KODIAK -- The jury hearing the case of a Nikiski man charged in the disappearance of a Kenai woman has been dismissed after being unable to reach a verdict on a murder charge.
Superior Court Judge Donald Hopwood excused the jury in the Rocky Seaman trial late Monday afternoon, after it was determined the jury was unable to reach a verdict on the murder charge.
Under instructions given to the jury Nov. 15, a separate and unanimous verdict was required on each of the charges against Seaman: first-degree murder, conspiracy to commit murder, and conspiracy to commit kidnapping in the October 1996 disappearance of Loreese "Loree" Hennagin of Kenai.
The jury announced guilty verdicts on the two conspiracy charges Monday morning, then continued deliberating on the murder charge. Late Monday afternoon, the jurors informed the judge they still were unable to reach a decision and reported they had been "hung" on the murder charge verdict since Thursday.
After questioning jurors, Judge Hopwood excused them. The judge then granted a mistrial on the first-degree murder charge shortly after 5 p.m.
How the case will be concluded is unclear. The state may elect to retry Seaman on the murder charge because there was no verdict on that count in this trial.
Kenai District Attorney Dwayne McConnell, who acted as prosecutor in the case, said Tuesday a Dec. 13 status hearing has been set at which time he will announce whether the state plans to ask for another trial.
"We will have a decision by then," McConnell said. "It was 11-1 for conviction (in deliberations on the murder count), and we have to seriously consider that."
McConnell said he would not discuss many of the details associated with the case because of the potential for a retrial, but he said he was satisfied with the work of the jury and also credited the Kenai Police Department for developing a strong case against Seaman.
"I thought it was a very attentive jury, and I thought they worked very hard," McConnell said. "It was a lengthy trial for both sides.
"It seemed to me the Kenai Police Department had clearly established that (Hennagin) disappeared Oct. 9 (1996)," he continued. "It was a question for one person on the jury and that is the way our system works. It was a well-put-together case by Kenai police."
Sentencing has been scheduled for March 2 in Kenai. After the sentencing, the defense has 30 days to file a notice of intent to appeal. McConnell said the conspiracy to kidnap count, a Class A felony, carries a sentence of five to 20 years, while the conspiracy to murder count, an unclassified felony, carries a sentence of five to 99 years.
Seaman's defense attorney, Jim McComas, was in transit between Kodiak and Anchorage Tuesday and was unavailable for comment.
Seaman allegedly made a deal with Jeffrey Lackey, a sometimes street dealer of cocaine for Seaman and his mother, Avis McGahan, to lure Hennagin out into the open for Seaman. Seaman allegedly was seeking revenge for Hennagin's part in a burglary of McGahan's Anchorage residence. In addition to money and jewelry, at least five pounds of cocaine reportedly were taken in the burglary.
According to Lackey, he owed Seaman and McGahan money for drugs advanced to him to sell, and Seaman offered to forgive the debt and pay him in money and drugs for luring Hennagin into the open.
Hennagin's body never has been found, and no eyewitnesses to a murder were presented by the state.
Clarion reporter Steven Merritt contributed to this story.
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