Michelle Theriault Boots

Series: The making of a mother

Mariah Saari found out she was pregnant in the bathroom of the Midtown Anchorage Wal-Mart.

The timing could not have been worse. Mariah was barely 20 years old and didn’t have a steady place to live, a car or a job. She had recently moved to Anchorage from Kenai, where she grew up living out of a suitcase, to escape an abusive boyfriend.

In Anchorage, Mariah met a set of people who seemed to party full time. Soon, a dozen of them were living on the floor of her apartment, and she was partying full-time too. She was evicted. Worse, she had been using methamphetamine for months.

At first, Mariah was in denial. She told no one about the pregnancy. Then came the day at the Bear Valley party house she'd been crashing at when she felt a tiny movement deep within her. It was her baby kicking. It terrified her to think of the life growing inside her and the fact that she could have already damaged it with drugs. That day, she called her aunt and asked if she could move into her already crowded South Anchorage apartment. She made a doctor’s appointment and vowed never to take meth again.

“I wanted to fix everything I had done,” she said later.

Read the three-part series.

Michelle Theriault Boots
Last of three parts As August became September, Mariah Saari and her baby were on the verge of eviction. In the last six months, Mariah had pulled off a remarkable turnaround in her young life. She had been broke, couch-surfing and using meth when she learned she was pregnant. Terrified, she sought the help of the Nurse-Family Partnership, an innovative program that offered her a registered nurse named Wendi Manumalo as a guide to pregnancy and early motherhood. In weekly visits, they'd worked to stabilize Mariah's life. Now she was the working mother of a healthy baby girl. But things were beginning to fall apart, and the very instability she wanted to shield her daughter from was creeping back into her life. Mariah had just woken up when Wendi arrived for their appointment at the...Michelle Theriault Boots
Second of three parts Later, Mariah Saari would wonder if it was the full moon, the plate of pineapple she consumed or the vigorous vacuuming of her car that put her into labor. She woke up on June 2 feeling strange. Her due date was five days away. “You’re in labor,” said Sherri Saari, the aunt who had raised her after her mother died in a car crash. "Naah," Mariah responded. They went to the hospital anyway. It soon became clear the baby was on its way. “F--k my life!” and “Kill me now!” Mariah shouted, shaking with pain from her contractions. Mariah asked for an epidural, and got one. Afterwards, her blood pressure and the baby’s dipped dangerously low. The nurses told her to lay on her side, and placed an oxygen mask on her face. Just then Wendi Manumalo, her visiting nurse, arrived...Michelle Theriault Boots
First of three parts Mariah Saari found out she was pregnant in the bathroom of the Midtown Anchorage Wal-Mart. She had been at Olive Garden with her sort-of boyfriend, a guy six years her senior she hadn’t been seeing long. Somewhere in a basket of endless breadsticks she found herself feeling a peculiar variety of queasy. The thought dawned on her: What if I’m pregnant? She bought two tests. The timing could not have been worse. Mariah was barely 20 years old and didn’t have a steady place to live, a car or a job. She had recently moved to Anchorage from Kenai, where she grew up living out of a suitcase, to escape an abusive boyfriend. The final straw had been when he beat her beloved dog Salazar. In Anchorage, Mariah met a set of people who seemed to party full time. Soon, a dozen of...Michelle Theriault Boots
Responding to a report of shots fired outside a South Anchorage party early Sunday morning, police found blood and bullet holes in vehicles but no victims or suspects still at the scene. Police got “several” calls about gunshots around the 2900 block of East 84th Avenue, off Lake Otis Parkway near Abbott Loop Elementary School, just after 5 a.m. Sunday, Anchorage Police Department spokeswoman Anita Shell wrote in a statement Sunday. After the gunshots, "as many as 20 partygoers were seen scattering,” from the scene, Shell wrote. “Officers arrived to find several vehicles had been shot and blood at the scene but no victims were present and no suspect information was available,” she wrote.Michelle Theriault Boots
A 32-year-old Alakanuk man was killed after being hit by a snowmachine while he was walking in the Western Alaska village Saturday night, Alaska State Troopers said. Troopers from Emmonak, about 8 miles away, were called to Alakanuk around 10:25 p.m. Saturday to investigate reports of a fatal snowmachine crash, troopers said in an online dispatch posted Sunday. Dan Augline, 25, was driving a snowmachine on Anderson Street in Alakanuk when he allegedly hit and killed Simeon Duny, 32, troopers spokesperson Beth Ipsen reported in an email. Augline was seriously injured and was transferred to the Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Center in Bethel for treatment, she said in the email. Village police officers happened on the crash scene while patrolling the village and notified troopers, who used...Michelle Theriault Boots
An Anchorage police officer had a bone broken in his face when a a suspect punched him during an arrest late Saturday, the Anchorage Police Department reported. Police said in a statement Sunday morning that officer Ian Fletcher was called to the 3500 block of Orbit Circle in West Anchorage at 11:15 p.m. Saturday after a report that Amos Charles Lane, 51, was drunk and violating his conditions of release. When Fletcher found Lane in the area of Cosmos Drive and Nova Circle and tried to get him into the back of the police car, Lane allegedly punched the officer in the face "multiple times" before fleeing in the direction of Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport. Other officers arriving on the scene arrested Lane on charges of assault, resisting arrest and violating his conditions of...Michelle Theriault Boots
The state of Alaska was struggling to figure out what to do with Gilbert Nashookpuk years before police say he called 911 to say he’d killed his caregiver at a South Anchorage assisted living home earlier this month. Nashookpuk, originally from Point Hope, had been dealt a difficult set of life circumstances. He had a developmental disability and was “borderline functioning,” according to testimony by a public guardian in court documents. He had been diagnosed with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder. He suffered from seizures and had anger management and alcohol problems, the court testimony said. From the time he turned 18, he’d been in trouble with the law for committing an escalating series of crimes while state guardians tried to keep him on medication and in stable housing. Often, he...Michelle Theriault Boots
A powerful storm packing hurricane-force winds in the Western Bering Sea will slam into Western Alaska Sunday night, bringing white-out conditions and possible coastal flooding to the Kuskokwim Delta area. The storm, caused by a low pressure front off Shemya, carries 70-knot winds and up to 41-foot seas on the Pacific side of the Western Aleutian islands, according to a National Weather Service forecast . "Mariners may want to seek safe harbor until conditions improve slowly from southwest to northeast through early this week," the NWS said in a Facebook post. Such storms are not unusual in the Bering Sea this time of year, said NWS meterologist Dan Peterson, but added, "it is a significant storm." The storm will also bring “near white-out conditions” to the Kuskokwim Delta coastal region...Michelle Theriault Boots
A jury on Friday convicted a 24-year-old Anchorage man in the 2014 machete slaying of a Mat-Su berry farmer , Alaska State Troopers report. Thomas Cottam was convicted by a Palmer jury on charges of murder and vehicle theft, troopers said in an online dispatch posted Friday. At the time of his arrest, charging documents said Cottam had been hitchhiking when Steven Garcia picked him up and offered him work at his small Valley berry-growing operation, located off the Old Glenn Highway near the Knik River Bridge. Cottam was staying at Garcia's house when he attacked the 81-year-old raspberry and strawberry grower with a machete, charging documents said. On May 18, 2014, Cottam turned himself in to police at the Anchorage jail, telling investigators he had blacked out during the attack. The...Michelle Theriault Boots