Trooper investigation goes on in Nikiski murder

Posted: Tuesday, January 08, 2002

An Alaska State Troopers' investigation continues into the death of a North Kenai airplane mechanic. Authorities acknowledged they are conducting a murder investigation, but will not release any details about the circumstances of the death or any leads they have.

Gerald Sibley, 61, was discovered dead Friday at 9:20 a.m. in the aircraft hangar he lived and worked in at Mile 18 of the Kenai Spur Highway.

Trooper reports said Sibley's death is believed to be the result of foul play. His body was flown to the state medical examiner's office Saturday for an autopsy. Autopsy results were not available Monday.

Trooper spokesperson Greg Wilkinson said Soldotna troopers and troopers from the Criminal Investigation Bureau in Anchorage are conducting the investigation but won't release information about the case's progress.

"The troopers are keeping this extremely close to vest to maintain the integrity of the investigation," Wilkinson said. "We don't want anybody getting information that only the suspect may have. We're really hoping someone will tell us something they shouldn't know. They're working very diligently to make sure the case comes to a successful conclusion."

Sibley's family heard about the police cars out at his hangar, but said they didn't receive any official notice until later in the day.

"We found out from friends who saw all the vehicles out there and stopped to see what was going on," said Joan Hart, Sibley's ex-wife. "We didn't find out from an official source until we called the police Friday evening."

Hart, who lives in Sterling, said Sibley was a good father and grandfather. She said she hadn't spoken with him in a long time, but said he spent time during the holidays with one of their sons who lives in Kenai.

"He spent Christmas with Mike and his family," she said. "They had a nice, warm Christmas"

Sibley has two other sons -- Jimmy, who is here from San Diego, and Mark, who lives in Fairbanks. None of his sons could be reached for comment.

Hart said Sibley's sons took the news hard, and that she has been helping them cope.

"I think it's easier for me than it probably is for the boys," she said. "Mom has to be tough and strong."

Hart said Sibley will be missed.

"He was a hard-working, decent man," she said. "He was the quintessential Alaska man. He loved fishing, hunting and flying. He should have been born here."

Sibley was born in Lansing, Mich., and lived in Alaska for 32 years.

Warren Johnson of North Kenai owns the hangar where Sibley lived and worked. He said Sibley was a good friend.

"He was the type of person to give you the shirt off his back," Johnson said. "He didn't have much and didn't want much besides the few friends around him."

Memorial services will be 5 p.m. Wednesday at Peninsula Grace Brethren Church in Soldotna. A wake will be held afterward at The Place on the Spur Highway.

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