Jail murderer enters plea

Posted: Tuesday, August 19, 2003

ANCHORAGE (AP) A jail prisoner who choked another inmate to death nearly three years ago has pleaded no contest to second-degree murder.

Terry Ray Stromme, 24, was originally charged with first-degree murder in the death of Elijah Sage.

Stromme pleaded to the reduced charge Monday after reaching an agreement with prosecutors that includes a 20-year prison sentence and 10 years of probation upon release.

Superior Court Judge Dan Hensley accepted the plea but said he will decide at a hearing in December whether to accept the sentence.

Stromme was arrested Dec. 29, 2000, on misdemeanor charges of assaulting a gas station attendant and resisting arrest. He was so resistant that police had to hobble him, a department spokeswoman said at the time.

Stromme was lodged in a dorm at the old Sixth Avenue Jail, which has since been torn down.

On Dec. 30, Sage, 49, was arrested for fighting at the Community Service Patrol sleep-off center next door to the jail and moved to the same dorm about 8 p.m. He was charged with misdemeanor assault and was still recovering from the drinking that landed him at the sleep-off center.

Sage was a Vietnam veteran who served in the Navy. He had moved to Anchorage a few years earlier from Noatak, a community in northwest Alaska.

According to witnesses interviewed by Alaska State Troopers, Sage initially put his belongings on Stromme's bed. He removed them when told the bed was already taken but took Stromme's pillow by accident.

About two hours later, as Sage sat drinking hot chocolate at a table in the TV room, Stromme came up behind him and began choking him.

''Stromme then threw Sage to the floor, sat on him, and continued to choke Sage while he was straddling him,'' according to the charging documents.

He ''choked Sage for about 10 minutes and during that time grabbed Sage's head and gave a twisting jerk as if he was trying to break Sage's neck,'' the charges said.

The attack did not stop until a jail nurse making her rounds saw what was happening and sounded the alarm.

There were approximately seven other people in the room who chose not to help Sage or call guards when the attack began, a corrections spokesman said at the time.

Hensley set sentencing for Dec. 5.

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