Crime & Courts

Sitka man gets 45-year sentence in shooting death of girlfriend

  • Author: Associated Press
  • Updated: September 6, 2018
  • Published September 6, 2018

Reuben Yerkes, 39, was arrested May 6, 2017, after he walked into the Sitka Police Department building and said he had killed his girlfriend. (Photo courtesy SPD)

SITKA – A former employee of the city of Sitka has been sentenced to 45 years in prison in the deadly shooting of his girlfriend last year.

Reuben Yerkes, 40, was sentenced Wednesday after pleading guilty in June to second-degree murder in the death of 28-year old Ali Clayton, the Daily Sitka Sentinel reported.

Yerkes had worked as a legal assistant in the city attorney's office, and Clayton had worked as a grant accountant in the city's finance department. Yerkes surrendered to police after the May 2017 shooting, telling authorities he killed Clayton after an argument. The couple had been dating for 10 weeks, prosecutors said.

Before Superior Court Judge Trevor Stephens handed down the sentence, Clayton's family and friends gave victim impact statements.

"When Mr. Yerkes chose to take a gun, place it on my daughter's head, pull the trigger four times, resulting in my daughter's death — he committed a litany of wrongs," Paula Clayton told the court. "I can't even begin to tell them all because I face new wrongs all the time."

Prosecutor Amanda Browning and public defender Nathan Lockwood had recommended that the judge sentence Yerkes to 45 years.

"The recommended sentence is not about placing a worth on Ali, the recommended sentence is about reaching a final resolution that allows the Clayton family to have closure," Browning said.

Yerkes will be eligible to apply for discretionary parole after serving 15 years in prison. He will be eligible for mandatory parole after 30 years.

Yerkes apologized to Clayton's family in court, saying he regrets his actions and recognizes the damage he has caused.

"I killed Ali. I can never take that back," Yerkes said. "Even though I would give anything of myself if it meant she would live, I know there is nothing I can do to bring her back or lessen the pain that I have caused. All that matters now is that Ali isn't here, and people are suffering greatly because of my actions."