Suspect in brutal Soldotna assault pleads innocent

Posted: Monday, March 04, 2002

SOLDOTNA (AP) -- A 20-year-old man charged with the attempted murder and brutal sexual assault in early February on a Soldotna woman has pleaded innocent to five charges against him.

Justin A. Starkweather of Soldotna is charged with first-degree sexual assault, first-degree attempted murder, first-degree assault, first-degree burglary and fourth-degree theft.

Starkweather was indicted by a grand jury Feb. 22. He pleaded innocent at his arraignment Thursday. His trial was set for May 13.

Starkweather is accused of entering the home of a 46-year-old Soldotna woman on Feb. 2, sexually assaulting her, beating her severely, and leaving her for dead.

He was arrested at his home in the same neighborhood Feb. 13.

Starkweather's attorney, Peter Mysing, entered the pleas.

Although a trial date was set for May 13, District Attorney Dwayne McConnell said that date would almost certainly be changed.

Starkweather remains in custody at the Wildwood Pretrial Facility. His bail is $250,000 cash.

The victim, who spent two weeks after the initial assault in a coma, is now conscious, but still hospitalized in Anchorage, said spokesman Greg Wilkinson of the Alaska State Troopers. She is responding to questions with nods and squeezes of the hand.

''Therapy is going to be long and hard for her, but she is out of danger,'' Wilkinson said.

Starkweather faces up to 139 years in prison. Starkweather had no prior arrest record, troopers said.

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