Grand jury proceedings were scheduled for the week of September 16th and virtually all the Bellingham witnesses were booked on the same Alaska Airlines flight to Ketchikan. But as they flew in from Seattle on Tuesday the 18th, Dave McNeill sensed trouble. Walking past Larry Demmert on his way to the restroom, the detective noticed that the Libby 8 skipper looked flushed. And that he had a drink in his hand.
Although it seemed a little early to begin drinking, that wasn’t the problem. The problem was that Larry Demmert didn’t drink. Before they landed, McNeill learned something else. While Demmert was in the restroom, his seatmates told him Demmert wasn’t drinking.
“He’s eating valium,” they said.
Detective McNeill broke the news to Sergeants Stogsdill and Holland as they headed down to baggage claim. The officers watched closely as Demmert picked up his baggage. Larry hovered over Dawn Holmstrom and Brian Polinkus like a mother hen watching her chicks. He was a bundle of nerves on the loose. He was hyper. He couldn’t stand still. Finally, Stogsdill took him aside and confronted him.
“What’s your problem,” Stogsdill demanded. “Why are you acting like this?”
Demmert told the trooper he was under a great deal of stress because he was in a custody battle over his daughter. He also said something about a back condition. A doctor had given him a prescription for valium, he said, but he was running low. Whatever the problem, Stogsdill knew this was not the same Larry Demmert he had dealt with in the past. Physically and mentally, this Larry Demmert seemed to be in precarious shape.
Worried that Demmert was in no condition to testify at grand jury, Stogsdill ordered him to come straight to the Ketchikan district attorney’s office after checking into his hotel.
Excerpts from the unpublished original manuscript, “Sailor Take Warning,” by Leland E. Hale.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.