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Driver asks for mercy for 'bad decision'; gets 66 years

  • Author: James Halpin
  • Updated: September 29, 2016
  • Published November 21, 2008

Kristopher Felber was drunk and stoned the morning he stole a truck and led police on a high-speed pursuit that he refused to end even when officers boxed in his vehicle, when they opened fire on him or when he slammed into another motorist's vehicle and killed the husband and father of three who was driving on the spot.

That was a bad decision, he said while asking for mercy at his sentencing Friday.

"I made the biggest mistake of my life that morning," a soft-spoken Felber, 24, said. "I did not murder Stephen Strain. His death was an accident. However, I alone am responsible for his death, and I must pay."

Superior Court Judge Philip Volland took him up on that offer when he ordered Felber to serve 66 years in prison.

Felber sat motionless in the courtroom while the judge read off sentences for each of the 23 counts, including second-degree murder and felony assaults, to which Felber previously pleaded guilty in a deal with prosecutors that opened the way for a sentencing range of between 50 and 85 years.

Friends and family members of both Felber and Strain, who was 35, were present in the courtroom, both groups sometimes weeping aloud -- Felber's group at the length of his sentence and Strain's as the details of his death were discussed.

"You took the life of my son. You took the life of a husband, and you took the life of a father," said Strain's mother, Cheryl Strain. "You took from this world a life, a living being, a soul. ... You took that from us and should face the consequences as a man."

A squad of about a dozen uniformed police officers also were in attendance in the spectators' area. They were among the men who tried to stop Felber and in turn had their lives placed in danger.

Among them was Lt. Dave Koch, a nearly 30-year veteran of the force who at the time was the sergeant in charge of Felber's pursuit.

"There are only four or five people I will never forget. ... Kris Felber is one of them," Koch said. "My officers were very close to death that day, and many, many citizens were close to death that day."

Felber's rampage began in East Anchorage just before 8 a.m. Jan. 31, 2006, when Felber, fresh out of prison for stealing a neighbor's rent money and Microsoft Xbox, stole a pickup that was idling in a driveway near his friend's home.

Police spotted the erratically swerving vehicle moving west on Northern Lights Boulevard and tried to force him to a stop by boxing in the truck near the intersection with Lake Otis Parkway. His vehicle stopped, but Felber began ramming police cruisers and broke free, with a hail of police bullets chasing after him.

Six shots hit the truck but not him, however, and Felber fled west in the eastbound lanes until turning north on Lake Otis.

At speeds that likely hit 90 mph, Felber gunned it to the intersection with 20th Avenue, where Strain was making a left-hand turn on a green light.

The collision nearly tore Strain's vehicle in half, tossing debris in all directions into other vehicles.

The truck destroyed, Felber kept going on foot. He ran through a nearby neighborhood until police using dogs found him minutes later, stinking of booze and acting intoxicated.

Felber said he didn't do it, but scientists found his DNA on the deployed air bag in the truck.

At the hearing Friday, the prosecution, led by assistant district attorney John Novak, urged Volland to impose the maximum sentence allowed under the deal, 85 years.

"It's a miracle we didn't have multiple deaths, frankly. It doesn't get any worse than this," Novak said. "This kind of conduct can't happen, and the only way to make it not happen with regard to Mr. Felber is to lock him up."

Defense attorney Joseph Van De Mark submitted a motion claiming its range was too severe for the crime his client committed.

Felber pleaded guilty to the crimes a year ago, but after prosecutors made clear their intent to seek the maximum, he tried to withdraw from the deal, claiming his former lawyer had coerced him to do it using tactics such as choking him in open court. His effort to quash the plea agreement was denied.

Find James Halpin online at or call him at 257-4589.


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