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Paul Stavenjord
 

 
Wednesday, June 18, 1997 Juneau Empire  

CHULITNA MURDER SUSPECT WAS BANK ROBBER

ANCHORAGE - The man sought in the killing of a couple near Chulitna was a gunman in one of Alaska's largest bank heists.

Paul Stavenjord, 46, was convicted and sentenced to six years in prison for his role in a 1971 Seward bank robbery. Stavenjord and two other young bank robbers disappeared into the mountains near Seward with a duffel bag stuffed with an estimated $150,000. They were captured after a massive search forced them back into town.

Alaska State Troopers have spent the past four days searching for Stavenjord in the wilderness on both sides of the railroad tracks north of Talkeetna.

Carmen Gutierrez, a defense attorney hired to represent Stavenjord, issued a plea from his family and friends ``to turn himself in so as to avoid any harm to himself.''

Troopers believe the former railroad worker and accomplished flute carver shaved his beard and mustache and disappeared into the woods after learning he was a suspect in the Memorial Day weekend slayings near his back country cabin.

To help with the search, troopers released a composite drawing Tuesday of what Stavenjord would look like clean shaven.

Stavenjord faces first-degree murder charges in connection with the shooting deaths of Deborah Rehor, 40, and her husband, Carl ``Rick'' Beery, 48, both of Big Lake. Palmer District Attorney Ken Goldman said he also plans to charge Stavenjord with sexually assaulting Rehor.

 

Saturday, June 21, 1997

Las Vegas Review

 

ALASKAN LAW OFFICERS SEARCH WILDERNESS FOR MURDER SUSPECT

Associated Press 
ANCHORAGE, Alaska -- From her post at Talkeetna's Fairview Inn, Annie the bartender has a few words of advice for fugitive Paul Stavenjord: Stay out of town. 

 He'd better not show his face," said Annie, who was unwilling to give her last name Thursday in case Stavenjord, a convicted bank robber wanted in a Memorial Day weekend double homicide, is reading news accounts of the weeklong manhunt aimed at his capture. 

"It's like the old time," the bartender said. "You don't call 911. You take care of your own." 

A skilled backwoodsman who has lived in the remote Chulitna area north of Talkeetna for 20 years, Stavenjord is wanted in the shooting deaths of Deborah Rehor, 40, and her husband, Carl Beery, 48. 

A dragnet has concentrated in a deep forest area 125 miles north of Anchorage, between the Parks Highway -- the only road connecting Anchorage and Fairbanks -- and Alaska Railroad tracks to the east, which carry thousands of tourists each summer to Denali National Park. 

Stavenjord also is accused of raping Rehor, whose partially nude body was found June 5 covered with grass and tree limbs. 

Alaska State Troopers found Beery's body May 29 in a nearby creek. Both victims had been shot in the head. 

Suspicion focused on Stavenjord, an accomplished flute player and black-powder gun expert, after investigators learned of hard feelings between him and the victims, allegedly over borrowed items he failed to return to their cabin. 

The bearded man, who troopers say has since shaved, was last seen Saturday when a security guard working along the tracks reported seeing Stavenjord approach on an all-terrain vehicle about 10 miles south of Chulitna. 

The four-wheeler, a red Honda belonging to Rehor, was crashed and abandoned by the driver. He has not been found. 

Veteran law officers say they immediately connected Stavenjord's name to an Alaska bank holdup in 1971 that had law officers fanned out in the mountains above Seward before the three robbers -- toting sawed-off shotguns -- were caught three days later with $150,000. 

"It's like they're hunting Rambo," said Jaimie Reynolds, an 18-year-old reservations manager at a Talkeetna air taxi. "There are hundreds of miles of woods to run in. I wish them luck." 

Before the double homicide, travelers taking to Talkeetna's back country worried most about confronting an angry bear or moose

Today the once-sleepy town -- a jumping-off spot for Mount McKinley climbers -- is a staging spot for troopers armed with assault rifles, wearing bulletproof vests, mosquito netting and camouflage face paint.

 

June 29, 1997    

HUNT WIDENS FOR MURDER SUSPECT

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

PALMER - Alaska State Troopers seeking a 46-year-old backwoodsman in the deaths of two people say they have responded to more than two dozen reported sightings, most of them involving hitchhikers.

``It doesn't look like any of those obviously have borne fruit,'' trooper Capt. Don Savage said.

A manhunt in deep forest along the Parks Highway was launched after investigators named Chulitna resident Paul Stavenjord as a defendant in a Memorial Day weekend shooting that left two people dead.

Troopers say the victims, Deborah Rehor and her husband, Carl Beery, of Big Lake, had a weekend cabin near Stavenjord's. Stavenjord, known in folk-music circles for playing hand-carved flutes, also is accused of raping Rehor and stealing a snowmachine and gun from the couple's cabin.

The bodies of Rehor and Beery were found in woods near their cabin. Each had been shot in the head, troopers say.

An expanded search for Stavenjord has put Canadian authorities on alert and authorities say his name and description were entered into a national computerized listing.

Savage said troopers have stopped short of formally notifying law enforcement agencies in the Lower 48 to look out for Stavenjord.

Sightings so far have ranged from just north of Palmer to Talkeetna to a salmon bake near the entrance to Denali National Park.

Stavenjord, a convicted bank robber, was last seen two weeks ago about 10 miles south of Chulitna, when a railroad security guard claimed to have spotted him on a four-wheeler.

Authorities say the driver crashed the machine after a railroad worker tried to flag it down.

Troopers also may get help from the television show ``America's Most Wanted,'' which profiles fugitives. A producer says the program is considering a visit to Alaska in July to film the story.

 

 

Monday, July 14, 1997 Juneau Empire  

ALASKA'S MOST WANTED TURNS HIMSELF IN

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

ANCHORAGE - A Chulitna man accused of killing a Big Lake couple turned himself in to Alaska State Troopers after nearly a month on the run because he wants to prove his innocence, his attorney said.

"He wanted to establish his innocence of a serious crime,'' Paul Stavenjord's lawyer, Carmen Gutierrez said. ``And the sooner he turned himself over to authorities, the sooner he can begin the process.''

Stavenjord, 46, surrendered late Saturday night. He is accused of fatally shooting Deborah Rehor, 40, and her husband, Carl ``Rick'' Beery, 48, during the Memorial Day weekend near their Chulitna cabin. Stavenjord, who lived in a nearby cabin, disappeared the second week in June after Alaska State Troopers questioned him and took a saliva sample from him.

But despite the resolution of his whereabouts, questions remain about why he ran in the first place, where he spent the past month and how he managed to elude a wide-scale manhunt.

Gutierrez refused to answer any questions about her client's recent whereabouts.

She said that rather than being a man on the run, Stavenjord was simply taking the time he needed to deal with a ``very serious situation.''

According to Gutierrez, Stavenjord called her from downtown Anchorage about 7:30 p.m. Saturday and told her he was ready to turn himself in. She would not disclose where he was when he called.

She met with Stavenjord for several hours, then called a state trooper and arranged to have Stavenjord taken into custody, she said.

Trooper spokesman Steve Wilhelmi said Sunday that investigators did not know Stavenjord was in Anchorage until Gutierrez called them.

Gutierrez said Stavenjord turned himself in ``not because he was in any sort of physical hardship. He just concluded it was time to do something to bring his case to the justice system.''

She said troopers probably would not have found him.

In a court appearance Sunday afternoon, Stavenjord, dressed in blue prison garb and sporting sunglasses, looked healthy. His dark hair was trimmed to chin length, and his formerly bushy beard had been replaced with the shadow of a few days' growth.

He was being held Sunday night at Cook Inlet Pre-Trial Facility on two counts of first-degree murder, one count of sexual assault and two counts of theft. Bail was set at $1 million in cash only. An arraignment in state Superior Court in Palmer was scheduled for 1 p.m. Monday.

Gutierrez said Stavenjord's family was relieved to hear he had turned himself in. Those close to the suspect declined to be interviewed.

Relatives of Beery and Rehor say they believe someone must have helped Stavenjord.

Don Tidwell Jr., Rehor's brother, said Stavenjord would have needed assistance to get to Anchorage. Before his surrender, the suspect was last seen on foot near Gold Creek, about 40 miles northeast of Talkeetna. Tidwell also questioned how Stavenjord knew to call Gutierrez, who was hired to represent the suspect after he disappeared.

 

 

 

Thursday, May 28, 1998 Juneau Empire  

DEFENDANT GIVES TESTIMONY IN CHULITNA DOUBLE-MURDER TRIAL

PALMER - Paul Stavenjord's account of how his neighbors were killed on Memorial Day weekend a year ago came into question as prosecutors grilled him on his version of how the couple died.

Stavenjord is being tried on two counts of murder. He spent more than six hours under cross-examination Wednesday by Palmer District Attorney Ken Goldman.

Goldman questioned him in detail about the day Carl ``Rick'' Beery and Deborah Rehor were killed near Chulitna and his actions afterward.

Stavenjord contends he shot Beery in self-defense after Beery caught him and Rehor partially clothed. He said the two had just finished having consensual sex when Beery arrived on a four-wheeler, saw them and started shooting. Beery shot his own wife by mistake, Stavenjord said.

Goldman pointed out several aspects of Stavenjord's story that he described as odd.

Why, for example, did Staven-jord decide to have sex with his neighbor's wife in plain view of a well-used trail, the prosecutor asked. And when the couple saw a four-wheeler approaching, why did they not try to hide, or at least dress?

"No thought comes to anybody's mind that it might be Rick Beery?'' Goldman asked.

Stavenjord said that at the time the two were trying to recognize who was on the four-wheeler. He said he didn't think about the fact they were in plain view.

The prosecutor also focused on Stavenjord's actions after the shootings, asking why he hid evidence and lied to investigators.

"What seemed so farfetched about defending yourself after getting caught with another man's wife?'' he asked.

Stavenjord said that he didn't think anybody would believe him. "It seemed so incredible, so outrageous,'' he said. "It was way beyond believable.''

 

Tuesday, April 14, 1998 Juneau Empire  

MAN KILLED CARL BEERY IN SELF-DEFENSE, LAWYER SAYS

PALMER - A Chulitna man on trial for murdering a Big Lake couple near their backwoods cabin last year is claiming he shot one of the people in self-defense.

Paul Stavenjord's lawyer said the reclusive man admits he shot Carl "Rick'' Beery. But attorney Carmen Gutierrez told jurors Monday that Beery and Stavenjord exchanged shots after Beery found his wife, Debra Rehor, and Stavenjord together and half-naked. Rehor was killed by a bullet from her husband's weapon, Gutierrez said in her opening statements.

Prosecutors contend both were shot by Stavenjord's gun.

This new version of last summer's events is just the latest of Stavenjord's untruths, prosecutor Ken Goldman told the jurors.

Stavenjord lied consistently to Alaska State Troopers and even had to write a script to keep his story straight, Goldman said. He said troopers found two scripts in Stavenjord's cabin.

The prosecution will present ballistics evidence, Goldman said, and will show that time and again, Stavenjord's story just didn't check out.

Stavenjord is facing two counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of Beery, 48, and Rehor, 40, who disappeared over Memorial Day weekend. They were found dead at a creek near their cabin in the Chulitna area, both shot in the head.

Stavenjord said he shot Beery in self-defense, then discovered Rehor was dead from her husband's gun, according to Gutierrez. Troubled by the series of events, and worried that he wouldn't be believed if he told the truth, Stavenjord decided to try to disguise what had happened, she said.

He hid Rehor's body, while Beery's body was carried by the current to a hole downstream where it was later found, Gutierrez said. Stavenjord later disappeared into the woods and was subject of a month-long manhunt until he turned himself in to troopers.

While prosecutors argue both victims were killed with the same weapon, defense lawyers say two weapons were used. The bullet that killed Rehor has never been found, and defense attorneys say the size of the her wound indicated a larger bullet than the .22-caliber slug that killed Beery. Both sides agree Beery was killed by a bullet from Stavenjord's pistol.

 

 

Thursday, June 04, 1998 Juneau Empire  

JURORS BEGIN DELIBERATIONS IN CHULITNA DOUBLE MURDER

PALMER - Jurors began deliberations Wednesday in the double-homicide trial of Paul Stavenjord, who confessed to shooting one of the victims but claimed it was self-defense.

Prosecutors in closing statements Tuesday urged the jury to reject that - calling the story implausible even though the state does not know why or exactly how Carl Beery and his wife, Deborah Rehor, were killed.

Authorities say the couple was ambushed and Rehor was raped last year as they made their way to their wilderness cabin on Memorial Day weekend.

Stavenjord claimed he and Rehor were having sexual relations when they were found by Beery, who fired and inadvertently struck and killed Rehor.

Stavenjord, a locally known flute player and craftsman, said he returned fire in self-defense.

In their closing statement, defense lawyers said Stavenjord's version was more credible than the state's account.

"It makes a whole lot more sense than an ambush,'' defense lawyer Carmen Guitierrez said at the conclusion of the two-month trial.

Stavenjord eluded a troopers' manhunt for a month last year in deep woods off the Parks Highway before turning himself in on July 12.

Palmer Assistant District Attorney Bill Estelle told jurors to use "common sense'' in weighing evidence. "There's only one living witness to the facts and he's not telling us,'' Estelle said.

 

 

Monday, June 08, 1998 Juneau Empire  

PALMER JURY CONVICTS STAVENJORD OF MURDER

PALMER - Lawyers for Paul Stavenjord say they will try to overturn his conviction on two counts of first-degree murder.

A Superior Court jury found Stavenjord guilty Friday in last year's shootings of a Big Lake couple.

Palmer jurors were forced to choose between competing versions of the deaths after Stavenjord, who took the stand, admitted killing one of the victims in self-defense.

The state acknowledged it did not know why - or exactly how - Deborah Rehor and her husband, Rick Beery, died. But they called Stavenjord's explanation implausible.

Sentencing was set for September. Defense lawyers said they would appeal.

Stavenjord, known locally as a flute player and craftsman, faces up to 99 years in prison on each murder conviction. He was acquitted of two counts of theft and a count of rape. Prosecutors alleged Stavenjord sexually assaulted Rehor.

The verdict was returned one year to the day after Rehor's body was found in deep woods near Pass Creek, off the Parks Highway, which runs between Anchorage and Fairbanks. Stavenjord eluded a troopers' manhunt for a month before turning himself over to Anchorage police July 12. The trial began nearly two months ago.

Taking the stand in his own defense, Stavenjord acknowledged killing Beery - but only after Beery fired first when he found Stavenjord and Rehor engaged in sexual relations. Stavenjord claimed Beery inadvertently shot and killed his wife.

In an interview Friday with radio station KTNA, juror Henry Jackson said the panel found Stavenjord's testimony unbelievable. Jackson said the jury was troubled that Stavenjord readily answered questions from defense lawyers but was less forthcoming on cross-examination by the state.

Jackson said initial balloting after jurors received the case Wednesday was 9-3 in favor of convicting Stavenjord on the two murder counts.

That changed after the group asked to review the testimony of a state ballistics expert, who said a .22-caliber pistol Stavenjord claimed he fired at Beery did not match a bullet retrieved from the victim's body.

``There was scientific evidence that it just couldn't be done,'' Jackson said.

Ballistics evidence was less clear in Rehor's shooting since only bullet fragments were retrieved.

``The gun that killed these people is still missing,'' Jackson said. ``Something happened at Pass Creek that no one knows - I don't mean no one, someone knows.''

One juror wept Friday as verdicts were read aloud, as did Stavenjord's children, 13-year-old Josh and daughter Rebecca, a college student. Stavenjord showed no reaction.

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