Canadian authorities question hitchhiker in death of Alaskan

Posted: Sunday, February 24, 2002

WHITEHORSE, Yukon (AP) -- Canadian authorities have questioned the hitchhiker picked up by an elderly Alaska man who was found bludgeoned to death last year in British Columbia.

The hitchhiker, who is an American, was arrested on an unrelated case in California and is now in custody in Los Angeles, according to Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

A witness told Alaska State Troopers that James Hamrick, 74, picked up the hitchhiker in Tok Sept. 8. Hamrick had left Anchorage that day and was traveling to Arizona with his pet poodle, Muffy, in his pickup truck and camper.

Hamrick's body was found Sept. 10 at a remote rest stop near Prince George. The dead man was still wearing his expensive watch and a heavy, gold ring, but his wallet was missing. Also missing was his 1995 dark green Dodge 4x4 diesel pickup truck with an older, off-white camper too short for the truck's box.

The truck later was found in Vancouver and someone dropped off Hamrick's poodle at a Canadian animal shelter.

Police have not released the hitchhiker's name because he has not been charged with anything. Police spokesman Mike Herchuk said the man did confirm he took a ride from Hamrick on Sept. 8.

Police would not say if the man is a suspect in the killing.

The hitchhiker turned up through a North America-wide request to law-enforcement agencies to be on the lookout, the Whitehorse Star reported.

The RCMP had put out a notice to the borders, and they learned the hitchhiker crossed into the U.S. through a Vancouver border crossing, but they didn't know where he was headed.

''And lo and behold if he doesn't get himself arrested in California, and gives his name, they run it on the system. 'Hey look, the Mounties want to speak to this guy,' so they call us up here at the end of December,'' Herchuk said.

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