Crime & Courts

With Anchorage DA’s office overloaded, recent homicide handed to Palmer

In an unusual twist, a murder case resulting from a killing in Anchorage is being prosecuted – at least for now – out of Palmer. The bigger city, prosecutors said, is overloaded with homicide cases.

Weston Gladney was killed Nov. 27 on his 36th birthday after being lured fresh out of prison to a South Anchorage garage, a criminal complaint says.

His burned body was found Dec. 2, 3 miles down a trail in the Jim Creek area of Butte, a popular recreation area in the Matanuska-Susitna Borough.

[Anchorage sets record for homicides in a single year]

On Friday, a Palmer grand jury handed up an indictment charging four individuals with first-degree murder in Gladney's death. They are accused of conspiring to kill him and recruiting one in the group to pull the trigger. A woman in the group told the others that he had raped her. A fifth person, the reported mother of his child and his sometime-girlfriend, was indicted on a charge of manslaughter. A sixth person is accused of helping to move and burn the body.

Crimes that happen in the Third Judicial District, which includes Anchorage, the Kenai Peninsula and the Mat-Su Borough, can be prosecuted anywhere in the district, though they usually are handled in the community nearest the crime, said Brittany Dunlop, a Palmer assistant district attorney prosecuting the individuals accused in Gladney's death.

In this case, Palmer is taking it on partly because of stretched ranks in Anchorage.


"The prosecutors in Anchorage are overloaded with murder cases, and we are willing to help when we can," said Palmer District Attorney Roman Kalytiak.

Alaska State Troopers based in Palmer took the lead on the investigation, with help from Anchorage police, said Anchorage District Attorney Rick Allen.

"It is true that Anchorage has a record number of homicides this year so we are grateful to the Palmer DAO (district attorney's office) for taking the case," Allen said.

Police have tallied 35 homicides in Anchorage this year.

Gov. Bill Walker, in his most recent budget request to the state Legislature, has asked for five additional prosecutors, three of whom would be based in Anchorage.

The body was recovered in the Mat-Su, Dunlop noted. Defendants might eventually push for a change of venue to Anchorage, she said.

The individuals indicted on charges of first-degree murder and conspiracy are: Jeffrey Enosa, 31, Joseph Ahuna, 42, Paulette Kane, 34, and Brian Scheele, 56. Helen Them, 26, who previously was charged with first-degree murder, now faces a lesser charge of manslaughter. Another man, Shawn Michael Phillips, 48, along with Scheele, Enosa and Ahuna, is charged with tampering with evidence.

A criminal complaint filed earlier in the case against Them outlines what troopers think happened:

This fall, Gladney was at Spring Creek Correctional Center nearing the end of a sentence for assault and failing to stop at the direction of an officer. He talked with Them in recorded calls that investigators reviewed after his death. He was reportedly the father of Them's young child, though one person told troopers that he had recently found out he wasn't the father, the complaint said.

When he got out Nov. 3, he told her, he was going to surprise her.

The two began texting. Then they agreed to meet Nov. 27. Scheele took Them to pick up Gladney. They ended up at Scheele's home on Heather Meadows Loop in the Moss Creek neighborhood off Brayton Drive.

A group that included Paulette Kane, who goes by Pili, was in the garage, according to the complaint. Kane had told Them that Gladney had raped her, an informant told troopers. Also present were Ahuna, Kane's uncle; Ahuna's girlfriend; Kane's girlfriend; and a man who the informant said he didn't know.

[2 arrested in connection with Jim Creek homicide]

As soon as Gladney walked through the garage door, Scheele later told a trooper investigator, a man named Jeff shot him with a handgun. Gladney fell to the floor and Jeff shot him again, Scheele said, according to a sworn statement by investigator Steve Kevan filed in court.

Jeff was Jeffrey Enosa, said Dunlop, the prosecutor.

Them, who wasn't in the garage, told an investigator that she had suspected Gladney was going to get roughed up. She also didn't tell him that Kane was waiting at Scheele's house, she said, according to the complaint.

Ultimately, Gladney's body was put in a white minivan, then maybe a second van, troopers were told. Scheele, Ahuna, Enosa and Phillips are accused of moving his body around to various places in Anchorage.


His body ended up in the Jim Creek area. Scheele and Phillips are accused of burning the body beyond recognition. Troopers said they were able to identify Gladney by a single fingerprint.

Ahuna faces an additional evidence tampering charge. The indictment accuses him of breaking cellphones used in the murder conspiracy or in the illegal drug trade.

All of those charged are jailed. Anchorage police found Kane on Friday evening in a Ford Expedition in a parking lot on Northern Lights Boulevard. She was with her girlfriend, Chalice Kesselring, who police said faces a charge of hindering prosecution. Phillips was picked up around 7:30 p.m. Friday in the area of 32nd Avenue and Wyoming Drive, Anchorage police said. Some were charged initially as Jane or John Doe.

Most of those involved have been in trouble off and on over the years, a database of state court records shows.

Scheele has federal drug convictions for manufacturing and distributing methamphetamine in the 1990s. Ahuna has a state drug conviction. Enosa has convictions for burglary, vehicle theft, assault and other crimes. Kane has convictions for burglary and misdemeanor assault. Them has a record for driving under the influence and reckless endangerment.

Anchorage Daily News reporters Tegan Hanlon and Zaz Hollander contributed to this story.

Lisa Demer

Lisa Demer was a longtime reporter for the Anchorage Daily News and Alaska Dispatch News. Among her many assignments, she spent three years based in Bethel as the newspaper's western Alaska correspondent. She left the ADN in 2018.