D.A. seeks delay in Big Lake chapel shooting trial

Posted: Sunday, September 07, 2003

ANCHORAGE (AP) The trial of a Big Lake pastor charged in the deaths of two men who were attempting to burglarize his church has been delayed at the request of the Palmer district attorney's office.

DNA test results that came in late last week raised new questions in the case of the Rev. Phillip Mielke, who is charged with manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide, said Assistant District Attorney Bob Collins.

State medical examiners also were going to be out of town during the trial, which had been scheduled to begin Monday.

Palmer Superior Court Judge Beverly Cutler on Friday agreed to postpone the trial until Sept. 22, the district attorney's office said.

''It was not unexpected,'' said Jim Gilmore of Anchorage, Mielke's lawyer. ''We opposed it because it is a cloud hanging over the head of the whole family.''

But, the delay is only two weeks, he said.

''That's OK too,'' Gilmore said. ''The more they learn about the case, the better the defense becomes.''

The main development centers on new reports showing DNA from both burglars on a loaded .357-caliber Magnum found in the Big Lake Community Chapel basement.

Investigators with the Alaska Crime Lab recovered the DNA on the handgun, but the gun also contains ''multiple sources'' of DNA, according to an affidavit filed Thursday with the district attorney's motion.

Investigators have not yet determined whether Mielke's DNA is also on the gun, the document said.

Mielke has claimed he shot Frank Jones, 23, and Chris Palmer, 31, early in the morning on April 24 after they broke into the chapel. Mielke has said that, alerted by an alarm system, he rushed to the chapel with his .44-caliber Magnum and shot at the men as they ran up the basement stairs because he thought they were rushing toward him in the near-dark. He continued to fire after they passed him.

Both men were shot in the back, according to medical reports. Palmer's body was discovered near the chapel. Jones died later at a nearby home.

Mielke voluntarily submitted a DNA sample on Aug. 25, according to the court document. The crime lab is studying the sample.

The affidavit says that another question has arisen about a witness statement that ''neither of the deceased men had handled a handgun recently.'' Prosecutors want more time to see if the statement conflicts with the DNA on the gun.

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