Trial begins in man charged with murder of Nenana trapper

Posted: Thursday, February 14, 2002

FAIRBANKS (AP) -- Testimony began Wednesday in the trial of one of two men charged with the murder of Nenana trapper John ''Mackie'' Burk.

Mark Andrews, 26, of Nenana, is being tried on a charge of first-degree murder as well as second-degree murder, robbery, burglary and theft.

Burk, 66, was shot to death through his cabin door in January 2001.

A second man, Darin Nathaniel of Minto, also was charged in connection with the crime. Nathaniel, 19, reached a plea deal and was sentenced in July to 20 years in prison on a count of second-degree murder.

In exchange for his plea, Nathaniel agreed to testify against Andrews. He was expected to take the stand Thursday.

Andrews has waived his right to a jury trial. That means Fairbanks Superior Court judge Charles Pengilly will decide the verdict.

Prosecutor Jay Hodges' opening statement Wednesday took less than a minute. Defense attorney Bill Spiers skipped an opening altogether.

Nenana police chief Milt Haken and former police chief Wayne Walters testified that Burk had a reputation as a cocaine dealer. Haken said a drug-sniffing dog found a bag inside Burk's pillowcase that contained several small bundles of cocaine.

Statements made during Nathaniel's court proceedings suggest that Andrews had planned to rob Burk of cocaine or other items, and had brought Nathaniel along as backup, the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reported. According to Nathaniel's defense attorney, the decision to shoot Burk had been Andrews' alone, and only Andrews had pulled the trigger.

Burk's neighbor, Coralee Thomas, was the first witness on the stand. She said she heard three gunshots at about 4:30 am on Sunday, Jan. 14, 2001. Thomas was sleeping when the shots woke her.

Richard Ketzler, a Nenana-area resident, found Burk's body. He said he let himself in using a key Burk had hidden.

Victor Lord, a Nenana resident, said two shotguns and a fanny pack full of shells were missing from his house the month of the murder. Lord identified the guns allegedly used in the murder as his own.

Nenana resident Shauna Burk, a great-niece of Burk, testified that she had twice seen both Andrews and Nathaniel walking near Lord's residence the night before the murder.

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