Crime & Courts

Anchorage man pleads guilty to killing of Alaska Zoo gardener

Clayton Charlie, 34, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder Tuesday in the November 2018 death of the head gardener at the Alaska Zoo.

At Tuesday’s hearing, Charlie admitted to stabbing Michael Greco, 45, multiple times and running over him with a vehicle at the zoo in Anchorage, ultimately leading to Greco’s death. Greco was standing in as night watchman the evening of his death, charging documents said.

The plea agreement established a minimum imprisonment of 35 years and a maximum of 55 years. Without the agreement, the window of incarceration would have been much wider, between 15 and 99 years, said Anchorage District Attorney John Novak.

Charlie, whose family said he was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, has a history of violent outbursts and has cycled through the Alaska Psychiatric Institute and the criminal justice system as an adult.

[‘The system was unable to protect anybody from him’: Family struggled to help violent, mentally ill son charged in Alaska Zoo killing]

Less than two weeks before the early November killing, a judge determined Charlie was unfit to be officially charged for multiple other violent assaults.

According to Novak, Charlie was determined to be competent enough to enter a plea and to stand trial several weeks ago.


“He is competent today and guilt is established,” Novak said. The plea also ensured Charlie would remain in custody, he said.

A message left with Charlie’s defense attorney was not immediately returned Tuesday afternoon.

A sentencing hearing to determine the specifics of Charlie’s imprisonment, and any restrictions for probation or parole, has been scheduled for Feb. 3.

Jeff Parrott

Jeff Parrott is a former general assignment reporter for Anchorage Daily News. He graduated with a master's degree in 2019 from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, and is a former U.S. Army officer.