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Man arrested in 1985 murder

Posted: Friday, March 28, 2003

ANCHORAGE (AP) After 18 years, Opal Fairchild's death is one step closer to being solved.

Alaska State Troopers this week arrested Barry McCormack and charged him with first-degree murder in the shooting of Fairchild, a 65-year-old Soldotna resident.

Fairchild was shot in the head March 20, 1985, in her home, during an apparent robbery. Fairchild's purse was found partly emptied and $400 was missing.

Alice Fairchild, daughter-in-law of the victim, told the Peninsula Clarion she didn't know McCormack or that he was a suspect.

After 18 years, it's hard to say anything's being served,'' Fairchild said.

McCormack also was charged with second-degree murder in connection with the gunpoint robbery of Melvin Anderson, 48, the same month that year.

Anderson was shot once in the head at his woodstove retail store at mile 83 of the Sterling Highway. About $500 was taken from the cash register and Anderson's wallet. He survived and investigators were able to recover the bullet.

Troopers said the shootings took place within eight miles of each other. Investigators linked the shootings early on, but didn't have a suspect until a follow-up fingerprint search was done in 2000.

In August of that year, troopers matched McCormack's prints to the Fairchild crime scene using the Alaska Automated Fingerprint Identification System. McCormack had been fingerprinted in 1991 after applying for bus driver certification in Soldotna. But a record of the prints hadn't been entered into the database until 2000, said Capt. David Hudson, commander of the Criminal Investigation Unit.

Even with the match of the prints, progress was slow until the Alaska State Troopers' Cold Case Unit took it up again. The unit was created in July 2002 when a federal grant allowed three retired investigators to look into old unsolved cases.

Troopers traced McCormack to Oklahoma where he was working as a truck driver. Alaska investigators served McCormack with a warrant and took his fingerprints and a DNA sample.

A Kenai Grand Jury indicted him March 21. Monday the Poteau Police Department arrested McCormack, who waived extradition. He was arraigned Thursday in Anchorage.

This is our first homicide solved (by the unit), but the second successful prosecution,'' said trooper spokesman Greg Wilkinson.

Troopers said the murder weapon was pawned, possibly in Anchorage years earlier. The weapon hasn't been recovered and Troopers are offering a $1,000 cash reward for the return of a Ruger Speed Six .357 revolver, serial number 159-13540.



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