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Crime & Courts

Assault victim dies in Southwest Alaska village after severe weather delays emergency response

A Southwest Alaska man was charged with second-degree murder after beating a fellow village resident with a board, according an Alaska State Troopers investigator.

Dick Itumulria, 54, of Manokotak, acknowledged he used a 2-by-4-inch board to beat Sean Whitley outside Itumulria’s home after Whitley said he wanted to fight, Trooper Craig Markiewicz of Dillingham said in a criminal complaint.

Itumulria on Monday was jailed in Dillingham. Online court documents did not list his attorney.

Troopers late Saturday morning received a call that a shot had been fired and a man had been assaulted in Manokotak, a village of 500 about 25 miles southwest of Dillingham.

High wind, blowing snow and reduced visibility prevented flights from reaching the village, including medical flights that could have helped Whitley, Markiewicz said.

Markiewicz said he tried to reach the village by snowmobile with a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service agent and a state park ranger but was turned back by the weather and open water at river crossing points.

Whitley early Sunday morning went into cardiac arrest and died. His body was flown to Dillingham. At the morgue, Markiewicz did not see any indication of a gunshot wound, he said.

Markiewicz reached Manokotak late Sunday morning and contacted Itumulria, who agreed to speak.

After a school basketball, game, Itumulria said, he and a friend had come home to find Whitley in a bedroom. Whitley said he had beaten Itumulria’s brother and that he wanted to beat them up too, Itumulria said. All four men had been drinking heavily.

Whitley was known to enjoy fighting, Itumulria told the trooper. They twice got Whitley out of the house, Itumulria said, and when he returned a second time, at around noon, Itumulria fired a shotgun round through his front door in an attempt to scare Whitley off.

Itumulria opened the door and saw Whitley lying on the ground. Itumulria told Markiewicz he thought Whitley was faking an injury. He acknowledged grabbing a 4-foot board and hitting Whitley four times on the head. He said the blows were not taps but more like blows used to split wood.

Itumulria acknowledged that he was angry from being harassed and that he had wanted to teach Whitley a lesson not to mess with him, Markiewicz said.

Three witnesses told Markiewicz that they saw Itumulria strike Whitley. One witness said Whitley may have been lying on the ground because he was intoxicated.

Another witness said she saw Itumulria kick Whitley about six times before retrieving the board and striking him six times. A third witness said the first blow with the board was delivered while Whitley was standing.

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