Injured key witness delays cold case trial

Posted: Thursday, July 23, 2009

The cold case murder trial of a man accused of killing a Seward woman 27 years ago was postponed in Kenai Superior Court on Wednesday until February next year.

Judge Anna Moran set a hearing for Jan. 26, and tentatively scheduled the jury trial for the beginning of February.

The trial was to have begun in Kenai during the week of Aug. 10, but a key witness, now living in Minnesota, recently suffered serious injuries in a motorcycle accident and will be unable to travel to Alaska for three to four months, according to the state's special cold case prosecutor.

Jimmy Eacker, 55, is accused of killing Toni Lister, who was 29 when her body was found April 17, 1982, in the woods near the Seward city dump. She had been sexually assaulted and stabbed in the chest, head and neck, according to authorities.

Seward police investigated after Lister's husband reported her missing, and Eacker had been identified as a suspect, but was never charged.

Cold case investigators with the Alaska Bureau of Investigation in Soldotna began reviewing the case in 2006 at the request of Seward police, and Eacker was arrested in Fairbanks, where he had been living for the past several years.

Eacker was indicted by a Kenai grand jury in September 2007, on one count of first-degree murder and one count of second-degree murder.

During a court hearing Wednesday, special prosecutions attorney Pat Gullufsen said witness Robert Blaedorn suffered a lacerated spleen, 12 broken ribs, a punctured lung, a broken collar bone and a broken shoulder in the motorcycle accident.

In 1982, Blaedorn, now retired, was the Seward police lead investigator in the case.

Defense Attorney Ben Adams from the Kenai Public Defenders' Office said, "Mr. Blaedorn is an absolutely critical witness."

Adams also asked the court to have Eacker transferred to the Wildwood Pretrial Facility from the Anchorage Jail to permit Adams to be able to meet with his client as needed.

Moran agreed to set a status hearing in the case for Aug. 21, which would in effect, require the defendant be moved to Kenai.

If convicted of murdering Lister, Eacker could be sentenced to 20-99 years in prison on the first-degree murder charge, and 10-99 years for the additional charge of second-degree murder.

Phil Hermanek can be reached at phillip.hermanek@peninsulaclarion.com.



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