Crime & Courts

Victims of earlier assaults say man’s release from custody before Anchorage library stabbing reflects broken legal system

An Anchorage man accused of randomly stabbing a woman at the Loussac Library this week had been arrested in a similar unprovoked attack just a few blocks away in December — but was released from custody after he was deemed incompetent to stand trial.

Victims in the earlier assault say the case points to glaring gaps in the legal system that led to an attack that shouldn’t have happened. The most recent victim remains hospitalized with serious injuries, and 32-year-old Corey Ahkivgak has been arrested and charged with felony assault.

But there are limitations to what can be done under the law: A mental health advocate described loopholes in Alaska statutes that show how mental health issues intersect with the criminal justice system, and where someone like Ahkivgak may have fallen through the cracks. A review by the Daily News of the chain of events following the December attack, including court records and interviews with two women involved, sheds new light on what happened.

December attack

Both Dianne Squires and Arlene Feldt had been running errands on Dec. 6. What was supposed to be a normal Monday afternoon turned into a day that has left them both with lingering trauma.

Feldt, a 64-year-old grandmother, had been walking to several stores near her home when she heard shouting in the parking lot of the Midtown Walmart, on A Street. She hurried through the area and said she wanted to avoid any commotion. But out of nowhere, a man approached her from behind, then stepped in front of her and continued to try to talk to her, she said.

She tried to turn away, but the stranger hit her in the back with what she believed was a backpack and she was knocked onto the pavement, charges in the case said.

The man, later identified as Ahkivgak, then walked away.


Shortly afterward, he saw 50-year-old Dianne Squires as she walked along the Benson Boulevard sidewalk. He began yelling at her and calling her a string of names, she said. Then he started punching her.

Squires said she was terrified and didn’t know if or when he’d stop. Eventually, Ahkivgak just walked away, continuing down the sidewalk, she said. He was arrested that day.

The sudden attacks at the hands of a stranger left Squires and Feldt fearful. Both women said they were scared to go outside over the next several weeks. Squires said she’s sought counseling for the trauma.

“If I go to the store or anywhere and if I walk anywhere, I’ve got my pepper spray,” she said. “I’m either with somebody or I’m on the phone with somebody. I’m constantly looking over my shoulders.”

Incompetent to stand trial, and unrestorable

Ahkivgak faced two charges of felony third-degree assault for the attacks in December.

After his arrest, a request was made for him to undergo a competency hearing. Such requests are made when “the court or the parties reasonably believe the defendant is incompetent to stand trial,” Department of Law spokesman Aaron Sadler said by email.

Ahkivgak was evaluated by a forensic psychologist at the Alaska Psychiatric Institute and deemed incompetent to stand trial, Sadler said. This happens when a person is unable to understand the criminal process or assist with their own defense.

Defendants who are found unfit to stand trial go through a restoration process, in which they undergo a period of commitment to a facility like the Alaska Psychiatric Institute, where professionals work with them to try to restore them to competency.

But Ahkivgak was not put through that restoration process. Sadler said the forensic psychologist had concluded it was unlikely he would be able to be restored to competency.

“Whether a person can be restored is based on the particular cause on the incompetency. If the cause is a mental illness that is susceptible to treatment, a defendant is more likely to be restored,” said Rebecca Koford, a public information officer for the court system. “If the cause is an illness that is not susceptible to treatment, or a static defect such as a brain injury, cognitive delay, or dementia, the person is less likely to be restorable.”

The Department of Law didn’t provide specifics about why Ahkivgak was found to be incompetent and not restorable. Competency evaluations are confidential.

[Report: Problems continue to plague Alaska Psychiatric Institute]

‘A huge challenge’

When a person can’t be restored to competency, they can’t be held in custody any longer on the charges — state law dictates that “either civil commitment proceedings shall be instituted or the court shall order the release of the defendant.”

Civil commitment petitions are filed when there is reason to believe that a person is gravely ill or a threat to themselves or others. The legal standard is different from what is needed to find someone incompetent to stand trial.

There isn’t an outline in state law that describes who is responsible for filing a civil commitment petition if it is believed to be necessary in cases involving defendants not able to be restored. Petitions can be filed by mental health professionals, family members, prosecutors or others with concern.

Ahkivgak was not committed. It isn’t clear whether a petition was filed.

He was released from custody on Jan. 6, according to court records.


Court records show that he has filtered in and out of the criminal justice system over the last 14 years — with previous convictions ranging from trespassing to assaults. Several court documents say he has a mental illness.

Sadler did not respond to a question about whether the Department of Law believed Ahkivgak was dangerous.

[Alaska’s system for evaluating mentally ill defendants hits the breaking point]

To the victims in the December attack, it seems obvious Ahkivgak was a danger.

Both women said they were scared and angry when prosecutors notified them in early January that the charges against him were dropped.

Squires and her friend Kacie Blank, who has supported her after the attack, said it doesn’t make sense that Ahkivgak was just released on his own after he was found not to be competent to understand court proceedings.

“He needs help,” Blank said. “He’s in jail because he needs help, they know he is incompetent to stand trial — why would you put him on the street where other people are?”

But there isn’t any protocol or system laid out in the law to address what comes next for defendants who were found unrestorable and are then released.


“There isn’t necessarily a navigator, if you will, there to say (that someone) is going to be leaving the criminal side and now needs to get back and connected to services in the community to address whatever services and supports you need,” said Steve Williams, CEO of the Alaska Mental Health Trust Authority.

Alaska Department of Corrections staff may try to help connect a person to services in these instances, Williams said, but the timeframe is often short because after the determination is made to dismiss charges, the person is quickly released.

“I think DOC does what they can to do that, but they’re often put up against obstacles that are out of their control,” he said. “It’s a huge challenge for sure.”

‘This shouldn’t have happened’

Both Squires and Feldt said they feared that Ahkivgak would harm another woman, unprovoked. It felt like just a matter of time, Feldt said.

And on Sunday, their fears became reality.

Charges filed against Ahkivgak this week say he approached a couple from behind who had been standing near the book drop inside Loussac Library on 36th Avenue. He stabbed the woman in the back, then ran from the library, charges said. He was arrested about a mile away several hours later, police said.

The attack was unprovoked and Ahkivgak did not know the victim, according to police.

She was hospitalized with serious injuries and charges reported there was an injury to her spinal cord.

Ahkivgak is being held at the Anchorage Correctional Center on charges of first-degree assault, criminal mischief and violating conditions of release.

Both Squires and Feldt learned about the stabbing from loved ones who saw news coverage of the library attack. When they realized it was the same man, they said, they were devastated. They felt like the system failed to protect the woman at the library and that it had failed them by releasing the man who had harmed them.

“How can this happen? This shouldn’t have happened to her,” Feldt said.

“Look at the damage that he did to this other lady,” Squires said. “And at the library, all the other people had to see that.”


A stalled effort to change state law

Ahkivgak’s case bears strong similarities to the 2018 stabbing death of Michael Greco at the Alaska Zoo. Leading up to that case, Clayton Charlie had been found unfit to face criminal charges in a string of random, unprovoked assaults and was released from custody in late October that year. His family tried to have him involuntarily committed, but he was released in early November.

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

Charlie then stole his family car and eventually went to the zoo, where he encountered Greco and stabbed him in the parking lot before running him over with the vehicle.

Charlie was sentenced in January 2022 to spend 55 years in prison on a second-degree murder charge.

There are problems and loopholes in the way the system currently works, said Williams, with the Alaska Mental Health Trust Authority. The Trust and other stakeholders compiled a list of recommendations for changes to the statutes about commitment and competency in 2015.

There was a lot of interest in the recommendations, but Williams said it was never brought forward by a legislator or agency as a bill. The issues surrounding competency and commitment are complex, he said, and changes would likely come in the form of an omnibus bill, which are often difficult to pass.


Squires and Feldt say they want things to change. They don’t want to see another woman victimized because of cracks in the system.

“When this gets through, is a judge going to kick him out on the street again?” asked Feldt’s husband, Roger Feldt. “Next time, is he going to actually kill or murder somebody before they get him off the street? Then what are they going to do when that happens? Are they going to kick him out a third or a fourth time?

“It’s gotta stop.”

[Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly reported the year when a list of statute change recommendations compiled by the Alaska Mental Health Trust Authority and other stakeholders was published.]

Tess Williams

Tess Williams is a reporter focusing on breaking news and public safety. Before joining the ADN in 2019, she was a reporter for the Grand Forks Herald in North Dakota. Contact her at