On February 22, 1984, Sgt. James Stogsdill sent a memorandum to his boss, Lt. Robert “Bob” Jent. The memorandum was also shared with Mary Anne Henry, the Ketchikan District Attorney who was leading the prosecution of the Investor murders. It wasn’t just any status memo. In it, Stogsdill told the unvarnished truth about the state of their investigation, as well as what Stogs described as a “plan of attack” for going forward.
Stogsdill got right to the point.
As you are aware, this investigation has begun to focus itself on one, John Peel, as a possible suspect in this case. Peel generally became attractive in the late summer of 1983, when numerous persons were interviewed in the Craig/Ketchikan area during the anniversary of the crime.
All of the investigators, who have come and gone on this case, have felt that the person(s) responsible for the killings were close, on a personal basis, to a portion of the Investor crew…
We could find no one else [but John Peel] who knew the Investor Crew and was in Craig at the time of the killings.Memorandum, State of Alaska, Sergeant James A. Stogsdill, Subject: Investor Investigation, February 22, 1984
After walking through a summary of the actions and events which pointed to John Peel as their suspect, Stogsdill offered two lists. One had the facts that indicated John Peel was involved in the Investor killings. The other held the facts about John Peel that indicated the opposite.
We provide each list below, quoting from the original Stogsdill memorandum.
John Peel is Involved
“A. Facts which indicate John Peel involved in the killings aboard the Investor:
- He is in Craig at the time of the killings.
- He is one of the last persons to see Moon and Keown alive.
- At the time of the killings (Sunday night) his whereabouts are unknown.
- He personally knows everyone on the Investor, except Heyman.
- His vessel was moored directly behind the Investor during the killings.
- He had access to like murder weapon.
- He is familiar with fishing boat and skiff operation, but not the peculiarities of the Investor — hence, the attempt to sink the boat, the broken skiff ramp, etc.
- He matches the description as to size, weight, hair length, eyes, speech.
- He is identified by Joe Weiss as “most like” the person seen operating the skiff.
- He is described as “similar” by the other witnesses as to the person seen operating the skiff.
- He disappears from his work place for two hours prior to the Investor fire.
- He is the only person of the “Libby 8”, “Cindy Sue” crews who shows no interest in going out to see the Investor burn.
- He readily admits being “stoned” the night of the killings.
- He had a readily available place to “hide” while things quieted down.
- He escaped detection because he merely returned to “normal” and blended in.
- He appears on flight manifest to leave Craig immediately after police contact, rather than going home on the “Cindy Sue” as planned.
- There is open dislike on Mark Coulthurst part toward Peel in Peel’s opinion.”
John Peel is Not Involved
“B. Facts indicating John Peel is not involved in the killings aboard the Investor:
- He indicates he was in bed by 8 p.m. because he was “stoned”.
- Dawn Holmstrom says Peel was with her, going to the Craig post office, when the Investor fire broke out.
- No obvious motive for the deed.
- No obvious reason to him to burn the boat since he wouldn’t be conspicuous by his absence aboard.
- He was not with Moon and Keown at the Cold Storage laundromat at 8:30 to 9:00 p.m. Sunday night — indicating that they had parted company.
- Was not identified by any of the witnesses who were taken to the Hill Bar to view him.
- Dean Moon was “seen” in San Francisco by a witness who had worked with him in early 1982.”
Stogsdill’s next steps were foreshadowed in his memo’s introduction, when he said the following:
“Suffice it to say that a confession with collaborating facts is imperative to conclude this case. Without it there is no case. Therefore everything should be directed to that end.”
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.