Crime & Courts

Anchorage police say woman at center of homicide investigation was not shot, as originally thought

Anchorage police said Tuesday that the woman at the center of a homicide investigation last week was killed after being struck by a vehicle and was not shot, as originally thought.

"Autopsy results have determined Patricia Phelps died from blunt force trauma," police spokesman MJ Thim said in a statement. "She was not shot."

Her fatal injuries were caused by the vehicle, Thim said.

Attempts to reach Phelps' family have been unsuccessful.

Many details regarding Phelps' death remain unclear, but here's what police have been willing to say about it so far:

Officers responded to the report of shots fired in the 1800 block of 36th Avenue around 9 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 9. Once there, they found a woman dead in the yard of a multiplex.

Thim said the vehicle had been trying to drive away when it hit the woman and the residence. He said the vehicle stayed at the scene when officers arrived and police were able to interview the driver.


Police Lt. John McKinnon said Phelps and the driver of the vehicle had no connection. Investigators said Phelps was not involved in the shooting.

The police department initially reported that the then-unidentified female victim appeared to have been shot and hit by a vehicle, but noted that an autopsy would determine her exact cause of death.

The shooting happened immediately before Phelps was fatally hit by the car, McKinnon said.

Investigators are trying to contact two men: a "person of interest" and a witness. They've received many tips from the public, but the police department continues to request further information or surveillance tied to the two men being sought.

Here's what police aren't saying due to an ongoing investigation:

It was first reported that the entire incident, the shooting and the crash, was drug-related. Now, police are unwilling to say if that's the case.

McKinnon declined to confirm whether the person in the vehicle is tied to the shooting.

The incident is still being investigated as a homicide, McKinnon said.

"We're investigating all of the details. Part of that is related to the vehicle hitting the woman, and the other has to do with the shooting, but it's all being investigated as a single whole," he said.

"We want to be sure there's transparency, but we need to investigate, and part of that is waiting for certain things to be done, like the autopsy, which showed different results from what we initially thought" regarding Phelps' death, McKinnon said.

The lieutenant declined to discuss why police believed Phelps had a gunshot wound.

In the span of eight days, officers have responded to shootings, a deadly stabbing and four SWAT standoffs. Most recently on Tuesday morning, there was a home invasion and homicide in the Jewel Lake neighborhood.

"We're doing well on all of these cases, but we need to be careful about what we disclose, given what all the different detectives have going on," McKinnon said.

Jerzy Shedlock

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