Thomas Carbine came to Alaska seeking the adventure of a paycheck earned on the choppy waters of Bristol Bay.
He was stabbed dead -- in an attack no one has admitted witnessing -- in the parking lot of a crowded Kodiak bar one summer night 28 years ago, apparently during a robbery over the cash he earned fishing.
Now Alaska State Troopers are taking a fresh look at the case on speculation that someone may know who killed the 27-year-old man whose death continues to haunt his family.
"There isn't a day that goes by that I don't think about my son," said his father, Jim Carbine. "It was an unprovoked murder, it was vicious, and we can't understand how such a community, with people being close to each other there, could not come up with some clues to help the police get the perpetrator."
Carbine arrived in Alaska about 1978, a time when the state was suffering a hangover from the trans-Alaska pipeline construction boom that had just ended.
He was a graduate of the University of Maryland who came as a commercial fisherman looking for work and adventure, according to his family. He'd been an intern at a Maryland polling company before he moved to the West Coast to find work on a fishing vessel, his family said.
"He loved adventure and there was nothing more adventuresome than being on the high seas," said his older sister, Cynthia Carbine. "He loved the scenery, and when he did have breaks he would just stand on the rail and just look at the beauty of Alaska."
Carbine had been out on Bristol Bay fishing shortly before his death when a pin that held the vessel's boom sheared, causing the boom to crash down on the deck, Jim Carbine said. The vessel put in for repairs at Dillingham and Carbine caught a flight to Kodiak, where he hoped to get on another boat to finish the fishing season, his father said.
Troopers say Carbine landed in Kodiak late in the afternoon of July 14, 1982, and dropped his bags off at a local lodge before heading to the Beachcomber, a bar off Mission Road that has since burned down.
Carbine had acquaintances from the fishing industry in town, and one man had been holding a check for him from some previous work, said Jim Stogsdill, an investigator with troopers' cold-case unit. Witnesses at the bar reported seeing him with a lot of money and that he was buying rounds of drinks, he said.
Carbine was last seen alive at 3:30 a.m. on Thursday, July 15, according to troopers. The first indication that something happened was a few minutes later, when witnesses reported seeing something on the ground, Stogsdill said. About 10 minutes later, Carbine's body was found between two parked cars about 30 feet from the front door of the bar, he said. It appeared Carbine had been stabbed in the chest against the building and that he had moved toward the cars before he died.
His pockets were empty of cash and his wallet was missing. His belt buckle had been ripped away from his belt and was found on the ground nearby, troopers said.
Neither Stogsdill nor the Carbine family is convinced no one saw anything.
"It's really highly unusual," Stogsdill said. "When you get a crowd of people and a guy is killed in the middle of them, essentially, there's going to be a few folks who were able to scoot away before the police ever became aware that they even existed."
NOT LETTING GO
The death has weighed heavily on the family over the past 28 years. Jim Carbine, who is now 85, said the family wrote letters to the Kodiak newspaper every year to keep interest in the case alive. They talked to troopers frequently to find out about progress.
But there was never a break, and the calls dropped off to every six months, then every year. Finally, they stopped altogether. Thomas Carbine's mother, Jean, couldn't move on for years after the death, Jim Carbine said.
"She would go out to the cemetery every day and lay flowers out and, I'm sure, pray about it," he said. "She ended up going to see a psychiatrist who said that she was distraught and eventually put her on medication, and she stayed on it until the day she died practically because of it."
She died in 2001, never knowing who killed her son, he said.
Thomas' sister, Cynthia Carbine, said the death continues to affect the family. She's got a teenage daughter who she keeps close tabs on because of it, she said.
"She just can't grasp why I do the things that I do," Cynthia Carbine said. "But when you've had your brother murdered -- and again, life taken from you -- you treat the other people around you in a very different way from that point forward."
The case has been cold for years, but it got a recent bump when Carbine's cousin, Sharon Carbine, started getting nagging thoughts about trying to get troopers to take another look, she said. An attorney by trade, Sharon Carbine said she's a fan of crime dramas and started thinking the case might still be solvable. She first contacted troopers last year and got an investigator assigned to the case in May, she said.
"I don't know that they will be able to solve it with new technology, but I was thinking that Kodiak Island isn't that big of a place," Sharon Carbine said. "I had the impression that there were quite a few people around when Tommy was murdered, so I figured that it could be an open secret in Kodiak who the killer is, because it's the equivalent of a small town, and people talk."
Stogsdill says he thinks the case can be solved based on witness accounts or details that may have come out over the years by people talking.
Anyone with information on the case is asked to call troopers in Soldotna at 262-4453.
By JAMES HALPIN
Alaska Dispatch Publishing