Crime & Courts

Idaho man charged in cold-case killing of Anchorage taxi driver

An Idaho man arrested this month is accused of shooting and killing an Anchorage taxicab driver in 1985.

DNA testing helped investigators connect 56-year-old Eric Lane Jones to Jawed Ahmed’s death, police said in a statement.

News stories from the time reported that police believed the shooter had fired at Ahmed during a botched robbery. He was found dead in the driver’s seat of his taxi after it crashed into a fence at Muldoon Road and Boundary Avenue in the early hours of May 28, 1985.

Ahmed, 32, had moved to Anchorage in pursuit of a high-paying job on the North Slope, his wife told reporters at the time. When those jobs were not as lucrative as he’d hoped, he became a taxi driver, Janie Ahmed said.

On the day he died, Ahmed picked up a customer around 12:15 a.m. at a gas station then at Northern Lights Boulevard and Boniface Parkway.

About 4 miles away, witnesses saw a man running from the crashed taxi, according to a sworn criminal complaint signed by Detective Brett Sarber.

“The man was sprinting and looking over his shoulder every now and then at the smoking cab,” Sarber wrote.

Police struggled to compile a detailed description of the man at the time, news reports said, because witnesses had not gotten a close look at him.

Officers used a dog to attempt to track the suspect. and they located bloodied clothing before losing the track, the charges said. More clothing was later found nearby and police located a shirt in a culvert two days later, Sarber wrote.

Then the case went cold for decades.

In 2009, police submitted two pieces of the bloodied clothing for DNA testing, according to the charges. One piece had Ahmed’s blood on it and another contained an unknown man’s blood, Sarber wrote.

But there were no DNA matches, Sarber wrote, and police did not receive any additional leads.

In 2020, the police Cold Case Unit submitted the clothing for DNA testing, the charges said. Genetic databases can lead law enforcement to a suspect through a family member’s DNA that has been uploaded into a commercial database. Jones was identified as a lead through the process, authorities said.

“Eric Lane Jones was previously completely unknown to this investigation and had never been mentioned as a suspect,” Sarber wrote.

Jones, who was 19 at the time of the shooting, was believed to be living in Anchorage in 1985 and old photos of him closely resembled a sketch artist’s impression, the complaint said.

Records from Canada showed that three days after Ahmed’s death, Jones was arrested for crossing the border into the Yukon without stopping, Sarber wrote.

He was located last year living in the Boise, Idaho area. Police there surveilled him and gathered items he’d touched with his mouth while eating at a restaurant, the charges said. Those items were found to match the DNA profile on the clothing, the detective said.

Sarber interviewed Jones in Idaho on Jan. 3. Jones initially denied involvement but eventually admitted that he had shot and killed Ahmed, Sarber wrote.

Jones made claims that Ahmed tried to assault him, but Sarber said the claims were not supported by evidence and sharply contrasted with what police had found at the scene in 1985.

Jones was charged with first-degree murder and two counts of second-degree murder. He appeared before a judge in Anchorage on Jan. 9 and is being held at the Anchorage Correctional Complex on a $500,000 bail. Jones was indicted by a grand jury last week.

Anchorage Police Chief Ken McCoy said in a statement that officials have been in contact with Ahmed’s family “and it is our sincere hope that this case brings Jawed Ahmed’s loved ones some sense of closure and peace.”

Tess Williams

Tess Williams is a reporter for the Anchorage Daily News, focusing on breaking news. Before joining the ADN in 2019, she was a reporter for the Grand Forks Herald in North Dakota and previously helped cover the Nebraska Legislature for The Associated Press. Contact her at twilliams@adn.com.

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