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Two charged in homeless camp homicide

Lisa Demer
Cynthia Kanayurak-Austin, 35, appeared in the Anchorage jail court April 10, 2011, for an arraignment on two counts of second-degree murder for the death of a homeless man, George Steven Brower, 42, who was found in a camp along the Chester Creek greenbelt April 7.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
Samuel Mishler, 30, appeared in the Anchorage jail court April 10, 2011, for an arraignment on one count of first-degree murder and two counts of second-degree murder for the death of a homeless man, George Steven Brower, 42, who was found in a camp along the Chester Creek greenbelt April 7.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
Cynthia Kanayurak-Austin, 35, appeared in the Anchorage jail court April 10, 2011, for arraignment on two counts of second-degree murder for the death of a homeless man, George Steven Brower, 42, who was found in a camp along the Chester Creek greenbelt on Thursday.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
Samuel Mishler, 30, was charged April 10, 2011, with one count of first-degree murder and two counts of second-degree murder for the death of George Steven Brower.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News

The homeless man found dead Thursday in a camp along the Chester Creek greenbelt had been drinking with the man and woman now charged with murdering him in the tent where they lived, Anchorage police said Sunday.

Police identified the victim as George Steven Brower, 42. Arrested late Saturday night in the killing were Samuel D. Mishler, 30, and Cynthia Kanayurak-Austin, 35.

In jail court on Sunday, each of the defendants spoke briefly. They were wearing jailhouse gold. Their wrists were in shackles.

If they hadn't been drinking, the trouble wouldn't have happened, Kanayurak-Austin said. She noticed the television news crews.

"If you're watching TV, quit drinking," she said.

"Don't say anything," Magistrate Brian Johnson directed.

When Mishler got his turn, his head hung down. He seemed crushed.

"I apologize to all my friends ... for what I have done," Mishler said.

Talk about that with your attorney, Johnson told him.

Mishler and Kanayurak- Austin lived in a blue dome tent on the Chester Creek greenbelt, south of the Ben Boeke Ice Arena. At some point last week, Brower dropped by and the three began to drink together. The two suspects each told police their versions of what happened, according to a charging document filed Sunday.

During the course of the night -- maybe early Thursday, the document wasn't clear -- Kanayurak-Austin and Brower began arguing. He insulted her. She told detectives she punched him in the face. Mishler told police he decided to intervene, got behind Brower and put him in a choke hold

The woman then began biting Brower on the face, the charges say. Mishler picked up what he described as a white cord.

Kanayurak-Austin said it was a tent strap.

Mishler wrapped it around Brower's neck as Kanayurak- Austin punched the man, the charges say. Mishler told detectives he put his knee into the small of Brower's back and pulled the cord until the man went limp. Mishler told them he probably strangled Brower for about a minute.

Kanayurak-Austin told detectives that she told Mishler to stop when Brower turned blue and limp. But Mishler said he was "going to finish him," the charges say.

Mishler and Kanayurak-Austin stayed in the tent for a few hours discussing what to do. They decided to go for a walk.

Brower's body was found around 3:30 p.m. Thursday by a man who frequents the area. He came around looking for a friend and peeked inside the tent, police spokeswoman Marlene Lammers said.

Homicide detectives worked through Thursday night processing evidence in the case. They saw evidence of a struggle inside the tent. Police identified three people they thought might know something and on Friday, asked for the public's assistance in locating them. After seeing their names in the paper on Saturday, Mishler and Kanayurak-Austin contacted police and were interviewed at police headquarters.

Police say they identified the third person and determined he had nothing to do with Brower's death.

Mishler is charged with one count of first-degree murder and two counts of second-degree murder, and Kanayurak-Austin is charged with two counts of second-degree murder, police said.

Both have long records of mainly small crimes. Mishler's past includes convictions for theft, assault, trespassing and drunken driving.

Kanayurak-Austin's history includes convictions for assault, prostitution, escape and repeated cases of driving under the influence, including a felony.

Prosecutor Regan Williams asked for high bail amounts, given their histories.

Johnson set Mishler's bail at $500,000 and Kanayurak-Austin's at $400,000. He ordered them not to talk to each other and appointed public defenders. Neither has a job.

More on Anchorage's homeless
By LISA DEMER
ldemer@adn.com