Crime & Courts

APD: DUI driver in fatal crash convinced passenger to take the blame

A 25-year-old man has been charged with second-degree murder in a deadly single-vehicle wreck on the Glenn Highway in Anchorage last fall, police said Wednesday.

The Anchorage Police Department arrested Jesse Steven Stutzke Wednesday on a warrant in the case. He is also charged with DUI and first-degree assault in the Sept. 25 crash that killed 24-year-old Thomas Shetters.

According to an initial police description of the collision, Shetters — the rear-seat passenger in a 2011 Dodge Avenger sedan headed inbound on the Glenn — died at the scene after "the driver lost control and struck the median and guardrail at the McCarrey (Street) overpass" at about 12:20 a.m.

The arrest warrant issued for Stutzke says the guardrail pierced the rear passenger door and struck Shetters.

Among the sedan's debris, officers spotted several unopened beer cans, according to the warrant. Investigators determined the occupants had just come from Party Time Liquor on Boniface Parkway.

At the time, police said both people in the sedan's front seats, identified in a September statement as a woman driving the car and a man who was the "front-seat passenger," suffered no life-threatening injuries.

"As a result of the investigation, it has been determined that (Stutzke) was actually the driver of the vehicle and not the front seat passenger as originally reported to police," APD wrote Wednesday. "Stutzke, who was on probation, did not want to get into trouble so he convinced 24-year-old Tishina Oskolkoff to say she was the driver instead."

Following the crash both survivors were taken to a local hospital, where lab reports showed Stutzke had a blood alcohol level below the legal limit, but he tested positive for cannabinoids and opiates, according to the warrant.

Oskolkoff told police on Jan. 11 that she'd lied, according to the warrant. The admission came after her father confronted her about an overheard conversation a week prior in which Stutkze agreed to come forward if she was criminally charged, the warrant says.

Stutkze said he convinced his passenger to take the blame, according to the warrant. He said he'd been drinking and smoking marijuana at the Mush Inn; he fell asleep and was woken up by a friend who asked him to go get more alcohol, the warrant says.

Stutzke's Alaska criminal record since 2010 includes guilty pleas and convictions on felony charges of theft, vehicle theft and escape. He was being held on the new charges Wednesday at the Anchorage Correctional Complex.

Police said Oskolkoff has not been charged, but added the investigation was ongoing.

Chris Klint

Chris Klint is a former ADN reporter who covered breaking news.

Jerzy Shedlock

Jerzy Shedlock is a former reporter for Alaska Dispatch News. He left the ADN in 2017.