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Defendant guilty in Bonnie Craig murder

Casey Grove
Kenneth Dion seated with his defense team during opening arguments of his murder trial in an Anchorage Superior courtroom on Tuesday, May 17, 2011. Dion is accused of killing 18-year-old college student Bonnie Craig in 1994.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
Kenneth Dion seated in an Anchorage Superior courtroom on Tuesday, May 17, 2011, where he is standing trial for the rape and murder of Bonnie Craig, an 18-year-old college student found dead in or near McHugh Creek at the bottom of a cliff in 1994.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
Bonnie Craig's sister Samantha Campbell, left, her mother Karen Foster, middle, and grandfather Kaj Larsen, listen to the state's opening statement during the rape-and-murder case against Kenneth Dion in Anchorage on Tuesday, May 17, 2011.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
Assistant Attorney General Paul Miovas addresses the jury as he outlined the state's rape-and-murder case against Kenneth Dion during an opening statement on Tuesday, May 17, 2011. Superior Court Judge Jack Smith listens to the cold case prosecutor at right.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
Photograph of 18-year-old college student Bonnie Craig was shown to the jury during opening arguments in the murder trial of Kenneth Dion in an Anchorage Superior courtroom on Tuesday, May 17, 2011.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
Karen Foster, mother of 18-year-old college student Bonnie Craig who was murdered in 1994, speaks with Anchorage Police officers after the opening arguments in the murder trial of Kenneth Dion in an Anchorage Superior courtroom. on Tuesday, May 17, 2011.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
Karen Foster, mother of 18-year-old college student Bonnie Craig who was murdered in 1994, wore a scarf made up of photographs of her daughter to the opening arguments in the murder trial of Kenneth Dion in an Anchorage Superior courtroom on Tuesday, May 17, 2011.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News

It took an Anchorage jury just hours Wednesday to find Kenneth Dion, 41, guilty of raping and killing teenager Bonnie Craig nearly 17 years ago.

The conviction caps an Anchorage murder mystery that began when a hiker found Craig's body Sept. 28, 1994, in McHugh Creek. The subsequent investigation into her death turned cold until 2006, when a DNA sample from Dion linked him to the murder.

During the 21-day trial, Dion's lawyer argued that his client had consensual sex with Craig and that the 18-year-old college student died in an accidental fall.

Prosecutors said Dion bludgeoned the back of Craig's head until she died.

Both sides presented their closing arguments Tuesday in Anchorage Superior Court, each lawyer telling his version of an unsettling chapter in Anchorage history, when posters and bus ads asking "Who Killed Bonnie?" plastered the city.

A jury of nine men and three women delivered the answer Wednesday after less than a day of deliberating: Kenneth Dion.

Several women in the gallery burst into tears when Judge Jack Smith read the verdict at about 4 p.m. before a packed courtroom. A woman standing in the entryway squealed.

Dion, dressed in a black shirt, showed no emotion except for when the judge asked each juror to give his or her verdict out loud. Dion appeared to briefly shake his head while looking toward the jury.

Court officers shackled Dion's hands -- the word "LOST" tattooed across one set of knuckles, "SOUL" inked on the other -- and led him to a holding cell. Judge Smith set Dion's sentencing hearing for Oct. 31.

After the judge and jury left, onlookers cried and hugged each other in the gallery.

"We loved (Bonnie). All the awful things they said, she was nothing but the sweetest kid," Craig's mother, Karen Foster, told reporters outside the courtroom.

Foster was joined by Craig's sister, Samantha Campbell, who said she felt "excellent" following the verdict.

"It was hell sitting through court, seeing pictures of my sister, autopsy photos," Campbell said.

"It's a big sense of relief," said Campbell, who was 12 years old when Craig died and was one of the last people to see her alive.

Upon the discovery of Craig's body at McHugh Creek, south of Anchorage, a massive public effort to find clues ensued. Hundreds of tips poured in. In private, detectives put together a theory. But police found no solid suspects for a dozen years.

That was until New Hampshire authorities contacted Alaska State Troopers. DNA from Dion, who was serving time there for armed robbery, matched semen found inside Craig.

Photos projected in court during the trial showed the back of Craig's head criss-crossed by 11 or 12 lacerations. A blow to the base of the teenager's skull likely killed her, a former medical examiner testified.

State prosecutors Paul Miovas and Jenna Gruenstein walked the jury through Craig's last days alive. They argued that her busy schedule did not include a sexual tryst with Dion, as the defense had claimed.

Miovas explained the apparent lack of blood spatter at the crime scene in closing arguments Tuesday. Dion pushed Craig off the cliff, and she struck a rocky ledge as she fell, the prosecutor said.

As Craig lay wounded in the creek, Dion scrambled down to deliver the final, fatal blows, Miovas had told the jury.

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


By CASEY GROVE
casey.grove@adn.com