James Teal had surfaced before. The troopers learned of his story from federal marshals when it first broke, in late ’83 or early ’84. At that time, Teal told federal authorities he had information from the Ketchikan jail about a man who was involved in the Investor murders. The troopers weren’t alone. Judge Schulz also knew all about Teal.
“I’ll be frank with you,” the judge confided to Salemi. “Teal has surfaced in one other case that I just tried. In fact, he was going to be a witness in that case, and he testified at a bail hearing regarding that case. And I don’t know what the jury would have thought of his testimony. I frankly was not impressed.”
In fact, James Teal wasn’t the only one talking to authorities. Barry Ewers, who was serving time for felony theft, allegedly dreamed up the story. When he was in the Sitka Jail he passed it along to James Teal, who was there for stolen firearms and escape.
When Ewers and Teal were transferred to the Ketchikan Regional Jail, the story was relayed to a third inmate, Richard Hunt, who was there for rape and felony assault. Soon, they were peddling their story to Mary Anne Henry.
“Ewers told them the story,” Mary Anne Henry recounted, “and told them maybe they could use it to make a deal” with the district attorney. Hunt and Teal — Henry had used the latter as an informant at a bail hearing on another murder case — then called the district attorney at her office, setting the investigation in motion. What emerged was a fantastic tale.
The three inmates alleged that Mark Coulthurst was “heavily involved in dealing cocaine” the summer of the murders. Furthermore, they claimed the Coulthurst was using the $700,000 Investor — which he had only recently purchased — as a fish tender from which he traded cocaine for fish. They added that Coulthurst owed $630,000 on the vessel at the time of the murders.
Going deeper, the inmates said Mark Coulthurst had “ripped off” someone in a drug deal. Three “hitmen” from Canada were hired to kill him — the so-called “Canadian enforcers.” John Peel was the “go-between,” they alleged, who showed the hitmen around Craig.
According to the informants, Peel took the hitmen to the Investor the night of the murders. Peel also allegedly kidnapped Mark Coulthurst’s 4-year-old son, John, while the rest of the crew was murdered, and killed him later. And, the inmates claimed, it was Peel who burned the Investor two days after the murders.
Henry told reporters that troopers talked to Teal and Hunt, then tracked down Barry Ewers in Seattle. From there, they went to Canada and talked to the three men Teal had identified as the hitmen. The Canadians all had alibis, Henry said, adding, “They were flabbergasted. One of them had loaned Ewers $100 and never got it back.”
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.