The park where James Lockery III was beaten to death was quiet and sunny Wednesday. The parking lot was nearly empty when Lockery's sister, Kerstin, showed up to honor her older brother.
Two 18-year-old men -- one who had just 27 days earlier become an adult -- have been accused of punching and kicking the 37-year-old Lockery in Centennial Park the night of July 12, 2009, police say. Marc Ewing and Lawrence Lobdell beat Lockery and took $7, some change and a case of beer, according to court documents. Then, after drinking the beer and rifling through some of his belongings, the pair returned to stomp and kick Lockery until he lay dead, documents say.
"One of them held him down so the other could jump off the bleachers onto his head," Kerstin said Wednesday at the park, her eyes tearing up, voice wavering.
"Asking why is pointless," she said later. "It's not going to do anything. It's not going to bring him back. It's not going to give me closure."
She unwrapped the sunflowers she bought earlier at Fred Meyer and walked toward the spot where prosecutors say Ewing and Lobdell killed Lockery.
Police charged the two young men with second-degree murder. Prosecutors are waiting to see if Lobdell, who developed a brain tumor while in custody, will be fit physically or mentally to stand trial. Ewing pleaded guilty and was scheduled to be sentenced Tuesday. That was postponed at the last minute until November to allow for a lengthier hearing.
Ewing and Lobdell are both longtime Alaska residents. Lobdell has convictions for vehicle tampering, burglary and theft, according to court records. Ewing doesn't appear to have a criminal record as an adult; he turned 18 less than a month before the killing.
Kerstin is a 33-year-old sergeant in the Army Reserve and a self-described communications geek. She found out about the sentencing delay when she was paged at the Denver airport while en route to Alaska from Maine, where she was helping care for her aunt. She's served tours in Iraq and Afghanistan and decided to continue north because she expects to be deployed to Iraq again next month.
Kerstin says the 22-hour trip was still worthwhile to make her visit to the park.
"If something happens to me, in Iraq, I wouldn't have had the chance," Kerstin said. "Jim's always wanted me to come up."
"I'm just spending time with Jim because he loved this area," Kerstin said. "I don't know if he's here."
Lockery always smoked Marlboro menthols, or rolled his own cigarettes, she said.
"I don't really smoke any more. I used to, but I'm going to smoke a cigarette for him," Kerstin said. "You know how some people open a 40 (ounce bottle of malt liquor) and pour it out (for their dead loved ones)? Well I'm going to smoke a cigarette."
Kerstin walked to the place where she believed her brother died, put her sweatshirt on the bleachers, and placed the orange flowers on the ground.
"It's more him, the natural colors. I didn't think pink roses would be right," she said, laughing.
Kerstin sat in the short grass, facing a large open field. Then she lighted a cigarette and cried.
Trees border the area, and cars can be heard driving by on the Glenn Highway beyond. The area is a known hangout for people living outside in Anchorage. But Lockery wasn't a bum, his sister said.
"He wasn't homeless," Kerstin said. "He had many places to stay; he just chose to sleep out under the stars."
She said her brother came to Alaska when he was 19. He fished, both commercially and for sport, and hunted. He panned for gold and worked construction and other seasonal jobs. He was a hard worker and floated between the Lower 48 and Alaska for almost two decades, Kerstin said.
"He didn't want to be stuck in a dead-end job for the rest of his life like most people," Kerstin said. "He saw what he wanted and went for it. And I envy him for that."
Kerstin said Lockery never wasted anything from the animals he hunted, from turkey and wild pigs to deer, caribou and bear. Quail meat Lockery harvested still sits in a freezer at the family home in Arizona, and animal hides adorn his old room -- the way he left it and where his ashes are kept.
"He was loved, he had friends and family," Kerstin said. "He always had somewhere to come back to if he needed."
Find Casey Grove online at adn.com/contact/casey.grove or call him at 257-4589.
By CASEY GROVE