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
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.
Number of victims: 9 +
Date of murders: May 18,
Date of birth: August 20,
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,
Method of murder: Shooting
Location: Manley Hot Springs, Alaska, USA
during a shoot-out with the police on May 19, 1984
21 May 1984
Chicago Daily Herald
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
"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
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
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
"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
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
"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,"
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,"
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
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
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
"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
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
AT ROAD'S END, THERE'S NO ONE LEFT TO FLEE FROM
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
''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
''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
''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,
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
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
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.
Michael Alan Silka
SP4 US ARMY
20 Aug 1958
19 May 1984
Service Start Date:
10 Jul 1978
8 Jun 1984
Sitka National Cemetery
803 Sawmill Creek Road Sitka, AK 99835
Section S Site 24