Shake, Larry, Shake

For the next several minutes, Weidner tried to shake Larry Demmert from the idea that he was positive about seeing John Peel on the night of the murders. He did get him to admit that his first sighting, when he allegedly saw Peel going onto the Investor, was tentative.

Purse Seiners, rafted up in Craig (copyright Leland E. Hale)

“I didn’t see a face,” he said, “I mean, I just said it could have been him.” But Weidner could not shake Demmert from his insistence that he’d seen John Peel that fateful Sunday. Larry was so unshakable that Weidner was forced to try another tactic.

“Had you had anything to drink that night,” he asked.

”No,” Demmert replied. “I wasn’t drinking at all then. Quit drinking when I was 21, until about a week ago. I’ve had a few drinks since…”

“Were you doing any drugs or anything that night?”

“No, I was just…”

“Smoke any dope or anything like that?”

“Not even that, that night,” Demmert replied.

But Weidner had apparently heard about Larry Demmert’s valium incident during the grand jury. Maybe that would shake him, because it was next on his list of questions. Demmert admitted he’d taken the drug while he was in Ketchikan for the grand jury. He told Peel’s defense attorney he had been taking four a day and he explained why.


He took them, he said, “just when I felt that I was getting all uptight, stressed out. I was taking those to keep me from drinking, because I had been experiencing family difficulties ever since this happened, and at that time it was severe family difficulties, and I did not want to start hitting — getting drunk or whatever.”

And Demmert was quick to point out that be hadn’t used any on the morning of the grand jury. Weidner pressed him, asking if he remembered taking any “during the time that they were getting pretty intense with you that morning before the grand jury.”

“That morning I didn’t take any — anything at all,” Demmert repeated.

By the time the interview was finished, Demmert told John Peel’s attorneys several more things they didn’t want to hear. He told them he’d first began having doubts about his former crewmember when Peel didn’t want to go out to the Investor fire.

Investor Fire Scene (courtesy Alaska State Archives)

Demmert also told them he hadn’t seen much of John Peel after Sunday. He said that he had run into him “once or twice, that’s about it, I think… He’d split for hours, come down for about ten, fifteen minutes or so, and then he’d just disappear again. I’d go look for him to do something and he wasn’t there.”

Demmert added that, except for the time Peel refused to ride out to the fire, he didn’t see him again until he “came down to get his stuff, and he said he had a flight out, that somebody had canceled and he was leaving.” Demmert claimed, then, that he hadn’t seen John Peel from Sunday through Wednesday. Which, given Craig’s compact geography, seemed remarkable.

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.


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