Crime & Courts

Portrait emerges of young activist killed in weekend park slayings, but many questions remain

A day after two people were found dead on a popular urban bike trail in the heart of Anchorage, police have identified one of the victims as Bryant "Brie" DeHusson, 25, a well-known figure in local environmental and social activism circles.

The name of the second victim, also found in the area of a picnic shelter at Valley of the Moon Park, near downtown Anchorage, had not been released publicly as of Monday night.

[Update, Aug. 30: Police identify 2nd victim in Valley of the Moon homicides]

The bodies were found on the trail around 2 a.m. Sunday by a person who then called police, according to the Anchorage Police Department.

On Monday, police would not say whether the two victims knew each other or both happened to be in the area at the same time.

They also would not say whether the attacks were thought to be targeted or random, or how the people died.

"We have no more information to release at this time," wrote Renee Oistad, a police spokeswoman.

The killings in the park are the second time in the past two months two people have been found dead on a public bike path near downtown Anchorage, stoking fear among people who use the city's extensive network of urban trails.

No arrests had been made in either case as of Monday night.

On Monday, Oistad refused to say whether Anchorage residents have cause for extra concern about safety on trails and in parks, given the multiple unsolved homicides. She said people should be "vigilant" and "situationally aware" at "all times."

"I'm not at the point where I'm going to tell people not to walk on trails," Oistad said.

It's not clear what DeHusson was doing at Valley of the Moon Park early on Sunday, but on Monday, a portrait emerged of a singular, passionate person who pursued social and environmental causes and traveled the world, always returning home to Anchorage.

Friends say DeHusson identified as non-binary or "two-spirit" gender, and in recent years went by the name "Brie," and preferred the pronoun "they."

There is no indication that DeHusson was targeted in a hate crime, said Oistad.

[With Valley of the Moon slayings, 2016 is already one of Anchorage's deadliest years]

DeHusson grew up in Anchorage and attended West Anchorage High School, according to friends, and had no Alaska criminal record beyond a handful of minor traffic infractions.

Tina "Sapphire" Sunyata met DeHusson back in 2011, when the Occupy Anchorage movement was forming. Together, the Midtown apartment DeHusson was living in became a cooking house for feeding the occupiers, with donated fish being prepared around the clock for protesters and DeHusson baking batches of peanut butter and chocolate chip cookies that became legendary.

For three summers, DeHusson worked at Meyers Farm in Bethel, for Tim Meyers, a family friend and a pioneer in cold-climate organic farming.

"He was real good," Meyers said. "He spent two or three years here, very interested in farming, healthy eating. He was a great worker."

Local activist Carl Wassilie met DeHusson during the Occupy Anchorage protests of 2011. DeHusson was one of the "core occupiers," Wassilie said. 

"(DeHusson) cared deeply about nature and life," he said.

[After killings, Anchorage police warn residents to avoid 'isolated areas' alone at night]

During those years, DeHusson spent time traveling to "nonviolent direct-action" trainings, said Wassilie, at one point living in a Bay Area punk housing collective called "The Music Box," said Sunyata.

More recently, DeHusson had been living in a house in Spenard with several roommates, staying involved with climate change action groups like Rising Tide Alaska. DeHusson had a job cooking on the North Slope, and didn't see it as a conflict, Sunyata said. DeHusson was "feeding people," she said.  

"And it was a great job," she said. "Hard to argue with that."

DeHusson was also into harvesting wild edibles, dumpster diving and had studied the agricultural theory of  permaculture, even traveling to Russia last year in hopes of learning from a northern climate gardening guru. They dreamed of turning land owned by family in Homer into a permaculture farm, Sunyata said.

DeHusson loved riding on the bike trails of Anchorage and had developed a summertime obsession with "Pokemon Go." The Valley of the Moon picnic pavilion is a Pokestop, and some friends wonder if that's what drew DeHusson to the park Sunday morning.

Everyone is wondering who the other person found with DeHusson was, Sunyata said. So far, no one has reported another person in DeHusson's circle as missing, she said.

The fact that DeHusson, so at ease in Anchorage, was killed in a place like Valley of the Moon Park is bewildering to Sunyata. 

"They probably spent thousands of hours on those trails," she said.

A memorial is being planned. It will probably involve bikes, she said.

DeHusson "was just a person who really wanted less violence and hate in the world," she said.

Michelle Theriault Boots

Michelle Theriault Boots is a reporter who covers news and features about life in Alaska, and has been focusing on corrections and psychiatric care issues in the state. Contact her at mtheriault@adn.com.

Sponsored