An Anchorage teen was ordered held on $250,000 cash bail after he allegedly confessed to shooting a Soldotna man dead along the Seward High-way near Hope.
Robert Owen Holt Jr., 18, of Anchorage, a slender teen with a thin beard and short unkempt hair, is charged with first-degree murder and first-degree vehicle theft. Handcuffed and wearing a dark blue shirt, sweat pants and sneakers, Holt said nothing during his arraignment Thursday before Kenai Superior Court Judge Jonathan Link.
Troopers said Holt was hitchhiking on the Seward Highway near the Hope cutoff Tuesday at about 10:45 p.m. when Harold J. Sipary, 44, of Soldotna picked him up. According to an affidavit signed by Alaska State Trooper James Helgoe, Holt confessed that he had shot and killed Sipary.
First-degree murder carries a sentence of 20 to 99 years in prison. First-degree vehicle theft is a class C felony subject to a prison term of up to five years and a fine of up to $50,000.
Troopers got the call Wednesday at about 6:30 a.m. that a man's body had been found at a turnout near Mile 48 of the Seward Highway. Medics from the Cooper Landing ambulance service responded and pronounced the man dead. Troopers from Seward and Soldotna investigated. Initial investigation indicated that Sipary died from a small caliber gunshot wound to the head.
Trooper spokesperson Greg Wilkinson said troopers identified the man as Sipary from information at the scene. Sipary's family told troopers he had telephoned Tuesday at about 10 p.m. from Girdwood and said he was on his way to Soldotna. Troopers asked other agencies to watch for Sipary's 1997 Ford pickup, and Anchorage police stopped it Wednesday at about 11:20 a.m. The three men inside, Holt and two passengers, agreed to be interviewed at trooper headquarters in Anchorage.
The two passengers, whom Wilkinson identified as 18 to 19 years old, were released without being charged.
According to the affidavit, Holt told troopers he was hitchhiking alone from Anchorage toward Soldotna with a .22 caliber pistol in his waistband. After Sipary picked him up, Holt decided to steal Sipary's truck.
"Robert said that Sipary had a nice truck and he wanted it," the affidavit said.
Holt said he had to use the bathroom, and Sipary stopped at the turnout at Mile 48 on the Seward Highway.
"Robert said that after relieving himself he opened the passenger door and pointed that gun at Sipary and told him to get out," the affidavit said.
Holt told troopers that "Sipary was supposed to do what he was told because he had the gun pointed at him. When Sipary wouldn't get out of the truck, Robert said that he fired two rounds from the pistol. One round struck Sipary in the face. Robert said that Sipary slumped over in the driver's seat."
Holt told troopers that he opened the driver's door and Sipary fell onto the ground. Holt climbed in and started to drive away, leaving Sipary on the ground at the turnout.
"Robert then said that he backed the truck up and checked Sipary for a wallet or money," the affidavit said. "Robert told the investigating trooper that Sipary was making some breathing noises when he was checking his pockets. Robert told the investigating trooper that he later found Sipary's wallet in the center console of Sipary's truck. Robert then drove the truck back to Anchorage."
Holt told troopers that the wallet contained about $154.
"The statements made by Robert during his confession matched to the scene investigation and evidence collected there," the affidavit said.
According to the affidavit, one of Holt's passengers, Daniel Ellis, told troopers that Holt picked him up in the truck, and Ellis asked him where he had gotten it. Holt told Ellis that he had stolen the truck from someone who had picked him up hitchhiking.
"Robert told Daniel that he had shot the driver of the truck because he wouldn't get out of the truck when Robert told him to," the affidavit said.
"Daniel also said that Robert shot the guy in the truck because his dad didn't love him and he wanted the truck. Daniel further stated that when they were stopped by the Anchorage Police Depart-ment that Robert started to tear up and told him that he was going to jail for a long time."
Holt was booked into Wild-wood Pretrial Facility.
Link ordered Holt held pending $250,000 bail and a court-appointed third-party custodian and appointed the Public Defender Agency to represent him. Link said he knew Holt from other cases.
John Wolfe, assistant district attorney in Kenai, said he did not yet know Holt's prior record. Holt is 18, he said, and the district attorney's office would be unaware of any offenses prior to age 18.
Wolfe said he will seek grand jury indictments against Holt. The grand jury in Kenai meets Fridays. If Holt is indicted today, he could be arraigned and enter pleas on Monday or Tuesday, Wolfe said.
Wolfe said he is unaware of any charges to be filed against the other two people who were in Sipary's truck when it was stopped in Anchorage.
It is unclear whether additional charges will be filed against Holt, he said.
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