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A new spotlight on accused killer's long path through legal system

Michelle Theriault Boots

Jerry Andrew Active's adult life has been spent in and out -- but mostly in -- Alaska jails and prisons.

A week ago Saturday, just hours after being released from his most recent stint in jail, Active, according to police, climbed through the window of an Anchorage apartment, killed an elderly couple inside and sexually assaulted their 2-year-old great-granddaughter.

Before he was released that day, he had told the Department of Corrections his new address would be the Brother Francis Shelter for the homeless, a department spokeswoman said.

Now prosecutors, some legislators and Active's mother are asking questions about the 24-year-old's troubled path through the state's correctional system and whether more could have been done to keep him off the streets.

Attorney General Michael Geraghty said this past week that the Department of Law has begun going through Active's case files. Three Democratic legislators called on Geraghty to investigate the circumstances behind Active's release Saturday and questioned whether he should have served a longer sentence for an earlier assault.

Active's mother said she wishes he had never gotten out of jail.

"Why did they let him out if they knew he needed help?" Mary Sergie said in a telephone interview Wednesday.

Active's life began in Togiak, a Bristol Bay village of about 800 people. He grew up there with his mother; father, Frank Active; and five siblings.

His mother said he was an impulsive kid who could never sit still and at one point was medicated with "something to slow him down."

In his teenage years, Active huffed gasoline with other village kids, his mother said. By 16 or 17 he was drinking heavily, she said. That's when, according to court records, trouble with the law began: first he got caught underage drinking and later supplying booze to minors.

When he was 20, he was charged with second-degree attempted sexual abuse of a minor, fourth-degree assault and criminal trespassing stemming from an incident where he broke into a home in the village and attempted to sexually abuse an 11-year-old girl.

Active pleaded guilty and was sentenced to seven years in jail for the crime, with four suspended. That meant he would serve three years in prison and the rest on probation.

Despite having two serious disciplinary infractions while serving his sentence at a variety of Alaska correctional institutions, Active qualified for what's called "good time," in which inmates serve only two-thirds of their sentence behind bars if they behave themselves, according to Department of Corrections spokeswoman Kaci Schroeder.

He was released on probation Oct. 2, 2011, according to state records.

A pattern began of quickly getting caught drunk and getting sent back to jail. Since 2011, he's only been out of jail 18 days.

"When he gets out he drinks and goes right back in," his mother said.

Only two days after his initial release in 2011, Active was arrested for drinking alcohol and failing to report to his probation officer, court records show.

He spent most of the next year at Spring Creek Correctional Center in Seward, serving the last third of his original three-year sentence.

The next time he was released, on Nov. 11, 2012, he was back in jail within the day.

That time he was found drunk and tried to run from an Anchorage police officer restraining him, dragging her on the ground and injuring her, according to court documents.

"Intoxicated and committing new felonies is no indication of any willingness to abide by the laws of our community," a probation officer's report from the time noted.

By getting thrown back in jail, Active was doing the four years of probation time he had hanging over his head in short chunks -- "the installment plan," as attorneys call it.

His next release came in February. This time, his mother said, he was going to participate in sex-offender counseling and had appointments set up.

He'd been out for more than two weeks when he was picked up fighting and drunk at a bus stop in Spenard, according to court documents.

Anchorage Superior Court Judge Gregory Miller gave him more time on the installment plan: 150 days.

A probation officer's report from the time noted that alcohol abuse and violence seemed "to be issues the defendant needs to address." A judge ordered Active to undergo substance abuse and sex-offender treatment, Schroeder said.

He could have gotten some of that counseling in jail, she said.

But he didn't.

The state can't force an inmate to do therapeutic programs while in jail without a judge's order, said Schroeder. But attending programs can be a condition of probation.

On Saturday, May 25, Active walked out of the Anchorage Correctional Complex at 8:09 a.m., having served fewer than the 150 days of his sentence.

It was not immediately clear why. Active was released early, though Schroeder said many factors, including credits from previous time spent in jail, can influence how long an inmate actually spends behind bars.

The commissioner of the Department of Corrections has ordered a review of Active's time in the prison system, she said.

Upon release Active was supposed to start the sex-offender and alcohol treatment ordered by the court.

But his first requirement of probation would have been to check in with a probation officer on the next business day, which, because of the long holiday weekend, was Tuesday.

He never made it that far.

Just after 8 that night, Active was arrested after allegedly breaking into the Mountain View apartment of Touch Chea, 73, and Sorn Sreap, 71, and killing the couple. Police say the two died from blunt force injuries and that Active sexually assaulted Sreap and the couple's great-granddaughter.

Detectives are trying to piece together what Active did during the 12 hours he was on the street, according to Slawomir Markiewicz of the Anchorage Police Department.

The man in charge of parole and probation for the state says he doesn't think the system failed in its supervision of Active.

"The question is, could this have been prevented?" said Ron Taylor, a deputy commissioner with the Department of Corrections. "I don't think any of us could safely answer that. If he had reported to his probation officer we'd have gotten him set up in terms of a case plan and then he would have left the office. Legally, in a (probation officer's) role, that's all they can do."

Active never really got a chance to be monitored by the probation system, Taylor said. He was always back in jail too quickly.

His mother said the state released her son on to the streets of a large and unfamiliar city with no job, home or money, sometimes in the cold of winter. Young men from villages get lost when this happens, she said.

"They've known village life, and they're set out on the street. They don't know what to do, where to go. If they are going to take them from the village they need to help them."

Sergie said she loves her son and is brokenhearted by the accusations against him. Alcohol is at the root of the destruction, she said.

"If he was sober and right-minded he never would have done the things they are saying he did," Sergie said.

She hurts for the family of the victims.

"I am so sorry about what happened to the other family," she said. "I don't know if he was the one that did it. I'm praying for them, and my son too."

 

Reach Michelle Theriault Boots at mtheriault@adn.com or 257-4344.

 

 


By MICHELLE THERIAULT BOOTS
mtheriault@adn.com