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Crime & Courts

2 charged with murder in shooting of man found along Knik River Road

Defendant Joed Weyand appears by videoconference in court in Palmer on Wednesday. Weyand and co-defendant Robert Barker are charged with murder in the death of Jeremie Speaker sometime before Sunday afternoon at a campsite along the Knik River. (Loren Holmes / Alaska Dispatch News)

Defendant Joed Weyand appears by videoconference in court in Palmer on Wednesday. Weyand and co-defendant Robert Barker are charged with murder in the death of Jeremie Speaker sometime before Sunday afternoon at a campsite along the Knik River. (Loren Holmes / Alaska Dispatch News)

PALMER — One of two men accused of killing a 26-year-old Anchorage man found near the Knik River on Sunday told investigators and a judge that he shot Jeremie Speaker in self-defense.

But a six-page affidavit filed at the Palmer courthouse with murder charging documents paints a more confused picture of the killing.

Speaker's body was discovered with multiple gunshot wounds near two burned vehicles by a pair of residents walking near Mile 4.8 Knik River Road on Sunday afternoon, authorities say.

Hours earlier, around 1:15 a.m., Butte firefighters had responded to two vehicles on fire in a camping area just off the road.

Alaska State Troopers later found a burned 1990 Thunderbird driven over an embankment and, at the campsite, a 1993 Chevrolet crew cab "dually" pickup that Speaker was known to drive, court documents show.

Troopers arrested two men around 6 p.m. Tuesday at the Eagle Motel in downtown Palmer on charges of first-degree murder: 38-year-old Robert Barker and 35-year-old Joed Weyand, both Palmer residents.

"I did shoot the man," said Weyand Wednesday afternoon during a video hearing at the Palmer courthouse. "It was in self-defense."

Speaker identified himself as a U.S. Army veteran on his Facebook page. A friend said he was proud to serve his country and worked to educate peers about post-traumatic stress disorder but struggled at times, including recently, with substance abuse.

Speaker's criminal record included a 2010 conviction on felony drug charges.

Speaker and Barker were staying at the hotel. Weyand lived in Butte.

Troopers traced the Thunderbird back to the hotel and Barker, according to a sworn affidavit filed with the murder charges.

Weyand told troopers he shot Speaker at the campsite when Speaker reached for a handgun on a seat between them after questioning his loyalty, according to the sworn affidavit filed by investigator Jason Fieser.

Weyand and Speaker left the Eagle Hotel together earlier, according to the affidavit.

Weyand later told investigators he "had been doing methamphetamine and was on no sleep for three days," Fieser wrote. "Joed did not have a good feeling about Jeremie" so he said Barker followed the two men in the Thunderbird after they left the hotel together in Speaker's pickup.

Weyand said there was a .45 automatic Colt pistol on the seat between them, according to the affidavit.

En route, the men stopped for gas and Weyand filled a gas can half full, he said, to fuel generators at his house.

Weyand said instead of driving him home, Speaker took him to the campsite some miles away, Fieser wrote.

Weyand said Speaker got nervous and reached for the gun when Barker pulled in behind them, the affidavit states. Weyand said there was a struggle before Weyand pulled the trigger and shot Speaker numerous times.

Then he poured gas on him and seat and lit the pickup on fire, according to the affidavit. Barker drove the Thunderbird over an embankment and Weyand said he burned it, too.

Weyand said they both got a ride back.

The affidavit listed the injuries Speaker sustained, including eight gunshot wounds to his right temple, ribs, buttock, stomach shoulder and pinkie finger. Investigators found a shoe print on his ribs and numerous casings around the scene, including .40 and .22 caliber.

An autopsy revealed two lead bullets consistent with those from a Colt .45, according to the affidavit. It found that a gunshot to the heart was the fatal wound and that Speaker had smoke inhalation inside his throat and lungs.

The state medical examiner noted that the wounds indicated Speaker "was most likely moving and / or hunched over when he received several bullet wounds," Fieser wrote.

Barker "was confused when confronted" with the .45-caliber lead bullet found in Speaker's back consistent with cartridges found in his hotel room, Fieser wrote. He didn't know if Weyand used his gun and didn't think he had any firearms with him.

Weyand said he didn't know if Barker shot Speaker with the Colt, according to the affidavit.

The men initially told investigators they drove to Soapstone Road, a few miles northeast of Palmer, and were "looking at an abandoned residence" when somebody drove up and stole the Thunderbird, the affidavit says.

Firearms in Barker's room — a Glock .40-caliber handgun, .17-caliber Marlin rifle and a Mossberg 12-gauge shotgun — were later determined to be stolen, Fieser wrote. Ammunition in the weapons matched casings located at the murder scene.

Weyand's court confession Wednesday was one of several outbursts leveled against a prosecutor's no-bail request over concerns Weyand's criminal history — which includes two assault convictions — makes him a flight risk.

"Your honor, if I was a flight risk, I would have gotten on a plane as soon as I got out of jail in Anchorage," said Weyand during Wednesday's hearing. "What was that … Monday?"

A state court database shows he was jailed the day after Speaker's body was found on a $500 arrest warrant for an unrelated probation violation and released the same day.

Barker's behavior during his video hearing was more restrained.

Palmer Magistrate Judge Craig Condie set both men's bail at $500,000 cash and third-party custodian. They remain lodged at Mat-Su Pretrial Facility.

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