Alaska State Troopers this week charged a driver with second-degree murder for his involvement in a fatal 2010 Memorial Day weekend crash on the Sterling Highway between Homer and Anchor Point. Alfred C. Jones, 48, of Kenai, drove a GMC pickup truck that hit a Subaru Forester, killing a passenger, Kathleen Benz, 25, of Washington, D.C.
In charging documents, a Bureau of Highway Patrol trooper, Casey Hershberger, alleged that a blood draw of Jones tested positive for methamphetamines, oxycodone, cocaine and marijuana.
Hershberger wrote that about 8 p.m. May 29, 2010, while driving north toward Anchor Point in his truck, Jones drifted over the centerline into the southbound lane. The Subaru that Benz rode in, driven by Daniel Fairchild, followed behind three other cars heading south toward Homer. The drivers of those three cars avoided being hit by Jones, but Fairchild couldn’t evade Jones’ truck. After the truck hit the Subaru, the truck rolled and slid into the southbound lane, forcing a fifth car heading south off the road.
“All indicated that they were scared as a result of Jones’ driving and had to take evasive action to avoid being hit by the vehicle he was driving,” Hershberger wrote.
Jones never tried to get back into his lane or avoid the other cars, Hershberger wrote in his complaint.
The crash also injured Jones, Fairchild and another passenger in the Subaru, Christine Hung. All were taken to South Peninsula Hospital. Benz suffered severe head injuries and was pronounced dead two hours after the crash.
In March, Jones was convicted in federal court in Nevada on one count of laundering drug money. He was one of 17 Kenai Peninsula residents charged in a conspiracy to launder money and distribute oxycodone in Alaska that had been smuggled up from Nevada. That indictment alleged Jones deposited drug money at Wells Fargo banks in Kenai and Soldotna between July and August 2010.
Another conspirator in that case, B.J. Griffith, 23, was linked by federal prosecutors to Kostas Bairamis, a Homer man convicted of drug dealing.
At an April 3 hearing, Jones was sentenced to 15 months in jail with three years supervised release. With credit for time served, he is nearing the end of his sentence. A December 2010 indictment charged other conspirators with smuggling 6,000 tablets of oxycodone between Nevada and Alaska between July 2009 and October 2010 or laundering $1.2 million in illegal proceeds.
Jones also faces charges of first-degree assault, six counts of third-degree assault, fourth-degree assault, tampering with physical evidence, all felonies, driving under the influence, reckless driving, sixth-degree misconduct involving a controlled substance and first-degree criminal trespass.
According to the criminal complaint, Jones has 14 convictions in Alaska, including 12 driving offenses and two DUI convictions. He also was convicted of refusing to submit to a breath test, seven charges of driving while license revoked or suspended, driving without a license and leaving the scene of an accident. His license was revoked or suspended 15 times. The last DUI convictions were in 1990 and 1991.
Benz had been visiting Alaska as part of a group of fellow Georgetown University friends here for a wedding. Over the past two years, friends and family made numerous inquiries to the Homer News regarding the status of the case. In 2011 the Homer News filed a public records request for the Bureau of Highway Patrol investigation, but was denied because the case was under investigation.
Alaska State Trooper spokesperson Beth Ipsen said it’s not uncommon for charges to take two years to be filed in fatal car crashes. Toxicology tests are sent to the Washington State Police and take at least four weeks minimum. Fatal car crash reports often are several inches thick.
“There’s a lot of things that have to be put together,” Ipsen said. “There’s a lot of information to compile and forward on to the district attorney’s office.”
Ipsen said she did not have an exact date for when troopers sent its report to the district attorney’s office.
Kenai District Attorney Scott Leaders did not return a phone call asking for an explanation into why it took two years to file charges. Department of Law officials also did not return a message asking for an explanation of the delay.
The assault charges alleged that Jones put six people in fear of injury or injured them. Troopers searched Jones’ truck after the accident and found a glass pipe alleged to have trace amounts of methamphetamine residue. In the tampering with physical evidence charge, Jones is alleged to have tampered with a guitar case and guitar in the back of the truck after it had been seized by troopers.
Michael Armstrong can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.