Accused murderer implicated in another homicide

Posted: Friday, June 25, 2004

A man charged with murdering a Soldotna woman nearly 20 years ago was arraigned Thursday as a fugitive from justice in Kenai District Court in connection with a 1984 Kansas homicide.

Barry J. McCormack Sr., 53, who has been in Wildwood Pretrial Facility since March 2003 awaiting trial for the murder of Opal Fairchild, was formally arrested in Kenai on Wednesday on a Kansas warrant for the murder of William Womacks of Moline, Kan.

The arrest sets in motion the legal procedure for charging McCormack in that 20-year-old homicide case.

He was formally charged in Alaska with being a fugitive from justice in the case.

Womacks, a Kansas salvage dealer, was murdered in March 1984, according to Elk County Sheriff Janet Harrington, who was in Kenai for the arrest this week.

The case became a mystery after Womacks' vehicle was found abandoned, but he could not be found. He was listed as a missing person.

In May 1989, a citizen reported that he was cleaning a pasture dump on property he had recently purchased and found the skeletal remains of a person in an old refrigerator, Harrington said.

The person was Womacks, but details about his death remained a mystery.

Alaska State Troopers cold case investigators Jim Stogsdill and Bill Gifford had been working to solve the Fairchild murder and had flown McCormack to Alaska from Oklahoma to face charges in that case. Information gathered in that investigation shed light on the Kansas homicide.

In March 2003, Stogsdill and Soldotna Police Sgt. Todd McGillivray called Harrington with information about a 1984 homicide, which turned out to be that of Womacks.

At the same time, McCormack was arraigned on one count of first-degree murder and one count of second-degree murder in the Fairchild slaying, allegedly committed on or about March 20, 1985. Fairchild, 65, was shot to death in an apparent robbery in her home on East Poppy Lane in Soldotna.

About two weeks before that, Melvin Anderson was robbed at gunpoint in his woodstove retail store in Sterling. He was shot once in the head by the robber who fled with about $500 from the cash register.

Anderson survived the shooting, and investigators were able to recover the bullet from his head. It later was matched to the bullet recovered from Fairchild.

Fingerprints found at both crimes reportedly also matched, but were not linked to McCormack until 2000, when the troopers' Criminal Investigation Bureau asked the State Crime Lab to conduct a follow-up search to compare latent fingerprints found at the Fairchild crime scene.

They matched the fingerprints of McCormack, and subsequent analysis also matched latent prints from the Anderson crime scene to McCormack's.

McCormack cannot be charged in the Anderson robbery because the statute of limitations has run out on that crime. No limitation applies to murder cases in Alaska.

Anyone with more information about the crimes, including information about the possible murder weapon a Ruger Speed Six .357 revolver with serial number 159-13540 is asked to call troopers at 262-4453 or Soldotna police at 262-4455.

Kansas authorities plan to begin the extradition process, which would take McCormack to Kansas to face charges in the Womacks case.

District Court Magistrate David Landry set the matter for a hearing on July 23, and set bail at $750,000 cash with the requirement of a court-approved third-party custodian.

If convicted of murdering Fairchild, McCormack could face up to 99 years of imprisonment on each charge in Alaska.

That trial is set to begin in Kenai Superior Court during the week of Aug. 9.

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