Elderly trapper shot to death in Nenana

Posted: Tuesday, January 16, 2001

FAIRBANKS (AP) -- Authorities are investigating the shooting death of a subsistence trapper who lived alone in his cabin at Nenana.

The body of John ''Mackie'' Burk, 66, was found early Sunday. He had been shot at least three times with a shotgun, Nenana Police Chief Milt Haken said.

''It appears that (Burk) was shot in the chest,'' Haken said. ''There are some indicators that the door may have been partially open at the time.''

Nenana Police and the Alaska State Troopers were working together to conduct interviews and gather evidence in the case.

Police were investigating tire tracks found outside the cabin and at least one car reportedly seen in the area at the time of the shooting.

Burk's death left many Nenana residents mourning his loss while at the same time fearing for their own safety.

Nenana officials called a public meeting Monday afternoon in efforts to help calm nerves. It was the first homicide for the city since 1993.

About 50 people attended.

One resident flatly asked Haken what many appeared to be thinking: ''Are we safe?''

''Yes, ma'am,'' the chief responded. ''I think this was a focused act specifically at Mr. Burk and nobody else.''

Others were concerned about the mental state of children in the community, many of whom knew ''Uncle Mack'' as a genial neighbor who offered advice and gave them candy or other gifts.

''We have a crisis plan in place,'' Haken said, noting that local teachers already had been spoken to about how to deal with students affected by the slaying.

Students weren't the only Nenana residents mourning Burk's sudden loss. ''Everybody knows Mackie and it's a real impact,'' Haken told the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner.

Edna Hancock, president of the Toghotthele Native Corp., said she was among the many Nenana residents who remember Mack as a benign and friendly presence in the town. ''He always got up early, always had a coffee pot on,'' she said. ''Always ready to sit down and B.S.''

''We're not a real violent town,'' Hancock said. ''Anything like this really tears us apart.''

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