Slain man gave up sleeping bag, chose to sleep outside

bbrasch@adn.comSeptember 28, 2013 

Police found Ferdinand Marquez bleeding from his head and unresponsive less than a block away from a homeless shelter where people knew and liked him -- his usual sleeping bag missing.

Hours earlier, Marquez gave the black sleeping bag to his longtime friend, Jesus Huezo, whom he met at the Anchorage Gospel Rescue Mission, because he owed him $10. That trade, of a debt for a sleeping bag, might have cost Marquez his life.

When Huezo asked him if he was sure he wanted to give him his sleeping bag on that rainy night, Marquez told him not to worry about it because they were friends and that he'd be fine. His plan: to spend the rainy night under an overhang just off the sidewalk.

Marquez, a 50-year-old seasonal fisherman, could often be seen eating by himself at an East Tudor Road homeless shelter less than 300 feet from where he was savagely beaten to death early Wednesday morning. Four men have been charged in the slaying.

Police say they were able to confirm from surveillance footage that four men punched, kicked and slammed a metal road sign into Marquez's head.

Marquez was born in Philadelphia and moved to Alaska in 2000. The site of his death was marked by a makeshift memorial of flowers, cards and one lit white candle.

"He kept to himself," said Larry O'Connor, the intake supervisor at the Anchorage Gospel Rescue Mission, the shelter Marquez frequented.

Marquez's son, who's stationed at a military base in Hawaii, called O'Connor to get a feel for his father. The son hasn't talked to him since he moved to Alaska about a decade ago.

O'Connor said Marquez would stay at the mission for a month at a time before he went to Dutch Harbor and Naknek to work during fishing season.

Between his trips to Anchorage and Naknek, Marquez would store his bike in O'Connor's garage for safekeeping.

Leo Ebue was his roommate during the 2004 two-week herring season. They worked at Leader's Creek Fishery sorting fish by sex, putting them into a freezer and boxing them.

Ebue recalled how hungry he was when he first arrived at the factory when he met Marquez.

Marquez had already settled into the room a few days earlier, but said he'd walk with Ebue into Naknek to grab a bite to eat -- 5 miles away.

The pair walked in the rain that May night and split a pepperoni pizza.

He said Marquez was a hard worker who followed instructions. Mostly.

Ebue said Marquez was fired from a job with North Pacific Seafood about five years ago for bringing alcohol into the factory grounds.

"He was a drinker," he said.

Jesus Huezo said Marquez was acting strange the night he died and was probably high. That meant he couldn't stay at the mission. He would have had to find somewhere else to sleep in 38-degree weather without a sleeping bag.

In one month, some workers at the fish plant can make at least $5,000, and in the close quarters of the rescue mission, it is hard to keep your money a secret, Ebue said.

Over the summer, Marquez was at the mission at the same time as David Walent, charged with first-degree murder in Marquez's beating for smashing the metal road sign into his head.

Police arrested Walent because he went into a nearby liquor store with bloody knuckles to buy a bottle of vodka, and bragged how he and his friends beat a man. The liquor store employee, who wished to remain nameless, said when Walent barged into the store, he complained about how he only got $10 out of "the guy."

After his arrest, the 6-foot-4 Walent, who weighs more than 200 pounds, told police that Marquez had jumped him a few days prior to the attack. Walent said that when he noticed Marquez sleeping under an overhang on a rainy night he threw something at Marquez, which started the fatal beating.

O'Connor, the rescue mission intake supervisor said Marquez, at 5-foot-4 and 120 pounds, was neither violent nor outspoken.

Marquez came by the mission for breakfast Tuesday morning. He had just gotten out of the hospital after a two-day stay from feeling weak, O'Connor said. That was the last time O'Connor saw him.

"People attack the homeless all the time because they're vulnerable," O'Connor said.


Reach Benjamin Brasch at bbrasch@adn. com or 257-4349. Twitter: twitter.com/ben_brasch

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