Homer Alaska - News

Story last updated at 2:55 PM on Friday, February 15, 2013

Man recently released from API arrested for kidnapping, assault


An Anchor Point woman and her teenage daughter escaped in their stocking feet late Tuesday night after the mother said her husband, Ilya Gherman, shot up their Old Sterling Highway cabin with a handgun. Alaska State Troopers and a Homer Police officer rescued the woman and girl walking along the Old Sterling Highway.

Troopers arrested Gherman, 53, on Wednesday at the Anchor Point Trooper Post. Sgt. Jeremy Stone, head of the Anchor Point Post, E Detachment, had called Gherman on Wednesday and Gherman agreed to come to the post. Gherman was arraigned on Thursday for two counts of kidnapping, two counts of third-degree assault with a firearm, and second-degree misconduct involving a weapon, all domestic violence related and all felonies.

According to a criminal complaint by Stone, the mother told troopers her husband was mentally ill and had been recently released from Alaska Psychiatric Institute, Anchorage. Her husband is a heavy alcohol user and also used methamphetamines, she told Stone. On Tuesday night Gherman drank a fifth of hard liquor and began ranting. He screamed at her, tried to contact the CIA by phone and accused his wife of being a Russian spy, Stone said the woman told him. Gherman grabbed a handgun and shot about eight rounds into the floor and wall of the small cabin. The girl curled up on her bed and was scared her father was going to shoot her mother, Stone wrote. The girl said this kind of behavior had been going on for some time.

Gherman sat in a chair in the cabin and said he would shoot his wife and daughter if they tried to leave, the mother told Stone. He had an AK-47 semiautomatic rifle on table next to him. He also said he would shoot anyone who came through the door. The mother and daughter escaped after Gherman passed out, leaving without any shoes on.

In the interview with Stone, Gherman said he shot into the roof with the AK-47 and said he did so to get information from his wife, Stone wrote. When Stone asked Gherman if he had threatened to shoot the women if they tried to leave, Stone said Gherman responded, "What would you do if your wife was a spy?"

Trooper spokesperson Megan Peters said that because firearms aren't registered, there is nothing troopers can do to determine if a mentally ill person owns firearms. Troopers can't even ask if a person is mentally ill if they apply for a concealed carry permit from the state, she said.

That's one of the frustrations in dealing with mentally ill people who could be a danger to themselves or others, said Kathryn Carssow, adult and emergency services program director at The Center, Homer's community mental health treatment facility.

While not speaking to the Gherman incident, Carssow said that a person can be admitted to API for 72 hours on an emergency basis, but cannot be committed for longer without a judge's order. Once a person is released, they can return home and potentially have access to guns.

"There's nothing I can do to keep that person from having weapons," Carrsow said. "The gun regulations are totally inadequate to help us."

For people who are suicidal, The Center can work with patients and family to voluntarily have guns removed from a home, she said. The Center offers 24-hour crisis services by calling 235-7701 or visiting The Center 8:30 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Friday at 3948 Ben Walters Lane. After hours, people needing crisis help can call 911, the mental health clinician on call at South Peninsula Hospital at 235-0247, or walk into the hospital emergency room to access an on-call mental health clinician.

Michael Armstrong can be reached at michael.armstrong@homernews.com.