Crime & Courts

Young victim in bike path killings had a backstory few knew

Marcella Foisy says she knows almost nothing about why her daughter was on a bike path near downtown Anchorage on the morning she was killed. She knows nothing about the man she was found dead with.

Police say Brianna Foisy, 20, was found dead alongside Jason Netter Sr., 41, on the Ship Creek bike path Sunday morning. The case is being investigated as a homicide but police have released little information, including how they believe Foisy and Netter were killed. No arrests had been announced as of Wednesday night. 

Netter has an extensive criminal history. He pleaded guilty to a felony drug charge in 2014, according to court records. Public records reveal little more than a series of addresses at Anchorage-area apartments. The state once sought child support on behalf of his two children. One appears to have changed her name.

But ever since police released Brianna's name, people have been making assumptions about her, said her mother.

She read one internet comment that said something like: Just another homeless street kid.

Brianna was indeed homeless. But there's always been a lot about her that most people didn't realize, Foisy said.

Marcella Foisy adopted Brianna from foster care when she was 5 years old, as well as her older sister. The children grew up alongside four siblings mostly in the Anchorage area, Foisy said.

Brianna loved Broadway musicals and singing. She played sports as a kid and was known for being a spunky, outgoing girl.

"She was always up a tree, but with a tutu on," Foisy said.

Brianna had suffered trauma in her early years, before she went into the foster care system, her mom said. She was later diagnosed with an attachment disorder stemming from the early abuse. She was also diagnosed with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder, Foisy said.

[Man, woman found on Ship Creek Trail died in double homicide, police say]

She attended schools in Anchorage, including Service High School, where she was known as a champion of underdogs and a defender of the bullied. But in adolescence, the impact of her FASD's impairment to her judgment and decision-making started to lead to risky behavior, Foisy said.

"She made lots and lots of friends," said Ryan Foisy, her older brother. "And lots of those friends made poor decisions."

Because Brianna "presented well," her mom said, people often didn't take the weight of her struggles seriously.

Foisy says she wishes her daughter had gotten more of the help she needed much earlier in life. Too often, she had to fight to get her treatment. And after she turned 18, the obstacles were much greater.

"That's a tragedy in our state," she said. "More often than not, these aged-out children who have this kind of disability end up in the justice system."

Brianna developed problems with drugs. As a young adult, she spent time at Covenant House and couch surfing, rather than living at home where there were rules, Marcella Foisy said. Chafing at rules and authority is another common feature of people with FASD. She could also be overly trusting, and thought "everyone was her new best friend," Foisy said.

In recent months, Brianna had been hanging out in Town Square Park. She was what her family friend Dawn Vallely calls "home free" — essentially homeless by choice.

"Marcella provided the safest possible home with a ton of opportunity. Ballet. Sports. Travel. But when it came down to it, at a certain point in her life, she decided the benefits of living with her family … were not as important as having her own free choice," said Vallely, who is also an adoptive mother.

Marcella Foisy says she tried to get her daughter to seek treatment for her addiction. But Brianna thought she could do it on her own.

"She said, 'I'm gonna get clean. I'm gonna get help. I'm gonna do it this time.' But she was never ready for treatment," Foisy said.

Despite her homeless-by-choice lifestyle, she stayed close with her mom. Marcella Foisy would meet up with her downtown and then take her to eat sushi, her favorite. They'd stroll through Nordstrom and share a truffle.

Sometimes she would visit her mom's office, at a nonprofit mental health agency. Three weeks ago, Marcella Foisy walked out of a meeting to see her daughter sitting in the waiting room, alongside a kid she didn't recognize who was holding a skateboard.

She hugged Brianna, asked about her day and made plans to go to lunch the next week. She gave the two $20 to go buy some pizza.

Brianna was grateful. She asked about her brothers.

"She said, 'Tell the boys I love them,' and she took off."

That was the last time Foisy saw her daughter.

Now, Marcella Foisy is trying to make sense of her daughter's death. She doesn't want people to hear the facts of how she died or glance at her Facebook page and conclude Brianna was a druggie street kid.

Brianna, she says, was a lot more.

"She was a really compassionate, kind, sweet person," Foisy said. "Everyone considered her their little sister."