The one thing missing from early contacts with witnesses were line-up photos of John Peel. Sergeant Stogsdill was determined to correct that oversight. Still, he was not overly optimistic when he arrived in Hollis.
Stogsdill was there, in a chartered float plane, with additional photos for Sue Domenowske and Paul Page. He knew that they weren’t starting with a clean slate, like they had with Joe Weiss. These two had already seen dozens of photos. While the float plane waited, Stogsdill started Sue off with the same six-person photo array he’d shown Joe Weiss.
Her house, still under construction, was without a full-time heater and it was cold. This late in December the temperature hovered in the teens. Domenowske began by eliminating the photos that didn’t match her recollection of the skiffman. In short order, she eliminated three of the six photos. Then, pointing to photo number three, the photo of John Peel, she added, “I’d be inclined to eliminate three also.”
As she spoke, Paul Page came into the house, freezing cold and out of breath. He’d run the length of the beach, hoping the float plane had brought in his carpet shipment from the outside. Under normal circumstances, he would have driven that distance. But in the cold, his truck wouldn’t start. Stogsdill was sympathetic. “Is it a dead battery or something?’ he asked.
“No,” Paul replied.
“Just weird, huh?”
“It’s a piece of junk is what’s the problem,” Page admitted. Noticing the photo lineup that had Sue’s attention, he offered to leave so he’d be “a little more unbiased.” Stogsdill said he could stay.
“Does that mean I can build a fire?” Sue laughed. And then she turned serious, revealing the fear that had hounded her since her chance conversation with a killer.
”How did my name get released and in all the papers?” she asked. She was obviously concerned. Whoever had done this deed was still at large. She was a witness. And now anyone who could read knew who she was and, presumably, where to find her.
Stogsdill did his best to explain. He’d seen this fear before. It was pervasive — a lingering cloud that hovered over many of the witnesses.
“Boy, you got me, Sue. This has come out of the court records, I’m sure. We don’t like to tell anybody anybody’s name, you know, especially the news media, but you can’t keep it a secret for a year. You hope these things don’t go on for a year, first. And it’s just a fact of life.”
Excerpts from the unpublished original manuscript, “Sailor Take Warning,” by Leland E. Hale.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.