A man accused of killing a Seward woman 29 years ago pleaded guilty Tuesday to a charge of manslaughter after years of legal proceedings.
State prosecutors and Jimmy Eacker’s public defendant Ben Adams negotiated a lesser charge than the original first-degree murder charge, according to state cold case prosecutor Paul Miovas. Superior Court Judge Anna Moran accepted the plea agreement.
“We’ve been discussing the matter for quite some time,” Miovas said.
Eacker is charged with killing Toni Lister, who was 29 when her body was found April 17, 1982, in the woods near the Seward city dump. She had been sexually assaulted and stabbed in the chest, head and neck with a screwdriver, according to authorities.
Seward Police investigated after Lister’s husband reported her missing.
Eacker was identified as a suspect, but he was never charged.
Cold case investigators with the Alaska Bureau of Investigation in Soldotna began reviewing the case in 2006 at the request of Seward Police, and Eacker was arrested in late August in Fairbanks, where he had been living for several years.
A jury convicted Eacker last year. The original charges included second- and first-degree murder. The second-degree murder charge was dismissed at the end of the trial, Adams said.
He was later sentenced to 99 years in prison. However, Moran threw out the conviction because a prosecutor withheld additional DNA evidence that might have pointed to another suspect.
Officials declined to comment on why Eacker agreed to a plea agreement after such a long time.
“That’s something people are going to have to stand by on,” Adams said. “I’m certainly going to have some arguments made at sentencing, but it’s not appropriate to say at this point.”
Lister’s relatives, who have been highly involved in the legal proceedings, were included in the plea decision, Miovas said.
“I did involve (the family) in the process, and I do believe they are in support of the agreement,” he said.
Eacker’s sentencing is set for April, Miovas said.
Jerzy Shedlock can be reached at email@example.com.