North Pole man charged with murder in girl's death

Posted: Wednesday, July 10, 2002

FAIRBANKS (AP) -- A North Pole man has been charged with first-degree murder in the shooting death of a 16-year-old girl.

Alaska State Troopers originally believed Ernest Elizardo, 27, unintentionally shot Jenny Cullen in the head early Monday morning while he was handling his .357-caliber revolver after drinking alcohol. But after further investigation, troopers said they're not convinced the shooting was unintentional.

''Things weren't just adding up,'' trooper Capt. Greg Tanner told the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner.

Cullen, a North Pole resident, died Monday evening at Fairbanks Memorial Hospital.

Elizardo was arrested at his trailer home at 6:20 p.m. Tuesday and is being held on $250,000 bail.

According to the criminal complaint, Elizardo intentionally shot Cullen from an arm's length away. The bullet struck the girl behind the left ear.

Tanner said a third person was in the room when the shooting occurred. Three other people were at the trailer, but were in other rooms getting ready for bed.

Elizardo said he argued with his brother, Andrew, earlier and took the gun outside, according to the complaint. He said he shot a tree about 100 yards from his house, then tucked the gun into his pants, the complaint states.

Later, Elizardo was sitting in chair in the kitchen when Cullen walked into the room and stood in front of him with her side facing him, according to the complaint. Elizardo had the gun out and when Cullen came into the kitchen she gave him ''the look,'' the complaint quotes Elizardo telling troopers.

Elizardo said he knew the revolver was loaded when he pointed it at Cullen, the complaint says. He said he was extremely familiar with the gun and had shot it more than 500 times.

''At this point we won't discuss any possible motive,'' Tanner said Tuesday. He wouldn't discuss other particulars of the shooting.

Troopers said Monday someone made a 911 call for help from a cell phone inside the trailer home.

Trooper Sgt. Ron Wall, head of investigations in Fairbanks, said people had been visiting and watching television at the house for a while. Some of them were drinking. Wall didn't know if Cullen had been drinking.

An ambulance rushed Cullen to the hospital where she spent most of Monday in critical condition until her death.

Whether the murder charge will pass further inspection by the district attorney's office or even a grand jury remains to be seen, Tanner said.

''We still have things to do that would further support this charge,'' he said.

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