A director for Bristol Bay Native Corp. is on a leave of absence this week following police accusations he raped a woman earlier this month.
Prosecutors say Sergie Chukwak sexually assaulted Karen Lopez Bakken Nov. 5 at the woman's home in Naknek. Lopez Bakken, 48, killed herself on Sunday, her mother-in-law told the Daily News.
Bristol Bay Borough Police are investigating the death. Chukwak, 45, was charged with second-degree sexual assault on Nov. 8. Prosecutors later amended the charge to fourth-degree assault because he could not be placed before a grand jury in a timely manner, said Assistant District Attorney Marianna Carpeneti.
Chukwak told a magistrate he was not guilty during a Monday teleconference. The state may still pursue indictment on the more serious rape charge, Carpeneti said.
In an email to shareholders on Tuesday, Bristol Bay Native Corp. officials said Chukwak was on a "leave of absence" pending resolution of the criminal case.
A spokeswoman for the company wouldn't say whether he was placed on leave or took leave voluntarily.
"Like many of our shareholders, I was saddened by the tragic news to come out of Naknek this week," president and chief executive Jason Metrokin said in the statement.
"I was also deeply troubled to learn of the sexual assault allegations against one of our directors," Metrokin said.
"Most of all, our thoughts and prayers are with the family and friends of Karen Lopez Bakken, for whom I know this is a time of profound grief," the CEO's statement said.
The company planned to post the statement to its website and share it on social media Wednesday, spokeswoman Andria Agli wrote in an email.
Representing more than 9,000 shareholders with ties to the Bristol Bay region of southwest Alaska, BBNC is one of 13 regional Alaska Native corporations. Chukwak has served on the corporation's 12-member elected board for two years, according to a spokeswoman for the company.
By KYLE HOPKINS