Larry Demmert: Awakened by a Scream

One problem with Larry Demmert’s recollections about the night of murders was that he was awakened by a sound outside the Libby 8. The implication was that, in that moment, he was drowsy. That his memory was cloudy, imprecise, even fantastical.

Phillip Weidner called it out, though he focused on the sleep state, not the scream that broke it. “You just woke up out of a sleep, didn’t you?” he asked.

“Well, I woke up and I — well, I’d been woken up by something. I didn’t really recall until I really started thinking about it and then — I’d been woken up by a woman’s scream. It just — it scared the shit out of me. I checked the back deck first, I think, and then walked out, went around and checked the front.

“And then I saw John just for a few seconds, just before he went onto the bow of my dad’s boat. I didn’t see him long enough to make an ID on what exactly he was carrying, but it looked like a gun to me.”

Craig, Alaska (copyright Leland E. Hale)

After answering Weidner’s question about what the person was wearing — which duplicated what he had told the police — Demmert admitted that the first time he remembered these incidents was “on the morning of the grand jury.”

“Do you think there’s a chance,” Weidner asked, “that, given the confusion that was going on that morning and the emotions and all that, that what you saw that night, in terms of someone coming off the boat when this thing woke you up, was somebody that looked like John Peel but may not have been John and you just — in all the confusion that went on the morning of the grand jury — that you started feeling that, ‘Well, hey, it actually was John,’ and you’ve been repressing it all this time?”

“I felt that it was John and I was repressing it,” Demmert replied.

Libby No. 8 (copyright Leland E. Hale)

“But you’ve told us, for instance, that you — that on the wheelhouse situation, that it was a shadowy figure and, you know, you’re not really positive whether it was John or not. Do you think the same thing might be going on with the person you saw coming off the Investor? That is, that maybe it did kind of look like John, but you’re not really sure if it was him or not?”

“I don’t think so,” Demmert replied, unshaken in his convictions.

“Do you think it might be tied into that,” Weidner persisted. “All the confusion that was going on, the yelling that morning of the grand jury and talking to you about holding things back?”

“Well, no,” Demmert insisted. “That was — well, that’s the only real, positive ID, was when — was that, when I opened the door. So that’s — that’s the only real positive time that I can positively ID John Peel, was that time.”

Excerpts from the unpublished original manuscript, “Sailor Take Warning,” by Leland E. Hale. That manuscript, started in 1992 and based on court records from the Alaska State Archive, served as the basis for “What Happened in Craig.”

Copyright Leland E. Hale (2019). All rights reserved.


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