Alaska Life

On the trail of Alaska’s first known serial killer

Part of a continuing weekly series on local history by local historian David Reamer. Have a question about Anchorage history or an idea for a future article? Go to the form at the bottom of this story.

Thanks to the rapid booms and busts of the various mineral rushes, Alaska’s settler population in the late 19th and early 20th centuries was highly fluid, far more itinerant compared to today. Over and over, towns and entire districts rose to prominence only to quickly dissolve into husks of their quicksilver glory or fade from maps entirely.

Fortune hunters from all over the world journeyed to Alaska to test their luck. Most of them came and went with little to no notice. Some died at sea. Some died on lonely trails. And for many, the legends outstripped reality, thus prompting a return home. In this transient setting, few residents gave it much thought when some transplants seemed to disappear. This was the reality of Alaska at that time and also the perfect backdrop for a serial killer.

Edward Krause was Alaska’s first known serial killer. There may well have been others before him, but the lack of documentation keeps them hidden from posterity. Krause’s real name was Edward Slompke, and he first came to Alaska as part of an Army detachment in Wrangell. Around 1902, he deserted when his unit was sent to China to participate in the Boxer Rebellion. However, none of these details were publicly known until after his capture. He was primarily known as Krause in Alaska, and so shall he be referred to here for the sake of clarity.

By the early 1910s, he was well established in Petersburg. While he enjoyed a certain amount of public respectability, he was, in fact, the leader of a murderous gang of thieves. Individuals had the suspicious habit of last being seen alive in the company of Krause, such as Kumajiro Yamamoto in January 1913 and James Plunkett in October 1915.

Krause’s modus operandi was simple and clever, in as far as one might want to compliment a serial killer. Given the transient nature of Alaska at the time, he preferred victims with no known spouse or children. Hence there was less chance of a relative searching for their lost kin or pestering law enforcement for an investigation. He also ensured that no one ever discovered his victims’ bodies.

The dead men’s paperwork allowed Krause to travel anonymously as needed and access the victims’ wealth and possessions. For example, Krause accessed Yamamoto’s Seattle bank accounts and then used that identity to obtain a mortgage on a property in Victoria, British Columbia.


His crimes came to light only after he broke his pattern. The end began with a woman. Krause and William Christie sought the affections of the same woman, Celia Gesekus. In late 1915, she chose Christie, who worked for the gold mine operation on Douglas Island near Juneau.

Despite being romantic rivals, Krause and Christie were not familiar with one another. A few short weeks after the wedding, Krause visited the mine pretending to be a U.S. marshal named Miller. He lured Christie away with a fake subpoena, and no one ever saw the newlywed again.

Krause was immediately considered a suspect. Celia told the local newspaper, “The minute ‘Billie’ was kidnapped, I thought first of Krause.” A warrant quickly followed. Despite the alerts for his arrest and guards posted at area docks, he used an alias to slip onto a boat bound for Seattle. When he arrived, a bystander familiar with Krause pointed him out to the police. Otherwise, Krause likely would have completed his escape, possibly to start over in a new location under one of his victims’ names.

When arrested, Krause was traveling as Ole Moe with several items and deeds belonging to Moe. Unsurprisingly, Moe was last seen getting into a boat with Krause around Petersburg in 1913. Krause offered Seattle police an unconvincing story that Moe had conveniently returned to Europe and left all his Alaska valuables to his good friend Krause.

The arrest marked the start of a yearlong investigation that convincingly linked Krause to at least eight missing men. He almost certainly killed more, but the evidence was lacking. During this time, investigators unearthed his real name and military background.

Krause was repeatedly indicted throughout 1916, for several property crimes, mail fraud and the murders of Kumajiro Yamamoto and James Plunkett. As for the many other suspected murders, the prosecution had the difficult job of proving that a death had occurred without a corpse or witnesses to the crime. As with the other victims, Christie’s body was never recovered. In that case, Krause was instead charged — and found guilty — of kidnapping Christie, the most serious aspect of that day that could be proven in a courtroom.

Celia, Christie’s widow, visited Krause at the Juneau jail and begged him for information about her husband. While visibly affected by her presence, Krause refused to divulge anything. He told her, “I cannot tell.”

With the Yamamoto and Plunkett cases, the prosecution believed they could construct a chain of events wherein the only rational conclusion was that Krause had murdered them. Given a choice between the two cases, the prosecution prioritized the Plunkett charge, with the trial beginning Sept. 22, 1916.

On Oct. 5, 1916, the jury deliberated for six hours before returning a guilty verdict. To this point in his legal battles, Krause had acted tough, stoic even. Near the end of his journey, his nerve finally failed him. Upon hearing the verdict, he paled and collapsed into his chair. He recovered enough to shuffle back to his cell under his own power before collapsing again to his cot.

After a failed appeal, Krause’s execution was scheduled for May 11, 1917. Late on April 12, Krause made his move. Somehow, from an outside friend or corrupt jailer, he had obtained a knife he could use like a hacksaw. During the subsequent investigation, it was clear that he had worked at the bars for some time, perhaps over several days.

He sawed at two bars, high up where they met a steel rib that crossed the front of his cell. With those connections severed, he began again closer to the floor. Once the bars were sufficiently weakened, he bent them outward, creating an 18-inch square. It was enough for him to clamber through, out of his cell and into a narrow corridor along the banks of cells.

When the jailers were distracted, Krause rushed through the unfortunately unlocked door to the holding tank, out the also unlocked door to the exterior, and into the night. The sound of the doors instantly alerted the guard. One of them also ran outside and fired his revolver twice to raise an alarm, but Krause was gone. He stole a small boat and vanished into the night.

What followed was one of the biggest manhunts in Alaska history. Fishing fleets were redirected for the search and mines closed, allowing miners to join the pursuit. Thousands of men were actively on the hunt, all incentivized by a $1,000 reward offered by Alaska Gov. John Strong. That is about $22,000 now after accounting for inflation.

Hungry and hunted, Krause spent the next two and a half days slowly working his way south. He avoided being seen, but without supplies, his need to eat was pressing. A little after noon April 15, he landed his small boat near Doty Cove, on Admiralty Island, and approached the nearby homestead.

The home there belonged to Arvid Fransen, who was working on a boat at Thane when he heard the news of Krause’s escape. Concerned for his wife and kids at Doty Cove, Fransen immediately returned home -- a wise choice as it turned out.

At first, Krause kept some distance between himself and the Fransen homestead. After about an hour, the murderer approached the house while the family ate lunch. One of the children alerted them to Krause’s approach. As his wife stepped outside, Fransen grabbed his rifle off the wall. When Krause did not reply to the wife’s greeting, Fransen also stepped into view.

The next day, Fransen gave his account of the events to the Alaska Daily Empire. “I then stepped into the open with the rifle aimed at him and asked, ‘Are you Krause?’ ‘Yes,’ he answered. His teeth were locked tight, and he spoke through them. His eyes were set and glaring, and I never saw a more ferocious face on any man.”


As Krause replied, he turned slightly away from the porch. Fransen recounted, “He had a bulge under his coat, which made me think he had a gun, and I shot.” He fired twice, hitting Krause in the chest and head. The serial killer collapsed backward onto the ground and lay still, instantly dead.

Fransen covered Krause and sent word for the marshal in Juneau to retrieve the body. After the positive identification and a quickly convened coroner’s jury, Gov. Strong promptly awarded the $1,000 bounty, which Fransen immediately passed over to his wife for handling. The three jailers present on the night of the escape were fired. Krause was buried without ceremony in a plain box within Juneau’s Evergreen Cemetery.

Key sources:

“Convicted Murderer Krause Breaks Jail.” [Juneau] Alaska Daily Empire, April 13, 1917, 1, 2.

“E. Krause Accused of Kidnapping.” Seward Gateway, November 12, 1915, 6.

“Edw. Krause, Escaped Murderer, Killed.” [Juneau] Alaska Daily Empire, April 16, 1917, 1, 8.

“Edward Krause Killed Christie.” Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, November 16, 1915, 1, 4.

“Edward Krause Put in Ground in Plain Box.” [Juneau] Alaska Daily Empire, April 17, 1917, 8.


“Find Four Indictments Against Edward Krause.” Iditarod Pioneer, May 20, 1916, 6.

“Krause in Jail.” Iditarod Pioneer, January 29, 1916, 6.

“Krause’s Nerve Failed Him at the Last.” Seward Gateway, October 21, 1916, 1.

“Search Still On For Ed Krause; 3 Jailers Fired.” Seward Gateway, April 14, 1917, 1.

David Reamer | Histories of Alaska

David Reamer is a historian who writes about Anchorage. His peer-reviewed articles include topics as diverse as baseball, housing discrimination, Alaska Jewish history and the English gin craze. He’s a UAA graduate and nerd for research who loves helping people with history questions. He also posts daily Alaska history on Twitter @ANC_Historian.