Bonnie Craig murder trial handed over to jurors

COLD CASE: Verdict in city's 17-year mystery may provide closure.

June 14, 2011 

Nearly 17 years after a hiker found Bonnie Craig's body in frigid creek water south of Anchorage, the trial of her accused killer neared its end this week in a hot, cramped courtroom.

Kenneth Dion, 41, is charged with abducting Craig, raping and killing her. In the closing arguments of Dion's cold-case murder trial Tuesday, lawyers summarized their opposing theories on how Craig wound up dead.

Prosecutors say Dion abducted Craig, forced the 18-year-old college student to have sex, pushed her off the cliff and then bludgeoned the back of her head with an unknown weapon, causing her death.

Dion's lawyer says Craig had consensual sex with his client. It wasn't until later, perhaps days after, that the young woman fell to her death from the 30-foot cliff and into McHugh Creek, the defense argues.

Whether murder or accident, consensual sex or not, a jury must now decide Craig's long-unsolved death, an unsettling episode in the lives of many Anchorage residents familiar with the posters that once asked, "Who killed Bonnie?"

For a dozen years, nobody had an answer.

'TIME TO CONNECT THE DOTS'

In 2006, a DNA sample from Dion -- who was at the time jailed in New Hampshire for armed robbery -- matched semen found inside Craig, said prosecutor Paul Miovas.

Armed with that physical evidence, investigators flew to New Hampshire to talk with Dion. He told them he didn't know Craig or recognize her picture, Miovas said.

"(Dion) wants you to believe he had sex with Bonnie Craig the week she died, and he doesn't remember her," Miovas said Tuesday.

Miovas told jurors that Dion's defense attorney, Andrew Lambert, presented them with a series of "red herrings" throughout the 21-day trial.

Don't be fooled by Lambert's distractions from the truth, Miovas told the jurors.

"It's time to connect the dots and see the big picture, ladies and gentlemen," Miovas said. "You don't have to buy what they're selling."

Looking to make one last impression on the jury, Miovas attacked the defense's case. Among the prosecutor's final arguments:

• A man who testified that he saw Craig happy and not in any distress at McHugh Creek on the day she died was mistaken, Miovas said. In his first reports to police, Dr. Arndt Von Hippel didn't say anything about seeing Craig, the prosecutor said. It was only later, after her image had been printed and broadcast all over Anchorage, that Von Hippel said he recognized her face. "He is clearly mistaken," Miovas said. "I'm sorry that you had to listen to him testify for almost two hours."

• A doctor sworn as an expert witness for the defense offered incorrect alternatives to the state's murder theory, Miovas said. "He's a paid consultant," Miovas said. "He testifies for a living."

• Lambert's suggestion that Craig skipped class to go hiking at McHugh Creek doesn't make sense, Miovas said.

"I don't know about you, ladies and gentlemen, but I never got up at 5 in the morning to skip school," Miovas said. There was soft chuckling in the courtroom.

NO MURDER WEAPON, NO MURDER

When it was time to make his own closing argument, Dion's lawyer talked about clues in Craig's behavior that showed she could have had a sexual relationship with Dion.

Lambert said he didn't want to portray Craig as overly promiscuous, but told the jury that she flirted with a man who was not her boyfriend the week of her death and showed up late for work one day the same week.

"How long does it take to have sex?" Lambert asked. "How long does it take to have sex that nobody knows about?"

The defense also looked to undermine the prosecution's evidence, including the DNA sample that pointed to sexual contact between Dion and Craig. Lambert has argued that the pair could have had sex days before the day Craig died.

Forensic examinations were unable to say when, exactly, the sex took place, Lambert argued. In fact, he said, Craig's boyfriend's DNA was found in her underwear about two months after the last time they'd had sex.

And if Craig was killed at the top of the cliff, or anywhere at McHugh Creek, "There should be blood everywhere up there," Lambert said. But only one drop of blood, on a single leaf, was ever found.

Investigators never found a murder weapon, either, Lambert argued.

"It's their job to find that," he said. "There's no murder weapon to be found because there was no murder."

Lambert said there were many rocks that Craig could have struck as she accidentally fell down the cliff. The state has not proved him wrong, he said.

Prosecutors also failed to commit to an explanation of how exactly Craig was murdered, Lambert said. "They haven't told us where it happened. They haven't told us how it happened."

"What you have is evidence of consensual sex. What you have is evidence of an accident," Lambert told the jurors. "After 17 years, please let the police and the media know they got it wrong."

LOVE LETTERS

If Lambert thought Miovas hadn't yet offered a precise theory on Craig's killing, he got one during the prosecutor's rebuttal. For the first time during the trial, Miovas explained exactly where he thought Dion killed Craig.

It was in the creek, after he pushed her off the ledge, Miovas said.

"The reason there's no blood (on the cliff) is because this man goes down to the creek and finishes the job so that he doesn't leave a witness behind," Miovas said. "The man killed her in the water below the cliff."

Miovas also showed love letters between Craig and her boyfriend, Cameron Miyasaki, who was away attending the University of California at Berkeley. Prosecutors have argued that Craig was in a committed relationship to Miyasaki and didn't know Dion.

Craig signed each of the emails "Love now, always and forever, Bonnie."

"That man stole Bonnie's life," Miovas said, pointing at Dion. "He took her away from her family and away from Cameron. He murdered her, ladies and gentlemen. Do not be fooled."

Superior Court Judge Jack Smith then gave the jury of nine men and three women their final instructions and sent them out of the courtroom.

The jury is expected to begin deciding on a verdict today.


Reach Casey Grove at casey.grove@adn.com or 257-4589.

Anchorage Daily News is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service