AD Main Menu

Three Western Alaska men charged in alleged sexual abuse of minor

Jerzy Shedlock

Three men from the Yup'ik community of Kwethluk have been charged with various counts and degrees of sexual abuse of a minor. A grand jury in nearby Bethel, Alaska, supported the charges against the men, all of whom have been arrested and arraigned.

Court filings contain no details about the alleged assaults, and Bethel District Attorney June Stein said she could not comment on the specifics of the cases, as she’s limited by what’s available in public records. It is unclear whether the three cases are connected.

The facts “are not likely to become public until trial,” Stein said in an email.

The birthday of one of the victims matches in all three indictments.

Nick Epchook, Jr. faces the most charges, a total of six counts, five of which are first-degree sexual abuse of a minor. The indictment alleges that between September 2002 and 2006, the now 56-year-old man sexual abused a victim identified by initials. The court document does not indicate whether the victim was male or female, only his or her birthday, and according to the document, the individual would’ve been about five years old when the alleged abused began.

The victim appears to be the same person on the much younger John Olick’s indictment. The victim’s initials and date of birth match those on Epchook’s charging documents.

But indictment alleges the 23-year-old Olick abused the individual between July and August of 2010. It also indicates the victim was not yet 13 when the abuse occurred.

Olick is charged with two counts, first- and second-degree sexual abuse of a minor.

The remaining man accused of abuse is 31-year-old John Fisher. Unlike the other two, Fisher allegedly sexually abused three victims. All three of the victims are identified by the same initials, but Stein, the regional district attorney, said the two letters are not a generic identifier.

Fisher’s youngest victim, who was allegedly abused sometime between 2005 and 2007, would’ve been 4 or 5 at the time. His second victim, according to the indictment, was a teen when the allege crimes occurred between 2002 and 2003.

Fisher’s fifth and final charge alleges he abused someone matching the date of birth on the two other men’s indictments. That abuse occurred between 2005 and 2007.

Arrest warrants for all three men were issued the same day the grand jury charges were handed down, and all three men have since been arrested, Stein said.

All of the alleged abuse occurred in Kwethluk, about 12 air miles from Bethel in the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta region of Southwestern Alaska.

Epchook and Olick were arraigned Saturday in Bethel, and Fisher was arraigned in Fairbanks.

The most urban community in the region is a short flight from the smaller village. However, Bethel is dealing with a high-profile sex abuse case of its own. In June 2013, Bethel police arrested Peter Tony, 69, who is suspected of assaulting children over the past 40 years. He was charged with abusing a 4-year-old girl between 2011-2012. Other victims, including his stepdaughter, have come forward with allegations.

Contact Jerzy Shedlock at jerzy(at)alaskadispatch.com. Follow him on Twitter @jerzyms.