Beating suspects left victim battered, unconscious for days, charges say

Casey Grove

Four young men jailed for the September beating of 18-year-old James Clinton in an abandoned downtown Anchorage house left him in its basement unconscious and badly injured for two or three days, according to charging documents in the case.

The alleged assailants are Iosia Fiso, 19; Trevvor Trobough, 20; Tye Manning, 21; and Michael Liufau, 22. All four face charges of first- and second-degree assault and hindering prosecution. Liufau is also charged with coercion.

Fiso and Liufau were jailed last week. Police arrested Manning late Monday and Trobough early Tuesday.

The beating put Clinton in a coma for a time and left him with a lingering brain injury, police said. The building where officers found Clinton was owned by Covenant House Alaska, an outreach program and shelter for homeless youth, and scheduled for demolition three days after police and medics rescued Clinton.

According to the charging documents in the assault case written by Detective Jackie Conn, the following is an approximate timeline of events:

The investigation started when an anonymous tipster slipped a note under the door of the University of Alaska Anchorage Police Department the night of Sept. 16. UAA police called Anchorage police dispatch at about 8:40 p.m. and relayed the information in the note.

Clinton was injured, unconscious, "alone and dying" in an abandoned house, the note said. It named three men responsible -- referring to them as "Tio," "Nelson" and "Michael" -- and said they had been arrested the night before in a robbery downtown. (In a separate case, Fiso, Liufau and Manning are charged with robbing a man at knife point in Town Square Park).

The tip about the robbers' connection to Clinton's beating led Detective Conn to Fiso and Liufau. Fiso's nicknames are "Nelson" and "Maniac," and Liufau goes by "Cyco," Conn wrote in the charges.

Fiso said he knew about the house but had never been there. Liufau led officers straight to the 807 Barrow Street address.

Trobough was there, as was Clinton, lying at the bottom of a set of stairs with a badly bruised and swollen face. Clinton also had an injury that looked like "rug burn" on his stomach, Conn wrote, and "assorted abrasions and bruises on many other parts of his body."

"I was told he has a brain injury and his brain was swollen," Conn wrote.

Trobough declined to talk to police, who apparently did not arrest him at the house.

Tips started streaming in after police spokespersons released additional information on the case, including Clinton's name and photo. The majority of the information pointed to Trobough, Fiso, Liufau and Manning. Conn followed up on the tips and learned the names of three women associated with their group.

Conn also got search warrants for three of the defendants' phones, one of which had video shot Sept. 13 at the location of the assault. There were also text messages between two of the men talking about "the trap" house -- often used as slang for a place dealers use to sell drugs -- and plans to check on "Chucky," a nickname for Clinton.

The detective asked Covenant House for surveillance video around the time of the cell phone recording. The surveillance video showed a group of eight people, including Clinton and the men charged with beating him, walking toward the house.

In interviews, a friend of the group who had been identified in the earlier tips told detectives that Trobough was staying at the house and invited them to come over and drink. Clinton started hitting on Liufau's girlfriend, and Trobough punched Clinton, the witness said.

"She said Trobough hit Clinton first and knocked him out. She said Trobough stomped on Clinton's head several times," Conn wrote.

Liufau might have also punched Clinton, the witness said. Manning and Trobough dragged him to a bathroom, she said.

About a month later, Fiso and Liufau called her about going to drink with them at the Econo Inn, and Trobough was there bragging about beating up Clinton.

"She said he talked about beating him with something like a bar and then he threw him down the stairs," Conn wrote in the charges.

On Oct. 7, when Conn checked on Clinton, he was conscious but could not communicate. By Nov. 12, he was able to feed himself and talk, but he did not mention the assault.

"He did not know what happened to him and he had memory issues, long and short term," Conn wrote.

In a written statement Monday, police said Fiso and Liufau had been arrested and officers were still looking for Trobough and Manning.

Police spokeswoman Anita Shell said in a statement Tuesday that Manning turned himself in to police at approximately 9:20 p.m. on Monday. Staff at Brother Francis Shelter called police at approximately 3 a.m. Tuesday to say that they had seen media coverage on the case and recognized Trobough, who was staying at the homeless shelter. Officers arrested him there, Shell said.

Trobough and Manning were in court at the Anchorage jail for their initial court appearances in the case. Manning already had a lawyer assigned in the robbery case, and Trobough told a judge he needed a court-appointed lawyer as well.

In the normal questioning about his finances, to see if he was eligible for a public defender, Trobough told Judge Leslie Dickson he had no job or savings.

"How do you support yourself?" Dickson asked.

"Just shelters," Trobough said.

It was unclear Tuesday what connection the four defendants might have had with Covenant House. Court papers in a past case show Clinton was a former client.

Alison Kear, the shelter's executive director, said she could not discuss whether any of them had been clients, due to confidentiality rules.

Covenant House bought the Barrow Street property and the house as a headquarters for a construction crew building a new shelter nearby, Kear said. The crew used the house up until the week that the assault occurred, then boarded up the windows and entrance and put iron grates over them, Kear said. Covenant House hired Guardian Security Systems to have a guard check on the property three times a night, she said.

How anyone could have gotten inside is still a mystery, Kear said.

"We had no idea," she said. "We did everything we could to keep that space from being occupied."

Detectives gathered all the evidence they needed, police said, and the demolition of the house went ahead as scheduled. The property is now a parking lot, Kear said.

"My heart goes out to the victim, as well as the people that perpetrated this violence, because that has been their life. It appears they've had a history of those challenges," Kear said.

Clinton's lawyer, Rex Butler, said his client continues to recover. Butler said he did not know what connection Clinton had to the defendants or Covenant House. When asked multiple times if Clinton was out of the hospital, Butler said, "He's not home yet."

"The family, of course, is happy that the investigation has moved and arrests have been made. They're very happy about that," Butler said.

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