Larry Demmert’s biggest fear — at the moment — was possible perjury. To Demmert, the fear seemed well founded: each time he spoke to troopers, he added new details, going from vague declarations of ignorance to increasingly concrete assertions. After speaking to an attorney with the Fisherman’s Association, however, Demmert calmed down considerably. Calmed down enough that Stogsdill made him an offer. He would return his gun if he promised to put it in the hotel safe and leave it there until he left town.
Demmert agreed to the offer.
When Demmert returned from his hotel for an interview with Mary Anne Henry, he seemed all right. But everything was not right in Larry Demmert’s world. During the interview, he put his arms behind his head and rocked the chair on its back legs. He stared at the ceiling. His feet started bouncing. And his responses didn’t track with the questions. Instead, he blurted out whatever seemed to come to mind.
After ten minutes of this, Mary Anne Henry decided she could not continue with him acting like this. She sent him out of her office. But instead of letting him go, Larry Demmert ended up in a separate room, facing assistant district attorney Bob Blasco. All the signs told Demmert this was serious.
“I want to talk to you right now,” Blasco told Demmert, his voice stern and commanding. Blasco was a slight man with undistinguished features, but Larry Demmert immediately knew this wasn’t small talk.
“You’re here to testify before the grand jury,” Blasco told him, “and you are going to testify. But you’re not going to do it in this condition. There’s something wrong with you, Larry. And if you’re taking pills and can’t testify, or if you’re doing it so you don’t have to testify, then you give me no alternative but to go before a judge. I’ll take you before the court and the judge will decide if you have a medical problem and the judge will decide if you should go to a hospital until you can testify. But if you’re doing this to keep from testifying, the judge may send you to jail until you testify. You got that, Larry?”
“I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry,” Demmert repeated, obviously affected by Blasco’s tirade. He was still nervous, but Blasco definitely had his attention. “I didn’t mean to be this way,” Demmert insisted. “I’m okay. I’ll be all right. I don’t need to go to jail. I don’t need to go to the hospital. I’ll be all right”
“Okay,” Blasco replied. “You straighten yourself up, okay? We’ll see you tomorrow.”
As Blasco and Stogsdill watched Larry Demmert walk down the hall and enter the elevator, neither of them knew how John Peel’s skipper would be the next day. So far, he had been full of surprises. They weren’t sure they could take any more surprises. Not now. Not when the grand jury was about to convene.
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.