Homer Alaska - News

Story last updated at 7:11 PM on Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Murder charge filed in '10 crash

By Michael Armstrong
Staff Writer

A Kenai man charged last week with second-degree murder has served a 15-month sentence for money laundering and is awaiting extradition from Nevada to Alaska.

Alfred C. Jones, 48, of Kenai, was charged in Superior Court with second-degree murder for his involvement in a fatal 2010 Memorial Day weekend crash on the Sterling Highway between Homer and Anchor Point. Jones drove a GMC pickup truck that hit a Subaru Forester, killing a passenger, Kathleen Benz, 25, of Washington, D.C.

Jones was about to be released from the Clark County, Nev., jail when a warrant check showed an Alaska State Trooper arrest warrant on the second-degree murder and other charges. The U.S. Marshals Service is in the process of serving Jones with charging documents, said Alaska State Troopers spokesperson Beth Ipsen.

In charging documents filed May 15, Casey Hershberger, a Kenai Police officer who responded to the crash as part of an Alaska Bureau of Highway Patrol team, alleged that a blood draw of Jones tested positive for methamphetamines, oxycodone, cocaine and marijuana.

Hershberger wrote that on the evening of May 29, 2010, Jones' truck going north drifted over the centerline, forcing three cars ahead of the Subaru, driven by Daniel Fairchild, 32, off the road. The cars ahead of Fairchild kicked up dust and dirt as drivers avoided Jones' truck. Fairchild couldn't avoid being hit by Jones. The truck's passenger side hit the Subaru's passenger side, where Benz sat. After the truck hit the Subaru, the truck rolled and slid in the southbound lane, forcing another car off the road.

"All indicated that they were scared as a result of Jones' driving and had to take evasive action to avoid being hit by the vehicle he was driving," Hershberger wrote.

Jones never tried to get back into his lane or avoid the other cars, Hershberger wrote in his complaint.

The crash also injured Jones, Fairchild and another passenger in the Subaru, Christine Hung. All were taken to South Peninsula Hospital. Benz suffered severe head injuries and was pronounced dead two hours after the crash.

Fairchild, Hung and people traveling in two of the other cars forced off the road were friends of Benz she knew from attending Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. The group was visiting Alaska for a wedding and were on their way to Homer to camp on a family friend's land.

In March, Jones was convicted in federal court in Nevada on one count of laundering drug money. He was one of 17 Kenai Peninsula residents charged in a conspiracy to launder money and distribute oxycodone in Alaska that had been smuggled up from Nevada. That indictment alleged Jones deposited drug money at Wells Fargo banks in Kenai and Soldotna between July and August 2010.

At an April 3 federal hearing, Jones was sentenced to 15 months in jail with three years supervised release. With credit for time served, he had completed his sentence.

A December 2010 indictment charged other conspirators with smuggling 6,000 tablets of oxycodone between Nevada and Alaska between July 2009 and October 2010 or laundering $1.2 million in illegal proceeds. The Nevada-Alaska drug ring has been linked to other Kenai Peninsula drug dealers convicted of selling drugs on the lower peninsula.

Jones also faces charges of first-degree assault, six counts of third-degree assault, fourth-degree assault, tampering with physical evidence, all felonies, driving under the influence, reckless driving, sixth-degree misconduct involving a controlled substance and first-degree criminal trespass.

According to the criminal complaint, Jones has 14 convictions in Alaska, including 12 driving offenses and two DUI convictions. He also was convicted of refusing to submit to a breath test, seven charges of driving while license revoked or suspended, driving without a license and leaving the scene of an accident. His license was revoked or suspended 15 times. The last DUI convictions were in 1990 and 1991.

Over the past two years, friends and family of Benz made numerous inquiries to the Homer News regarding the status of the case. In 2011, the Homer News filed a public records request for the Bureau of Highway Patrol investigation, but it was denied because the case was under investigation.

Alaska State Trooper spokesperson Beth Ipsen said it's not uncommon for charges to take two years to be filed in fatal car crashes. Toxicology tests are sent to the Washington State Police and take at least four weeks minimum. Fatal car crash reports often are several inches thick.

"There's a lot of things that have to be put together," Ipsen said. "There's a lot of information to compile and forward on to the district attorney's office."

Kenai District Attorney Scott Leaders said that rules of professional conduct prevent him from explaining the delay in charging Jones. Leaders said that he hoped to offer more detail at future hearings once Jones is arraigned in Alaska. No hearing dates have been set pending Jones' extradition to Alaska.

The assault charges alleged that Jones put six people in fear of injury or injured them. Troopers searched Jones' truck after the accident and found a glass pipe alleged to have trace amounts of methamphetamine residue. In the tampering with physical evidence charge, Jones is alleged to have tampered with a guitar case and guitar in the back of the truck after it had been seized by troopers.

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