John Peel Looks at Composites

When John Peel was at the Bellingham Police station, the troopers showed him some photographs. And asked him questions about the composites of the skiffman. “Did you ever see the composites that were put out, those drawings?” Stogsdill asked.

Alaska State Trooper composites of Investor skiff man (courtesy AST)

“Yeah,” Peel replied. ‘They didn’t do a thing for me.” But Peel let on that the composites reminded him, in a vague way, of Larry Demmert, Jr. “Pizza face and glasses,” he called him, before insisting once more that the composites didn’t do a thing for him.

Larry Demmert, Jr. (courtesy People Magazine)

Stogsdill then asked Peel to speculate about the possible causes of the Investor murders. His speculation included the possibility of a drug deal gone bad. His speculation included the possibility that Dean Moon had done it. And then they asked where Peel had been at the time of the fire. He was with Dawn Holmstrom, he told them. They were on their way to the bank.

“Was there anyone else with you?” Stogsdill asked, remembering that Larry Demmert’s girlfriend said she was with Dawn Holmstrom at the bank.

No,” Peel answered. “Just Dawn and I.” To add weight to his alibi, Peel said he had called home while the boat was burning. That he had used the pay phone at the Hill Bar.

But Stogsdill was suspicious. By the time John Peel walked away from the Bellingham Police Station, he and Roy Holland had reached a conclusion. They decided they couldn’t walk away from John Peel. They either had to eliminate him or bring him in as the shooter. The time had come to start double-checking his stories.

Even as troopers thought they were closing in on John Peel, however, there were unanswered questions.

One of the biggest was how a lone individual could have killed eight people. The difficulty in subduing and killing that many people seemed beyond the capacity of a single person, however crazed. Someone would have fought back and stopped him. Someone would have escaped. Still, they had a parade of witnesses who’d only seen one man coming from the direction of the Investor fire. How could that be?

Excerpts from the unpublished original manuscript, “Sailor Take Warning,” by Leland E. Hale.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.


Order “What Happened In Craig,” HERE and HERE. True crime from Epicenter Press about Alaska’s Worst Unsolved Mass Murder.

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