Nikiski murder goes to trial

Posted: Thursday, March 22, 2001

One year after his gun shots took the life of one individual and wounded three others, Zebulon E. Nudson, 23, of Nikiski, finds his life resting in the hands of 14 individuals -- a jury of his peers.

An indictment filed in Kenai Superior Court on March 17, 2000, charged Nudson with:

First-degree murder -- one count;

Second-degree-murder -- one count;

First-degree attempted murder -- four counts;

First-degree assault -- three counts; and

Third-degree assault -- one count.

The charges stem from actions on March 12, 2000, that were outlined in a complaint signed by Dan Donaldson of the Alaska State Troopers. It alleged that troopers responded to a report of gunshot wounds sustained by Justin Meireis, Gary Waddington, Rick Sanchez and Robbie Meireis. A fifth individual, Harry Trenton, escaped injury, but feared "imminent physical injury by means of a dangerous instrument."

Justin Meireis died later that day at Central Peninsula General Hospital as a result of multiple gunshot wounds. According to Donaldson, Sanchez reported that after the five individuals had gone to Nudson's residence on Bastien Road in Nikiski, "Nudson began firing at them through the window of the front door."

When contacted by troopers, Nudson related that after being awakened by the sound of breaking glass, he saw the individuals in front of his house and "was afraid that they were there for revenge." According to Donaldson, Nudson told troopers that Sanchez and Justin Meireis were beaten up and thrown out of a party at Nudson's home the previous evening because they had picked fights with others at the party. When Nudson saw the men at his house on March 12, he thought they had returned for revenge.

Nudson reportedly told troopers he fired 19 rounds through the front door window from a Mac-90 rifle. Donaldson also reported that Nudson said he did not see any of the "advancing men carrying a weapon, but said he knows of the reputation of the Meireis brothers and stated that they had threatened many of his friends with guns."

On Wednesday, Anchorage attorney James McComas, representing Nudson, and John Wolfe of the Kenai District Attorney's office, asked potential jurors to describe their familiarity with the case and their understanding of the judicial process, finally narrowing the field to 12 individuals plus two alternates.

"We're more or less joined at the hip," Superior Court Judge Jonathan H. Link told the jurors, referring to the trial's 8:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. schedule. It is anticipated that the proceedings will last a month. Opening statements are set to begin today at 8:30 a.m.

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