Judge reduces bail for suspect held in cold case killing

Casey Grove

A Superior Court judge ordered a bail reduction Tuesday for a man accused in the stabbing death of a woman found alongside Arctic Valley Road in 2000.

Derrick Torian, 28, remains jailed on $200,000 bail for charges of first- and second-degree murder. He's accused of killing Genevieve Tetpon, who was found dead at the age of 28.

Torian was extradited to Alaska from South Dakota in February and previously held on $750,000 bail.

The Anchorage Police Department announced Torian's arrest Feb. 4, the day Torian was arrested. Torian appeared in an Anchorage courtroom about three weeks later for his arraignment.

A detective cracked open the cold case in 2009 while reviewing evidence, police said last month. The old evidence turned up a new lead, a female related to Torian, police said.

Court records indicate Torian was in Anchorage until at least 2009. Police said he left the state some time after detectives asked for a DNA sample.

Dozens of DNA test results are among the evidence the state plans to use to prosecute Torian.

After considering over the weekend a request to lower Torian's bail, Superior Court Judge Gregory Miller approved the reduction Tuesday, as well as conditions for Torian's release from jail.

The conditions do not require Torian's approved third-party custodian, his father, to be with Torian 24 hours a day. Torian was also approved for an electronic ankle monitor so he can work at an Anchorage pizza restaurant.

The victim's mother and aunt said Tuesday they were not happy with the judge's decision.

"It doesn't seem right," said Pat Fulton, Tetpon's mother.

"All of a sudden, boom, he's here and then he's being let out," Tetpon's aunt, Wanda Watson, said. "I don't understand why the judge made it so easy."

Fulton said the family had not heard any news about the case for more than a decade. None of them knew Torian, she said.

"You learn to suppress your emotions," Watson said. "And all of us, the emotions are coming back out. It seems more intense."

Fulton said she was excited when a detective called in February to tell her someone had been arrested for her daughter's death.

"It was a very happy moment when they caught him, and now I'm just confused," Fulton said.

Assistant District Attorney Paul Miovas said the prosecution argued against the reduction of Torian's bail at a hearing Friday. Judge Miller heard arguments from prosecutors and Torian's attorney, Sidney Billingslea.

"My argument was that when you look at similar situations, that the bail in this neighborhood was lower than what you would see in a similar situation," Miovas said. "The difficulty in that is that, when you're dealing with cold cases, and you're dealing with a situation where the case is 11 years old, it's kind of hard to find similar situations."

A lack of similar cases means it's difficult, if not impossible, to compare Torian's bail with another case to determine if the bail is too low or too high, Miovas said.

"It's a relatively rare situation to begin with," he said.

Alaska courts tend to consider the rights of suspects more than in other states, said Rachael Gaedeke, an advocate for crime victims at Victims for Justice in Anchorage. That doesn't always seem right to the families affected, she said.

"Oftentimes, the way the court system appears to run is more protecting the rights of the accused than the victim," Gaedeke said. "There's the whole trial that needs to go on, and the whole 'innocent until proven guilty' concept. At the same time, victims need to be protected too, so you kind of have to balance that."

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