Crime & Courts

Marshals in Texas arrest teen accused of shooting woman in Russian Jack

The man prosecutors say fatally shot a woman at a Russian Jack home during a robbery last month has been arrested in Texas, leading to his indictment along with three of the four other teenagers previously arrested in the case.

Yurel Nichols, 18, was arrested Thursday, according to the U.S. Marshals Service. He is the latest suspect to be held in connection with the death of 40-year-old Paula Zorawski, who was shot at a home on the 5600 block of Alora Loop on Sept. 22 and died at an Anchorage hospital on Sept. 28.

Christopher Bozeman, a deputy U.S. marshal in Texas, said that Nichols was taken into custody Thursday. He was arrested by the Lone Star Fugitive Task Force in the San Antonio suburban community of Converse, after an arrest warrant was issued for him based on the investigation by Anchorage police.

"Through investigative efforts and extensive surveillance, task force officers observed Nichols in the parking lot of an apartment complex located in the 700 block of Station Street," Bozeman wrote in a statement. "Task force officers approached Nichols, identified themselves, and took him into custody without incident."

Asked why Nichols was in Texas, Anchorage police spokeswoman Jennifer Castro said Friday that investigators believe Nichols has family there.

Anchorage District Attorney Clint Campion on Friday announced the indictment of Nichols, along with 18-year-olds Savon Berry and Tommy Higgs III and 19-year-old Alonzo Steward on one count each of second-degree murder and first-degree robbery. Nichols is also charged with first-degree murder, while the others are also charged with tampering with physical evidence.

Campion said a fifth teenager involved in the case, 18-year-old Michael Fitzgerald, had pleaded guilty to first-degree robbery in the case on Sept. 29.

Police initially arrested Fitzgerald and Higgs after Zorawski's shooting on the night of Sept. 22, at a home on Alora Loop. Charging documents said Higgs refused to discuss the incident, but Fitzgerald told investigators that he and Higgs had decided to rob the home after buying marijuana from Zorawski's son. Fitzgerald said he, Higgs and three other people — seen on surveillance video outside the home — had gathered for the robbery, but when Zorawski answered the door one of them shot her and the group left.

Shortly after the shooting, police also arrested Berry in connection with the case and asked the public for help finding Steward, who turned himself in.

Assistant District Attorney Gustaf Olson, who is prosecuting the case, said Friday that Fitzgerald had initially been unwilling to identify the shooter — but he named Nichols after consulting with legal counsel.

"He got an attorney and the attorney advised him that further cooperation would be in his best interest," Olson said. "Mr. Fitzgerald entered into a cooperation agreement, and based on his information and cooperation he provided us the names that allowed us to get arrest warrants."

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