springs, a town of only 80 people and their bodies dumped into the Tanana River.

An unemployed transient, Silka had been in Alaska only a month when a neighbor, Roger Culp of Fairbanks, disappeared and was presumed murdered. Police were seeking Silka for questioning when they learned that he had turned up in Manley Hot Springs in the Tanana Valley 90 miles west of Fairbanks.

Troopers speculated that Silka killed the six townspeople with his shotgun Thursday and tossed their bodies in the swirling, mud-choked Tanana River before fleeing upstream. The only sign of the slaughter was a blood-spattered boat landing three miles from town.

"Whoever drove up to that boat landing between 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. Thursday, he killed, I don't know why." said Sam Barnard, a homicide investigator.

Silka fled upriver in a boat that police believe he got from one of the victims of the slaughter on the boat landing and was spotted by aircraft early Saturday. Two helicopters, each carrying three troopers, converged on him, and he fired on one with a 30.06 caliber rifle, killing Trooper Troy L. Duncan, 34, of Fairbanks, Myers said.

Silka was killed by return fire from a state trooper's M-16 automatic rifle.

"Silka opened fire from a hidden position and we returned the fire," said Captain Donald Lawrence, a commander who was hit by bullet fragments and was treated for minor wounds to his face.

Police said Silka was armed with several rifles and pistols and was in a motorboat belonging to trapper Fred Burk who was believed to be headed for Manley Hot Springs when he was murdered at the boat landing.

Local residents identified the other victims as a family of three who went for a pleasure ride Thursday to the boat ramp - Lyman Klein, his pregnant wife Joyce, and their 2 year old son, Marshall. Also reported missing were Joe McVey and Dale Madjski, who had gone to the landing to take a boat to their fish camp and Albert Hagen, who was hauling brush to the landing.

For more than a day, most of the villagers had no idea their friends were missing. "This is a small town. It took them a while to put two and two together," said Lieutenant John Myers, of the troopers' Fairbanks-based special weapons team.

Residents called for help late Friday after determining that many of their friends were missing, and troopers arrived about 2 a.m. Saturday. They nestled among logs and debris near the landing, hoping Silka would return for his car.

"We just sat there and I tried to imagine what it was like ... a 2 year old kid. We knew he was ours if he came back," Investigator Jim McCann said.

Police used diving gear and grappling hooks to search for bodies in the silt-laden and icy river Sunday, but there was little hope the victims would be recovered. "That river doesn't give up its dead very often," Bernard said.

Residents said that Silka arrived about a week ago in a brown sedan with a canoe lashed to its roof and camped by the river.

"He was scraggly and he acted really weird. He aced real crazy," said Patricia Lee, who with her husband, Bob, operates the Manley Roadhouse. "He talked about how he could smell clams through the dirt. When I met him, I felt uneasy, but I kept telling myself that was silly."

"He seemed okay," said resident Teresa Conger, who said she ran into Silka a few days before the rampage, "but then he couldn't stop messing around with that knife. He had a huge knife he just kept sharpening and sharpening. He was just obsessed with that."

Sabrenia Gurtler, 18, said the town often draws drifters, mostly because it is at the end of the farthest west road from Fairbanks. "Its just the end of the road," she said. "They've gone as far as it takes them."

Past Showed Signs of "something bad"

Michael Alan Silka left behind a string of arrests and a troubled past in the Northwest suburbs before going on an alleged killing spree in Alaska that ended with his own death at the hands of police.

According to police, Silka was picked up for a series of arrests for unlawful use of a weapon, burglary, shoplifting and resisting police over the past nine years.

A former classmate said Silka was "always a troubled kid" and a teacher said the Hoffman Estates man had "disciplinary problems" during high school.

"It's a surprise when you hear about it," said Mike Ostes, who graduated from Hoffman Estates high school in 1977, a year after Silka. "But after you think about how he was, it's no big surprise. You could just picture this guy growing up to do something bad."

"He was a non-conformist and had disciplinary problems," said Bill Spaletto, a Hoffman Estates physical education teacher, who said he remembers sending Silka to the principal's office. "He patterned his life to find himself in this kind of trouble," Spaletto said.

But according to one former neighbor, Silka always "meant well" and his previous "scrapes" with the law might have happened to any teenager.

"This came as a shock to us, I can't believe what happened," said Ferman Hurst, who lives near the Silka house at 1339 Hassell Drive, Hoffman Estates.

Hurst said he wrote a letter of recommendation when Silka enlisted in the Air Force helicopter services.

"I understand he did very, very well," he said. "He was always very nice to us."

Hurst said he and his wife informed Silka's father, Frank, of the death of his son.

"It was like the Sears Tower falling over on him," Hurst said.

Silka's police record starts in October 1975, after he was arrested for a break-in at a Des Plaines sporting goods store. Then 17, he was sentence to 30 days in a correctional institution and two years probation after the charges were reduced from burglary to criminal damage to property.

In February, 1977, he was arrested by Hoffman Estates police for carrying a loaded black powder rifle through a park in town. Just over a month later, Silka was arrested again for carrying the muzzle-loading rifle through a field in town. In both cases, he was charged with unlawful use of (continued on page 3 and not found.)



May 22, 1984 The Chicago Daily Herald

Continued from page 1

Cops Trace Murder Trail North To Alaska

..shoplifting and in 1982 for unlawful use of a weapon. Police said they spotted a gun in his car when they stopped him for a traffic offense. He was arrested for a similar offense by South Barrington police in July 1983.

He showed up for two court appearances, South Barrington Police Chief Peter Swistowicz said. Then he disappeared sometime in the fall. Police issued a warrant for his arrest, but it received alow priority because the weapons charge was only a misdemeanor.

Silka apparently headed for Alaska to live the life of a woodsman.

"He was always dressed like a hunter, dressed like a woodsman," said Mike Ostos, a high school classmate of Silka, who discribed him as "basically a loner."

Paul Edscorn, information officer for Alaska state troopers, said Silka rented a cabin in a remote part of Fairbanks in April.

"We received a report of a disturbance down there about April 28, and we actually talked to Silka," Escorn said. "We saw some blood on the ground. He said he had butchered a moose."

Two weeks later, authorities received a missing persons report on Roger Culp, 34, who lived next door to Silka. They returned to Silka's cabin, but he had left. They retested the blood on the ground and determined it was human.

Meanwhile Silka traveled west by car. He ended up in Manley Hot Springs on May 14, parking his car at the boat landing just outside of town.

Silka tried to leave in his canoe on Tuesday, but an ice floe in the river stopped him, Lee said.

Silka chatted with many of the townspeople during his stay there, he said. But he didn't respond when Lee tried to talke to him Wednesday at the landing.

"He just looked the other way," he said.

On Thursday at about 2 p.m., Joe McVey and Dale Madski went to the landing to take a fishing boat to their fish camp. A little later, Lyman Klein, his pregnant wife Joyce, and their 2 year old son, drove there for a family outing. Fred Burk was travelling to the landing in his boat. None of them ever returned.

It is not unusual for residents to be gone as much as a day longer than they planned in a hunting and fishing community, Lee said. So residents didn't become alarmed until Friday. One family member checked the boat landing and found blood. Authorities said drag marks on the shore indicate Silka dumped the bodies in the river.

Using helicopters and planes, they found Silka hiding on the shore upstream Saturday. He shot at one helicopter with a high-powered rifle, slaying Trooper Troy Duncan of Fairbanks, Enseron said. Police shot back and killed him.




June 24, 1984 The New York Times  

Bodies of 4 Are Found After Alaska Shootings

The bodies of four of seven people presumed shot and killed by Michael Silka, a drifter, near the tiny community of Manley Hot Springs on May 17 have been recovered from a river.

One of the bodies, that of Fred Burk, 27 years old, was found Wednesday by his wife in the Tanana River, about 75 miles downstream from the scene of the killings.

The three other bodies had been found separately in the preceding week: those of Lyman Klein, 31, Dale Madajski, 24, and Larry Joe McVey, 37.


no date, no newspaper/periodical mentioned

Michael Allen Silca's Final Stand

Manley Hot Springs
In May of 84, a spree killer left almost a dozen people dead before being gunned down by a police sniper. The sniper's partner was killed by Silca moments before the killer was struck 8 times and fell dead dead on the river bank. The shooting lasted only a few seconds. 25 rounds were fired, one person injured and two were killed.
September 03, 1985

Chicago Tribune



MANLEY HOT SPRINGS, ALASKA — The hardy inhabitants of this end-of-the-road village cast a cold eye these days on any stranger who drifts into their isolated outpost in the Alaskan bush.

They have good reason to be cautious: A loner from Illinois wandered into town a little more than a year ago and slaughtered 10 percent of the people who lived here.


In Alaska, the end of the road is as much a state of mind as it is a place on the map marking a frontier community. The call of the wild lures rugged individuals and reckless outcasts alike. Bizarre crimes occur with alarming frequency.

''All the little end-of-the-road towns get every crazy in the world,''

said Bea Hagen, 36, whose stepson was among those slain here in the worst mass murder in Alaska history. ''They all come to Alaska and go to the end of the road--and here we are.

''It seems sort of natural,'' she mused late on a recent night. ''People sift up here through the other states like through a funnel. And if they're running from something, this is the farthest northwest in the United States you can drive, and that's the end of the road out there at the river landing.''

''We had a lot of sad memorials this year,'' agreed her husband, Al Hagen, 53, looking out at the midnight daylight from his homemade log cabin at the last big bend in the road before the boat landing. Hagen's son, Albert Jr., 27, who was part Eskimo, was among the seven victims slaughtered there and dumped in the icy waters. ''You see, we never found Albert,'' Hagen said. The Hagens and 65 other year-round residents of this woodland hamlet are still recovering from what happened 15 months ago at that landing, where the rutted dirt road called Alaska Hwy. 2 abruptly ends at the Tanana River.

Michael Allen Silka, 25, a loner and self-described ''mountain man'' from Hoffman Estates, Ill., wandered into town on Mother's Day last year. He stayed five days and then, on May 18, for some dark reason known only to himself, shot seven people to death on the riverbank during a methodical three-hour killing spree.

Silka fled by boat but was later killed in an air-to-ground gun battle with police after he shot to death an Alaska state trooper and wounded another.

Alaska has the nation's third-highest murder rate, after Texas and Louisiana, according to the FBI's 1984 crime statistics. Scattered sparsely over a state with loose gun-control laws, Alaska's 500,000 residents are at the mercy of the ''cabin fever "from maddeningly long winters and of ''end-of-the-roaders" like Silka, who are all too common, authorities say.

Silka's rampage left two orphans, three widows and an isolated hamlet more suspicious than ever of outsiders.

Manley Hot Springs is about 150 road miles west of Fairbanks and deep in the bush, as Alaskans call their vast, wild interior where grizzly bears and moose outnumber people and most people are armed.

''They have faced it, but it's still in the back of their minds," said Bill Fullilove, 52, the summer bartender at the Manley Roadhouse, one of two hotels here.

A few houses up the road, Frank Gurtler, 47, a part-Athabascan Indian who fishes for salmon in summer and traps fur in winter, sat down at his dining-room table and declared: ''You don't recover from that kind of thing.

"I know I look at people closer when they come into town, and if I see someone suspicious, I call the troopers and turn him in. I don't take any chances.''

Gurtler's wife, Dian, 44, sat on the couch in her bathrobe and told a visitor: ''It really set this town back. We take pride in this town. We usually plant flowers and have committee clean-ups, but we weren't able to do that last year. We were so busy looking for bodies and sitting with the widows.''

Alaska state police spokesman Paul Edscorn said that although the Silka massacre was the worst mass killing in Alaska history, there have been other gruesome slayings. He mentioned serial murderer Robert Hansen, an Anchorage baker who, police have confirmed, killed at least 17 women after taking them into the bush.

As for Silka, Edscorn said, ''What really set him off, no one really knows. . . . But he was obviously a loner. If he doesn't fit in with other people, you've got a situation very likely to create hostility.''

Beyond that, he said: ''Alaska still has a romantic image for many people. It's going to be a place were people go to live in the wilderness. It's the land of opportunity. It's the last frontier.

"A lot of people we describe as end-of-the-roaders are people who are really trying to escape from other people and from themselves. And they definitely can't get away from themselves and are, in fact, more isolated with themselves here than they've ever been.''

"There are strange things done in the midnight sun . . . that would make your blood run cold. . . . " --"The Cremation of Sam McGee," by Robert W. Service.

By Storer Rowley, Chicago Tribune.


Silva’s ashes where buried in Sitka, AK at the Nat Cemetery, at tax payers expense, with military honors.  His father requested it. 

Name: Michael Alan Silka
Service Info.: SP4 US ARMY
Birth Date: 20 Aug 1958
Death Date: 19 May 1984
Service Start Date: 10 Jul 1978
Interment Date: 8 Jun 1984
Cemetery: Sitka National Cemetery
Cemetery Address: 803 Sawmill Creek Road Sitka, AK 99835
Buried At: Section S Site 24







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