Family described 47-year-old Mae Melovidov and 55-year-old Robert Workman, gunned down in Anchorage Monday night, as a happy couple who had been dating for seven months or so.
"He treated her like a queen," said Melovidov's older sister, Helen Roberts, from her home on Saint Paul Island in the Bering Sea Tuesday evening.
Police found Workman dead Monday near a tent in a small homeless encampment east of Karluk Street and Fifth Avenue. The shooting occurred around 6 p.m. Melovidov was taken to the hospital with life-threatening injuries and died hours later, police said. The third victim, a man, was taken to the hospital with severe injuries and is still being treated, said Jennifer Castro, police spokeswoman.
Authorities are following up on a few leads and reviewing evidence, but are still looking for clues in the shooting. Castro urged witnesses or anyone with information about the attacks to contact police.
The suspect is described as a man of normal build and unknown age and race wearing a black jacket with vertical stripes on the back, probably red. The suspect was initially described as 5-foot-8, but the sole survivor told police the shooter was taller than 6 feet and had black or brown shoulder-length hair, Castro said.
At Bean's Cafe, which serves the needy and homeless populations in Anchorage, executive director Lisa Sauder said the cafe had posted and handed out the description. Police had interviewed several clients, and the cafe was cooperating in the investigation, she said.
On Tuesday, rumors flew at the cafe, and everyone seemed to have their own theories as to what happened and why, Sauder said. Those details were largely unclear Tuesday and as the day went on, some clients and staff members found out they'd lost friends, she said.
"Anytime this happens in our community, it's heartbreaking," Sauder said.
For Roberts, it's hard to believe. She said Melovidov, a mother of two grown sons, moved from the island to Anchorage at least 14 years ago. She went through rehab and halfway houses, oftentimes landing at the Brother Francis Shelter for the night, Roberts said.
The 54-year-old described her sister as giving and funny. "She cracked everybody up," Roberts said. "Even if you were feeling down, you'd have to laugh."
Police said Workman was originally from Shageluk, a community of about 130 people on the Innoko River in Southwest Alaska, some 330 miles from Anchorage.
Ron Alleva, owner of Grubstake Auction Co., said Workman worked on and off for him for at least five or 10 years as a security guard and sometime laborer, shoveling snow and moving supplies.
"He was a nonviolent person, you know, a nice guy," Alleva said.
He said Workman had been going to Bean's Cafe and the shelter for a long time, "and then he was just camped out."
"He was camped out on the hill for quite awhile," Alleva said.
Police are still investigating a motive for the shooting, Castro said.
Sharon Chamard, treasurer of the Fairview Community Council and an associate professor at the UAA Justice Center, said her degree of concern was tied to the cause of the incident.
"Was it something totally random? If it was, I might be more concerned," Chamard said. "But most crime is not random."
At lunchtime Tuesday, the parking lot directly next to the Lucky Wishbone was filled with cars. Inside, the diner's tables were bustling, and police officers were among the customers.
"First thing this morning, we got a call from a woman who asked, 'Have police caught the shooter yet? Until they do, I'm not coming back to Lucky Wishbone,'" said Heidi Heinrich, the general manager.
She said that was a disappointing call to receive.
"We've worked really, really hard for the community, to make sure these things don't happen," she said.
Anyone with information on the incident can call police dispatch at 786-8900, or to remain anonymous, call Crime Stoppers at 561-STOP. You can also submit a tip online at www.anchoragecrimestoppers.com.
Reach Devin Kelly at firstname.lastname@example.org or 257-4314.
By DEVIN KELLY and TEGAN HANLON