PALMER (AP) The Big Lake pastor who shot and killed two men burglarizing his chapel has pleaded innocent to charges of manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide.
After his arraignment Friday, the judge released Rev. Phillip Mielke, 44, without a cash bond.
The pastor shot and killed 31-year-old Chris Palmer and 23-year-old Frank Jones on April 24. He faces up to 20 years in prison on each of two counts of manslaughter, if convicted, and up to 10 years on each of the other charges.
The meek-looking Mielke, wearing a white sports shirt neatly tucked into belted blue slacks, rarely looked up during the brief hearing Friday.
His lawyers did most of the talking, entering the innocent pleas and asking Superior Court Judge Beverly Cutler to release Mielke without bail.
Mielke has lived in the area since 1989, except for three years in the 1990s he spent in Hong Kong doing missionary work, defense attorney Pamela Sullivan said. He has served as pastor at the Big Lake Community Chapel since about 1998, when his uncle stepped down. He and his wife home-school their children, who range in age from 3 to 10.
''Mr. Mielke does not present a danger to this community,'' Sullivan told the judge. ''The flight risk in this case is absolutely zero, your honor.''
Palmer District Attorney Roman Kalytiak requested at least $50,000 in bail because of the serious nature of the charges.
Judge Cutler agreed to release Mielke without bail, but with several conditions: He must surrender his passport and offer a signed bond based on the value of his property that guarantees his appearance in court. He cannot possess any weapons or frequent any building in which people have weapons.
Cutler also barred Mielke from discussing the case in public and from shopping at major grocery stores in Palmer and Wasilla, an unusual step.
The judge said she wanted to limit the odds of Mielke running into the families of Jones and Palmer, and to reduce any run-ins with people recognizing the pastor from news coverage.
''It just could provoke an incident that we don't need to have,'' Cutler said.
A grand jury indicted Mielke Wednesday on two counts of manslaughter and two counts of criminally negligent homicide.
The day of the shooting, Mielke told Alaska State Troopers that he shot Palmer and Jones with his .44 Magnum as they rushed toward him up the chapel stairs in the dark, according to court documents. He also said he emptied his gun through a window at Jones as he fled.
Both men were shot in the back, according to medical reports. There was no indication either man brandished a weapons, though each had a folding knife.
The pastor told investigators he feared for his life.
Palmer's mother, Shirley Novak, got her first look at Mielke on Friday. She said it didn't bother her that Mielke didn't have to post bail. ''It's not going to fix anything,'' she said.
''It's not going to change the fact that he's gone,'' said Palmer's sister, Teri Fischer.
Mielke's trial is tentatively scheduled for Sept. 8.
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