Crime & Courts

Man charged with murder of Wasilla woman found in car trunk on Seward Highway

PALMER — A 26-year-old man was arrested last week on charges he murdered a 39-year-old Wasilla woman and left her body in the trunk of her car at a Seward Highway pullout.

Parthena Kinkead was found dead in her 2019 white Ford Fiesta just south of the Hope cutoff on April 2, Alaska State Troopers said.

For about a month, no one was charged in what troopers immediately described as a homicide.

Christian Hudson was originally arrested April 3 on charges that he stole a car and left a home after turning on the unlit burners of a gas stove.

On Friday, Hudson was charged with first- and second-degree murder and evidence tampering in Kinkead’s death, which court documents indicate occurred March 31. A judge ordered him held on a temporary cash bail set at $1 million, according to a state courts database.

Kinkead was last seen March 30 and reported missing April 1. Her friends said they knew something was wrong when she didn’t show up for work at Papa John’s in Wasilla.

‘A very social person’

Cammy Hite Pebsworth met Kinkead more than two years ago, first at Value Village in Wasilla and then at Valley Country Store. Pebsworth lived near Kinkead; she would come over for dinner almost every night.

Pebsworth said Kinkead messaged her hours before her murder and sent photos of the northern lights. She was with a group of younger people that included Hudson.

“She said, ‘Hey are you still awake? I’ll come by and see you. I’m just over at a friend’s watching the northern lights. I love you,’ ” Pebsworth said. “I had fallen asleep around 10 and missed that. Or she would have been here with me.”

Kinkead was supposed to give Hudson a ride from a Wasilla house to another location in the Schrock Road area around 3:15 a.m. March 31, according to a sworn affidavit filed with the murder charges by troopers investigator Craig Markiewicz.

Instead, for reasons the document does not explain, Hudson beat and stabbed Kinkead, then drove her car south and down the Seward Highway, concealing it off the road. One of the stab wounds severed major vessels, causing Kinkead’s death, the state medical examiner’s office found.

A number of people at the Wasilla house told troopers they tried to reach out to Kinkead starting a few hours later, with no luck.

“They all stated that she was a very social person who normally would have called them as soon as she arrived at home or fairly early the next morning to let them know she had made it home safe,” Markiewicz wrote.

The next day, April 1, Hudson told a friend he hadn’t seen Kinkead since she dropped him off and then later asked for a ride and a place to stay, according to the affidavit. Several friends picked him up on a road in Meadow Lakes.

They noticed a foul smell coming off Hudson, Markiewicz wrote. “He also told them that he had ‘f---ed up’ which could cause him to spend a lot of time in jail.”

Hudson ended up staying with another friend near Schrock Road that night, the document said.

Found

The next morning, the woman woke up to find her white 2005 Pontiac Sunfire gone and the unlit gas burners on her stove left on at the highest level, according to a sworn affidavit filed with stolen-vehicle charges by Trooper Wesley Sherbahn. The woman had been sleeping in the home along with her 10- and 12-year-old children and her father.

The woman reported the car stolen — surveillance video from a neighbor’s house showed it being driven away around 3:20 a.m. — and the troopers’ investigative unit got involved, according to the affidavit in the murder case.

Someone had reported Kinkead’s Ford Fiesta in the ditch at about Mile 55 of the Seward Highway the afternoon of March 31, investigators found.

Troopers responded to the location but didn’t see anything suspicious, and there was no active “locate” bulletin on the vehicle, according to Alaska Department of Public Safety spokesman Austin McDaniel.

“It is not common practice for Troopers to search or enter an abandoned vehicle unless they have a lawful reason to perform the search,” McDaniel wrote in an email.

Then, after the agency’s major crimes unit got involved and assumed responsibility of the case, troopers began a statewide search for Kinkead and returned to the original report of the vehicle in the ditch, he said.

On April 2, troopers from the Seward post searched the car, located down a hill near some trees about 40 feet from a gap between guardrails.

They found Kinkead’s body in the trunk, according to the affidavit. The passenger-side window was smashed and there was blood inside the car. Wipe marks indicated someone tried to remove marks like fingerprints.

Hudson’s thumbprint was later found on the car’s rear view mirror, the document states. Kinkead’s blood was found in a stain on his jeans.

He was arrested when he emerged from a camper trailer at a mining claim near Mile 18 Seward Highway, north of Seward, after a state parks ranger spotted the stolen Pontiac, according to the affidavit.

‘She’d just have that smile’

Kinkead made an impression on scores of people through her job at Country Store locations near Wasilla. More recently, she worked at Papa John’s and also drove for DoorDash, Pebsworth said in an interview a few days after Kinkead’s body was found.

She had finally saved enough to buy the Ford Fiesta.

“She just bought that car,” Pebsworth said. “She shows up in my driveway so happy.”

Pebsworth didn’t realize Hudson had been arrested until a reporter contacted her this week. She’d been following his criminal case and attending hearings.

“Thank god,” she wrote in a message.

Kinkead just wanted to make her father proud, Pebsworth said. He lives in Indiana and has been experiencing serious health problems, but Pebsworth said she helped her friend make the trip to see her father over the winter.

Pebsworth said Kinkead didn’t realize she had so many friends — and will never see the outpouring of praise from all the people whose lives intersected hers.

“You’d walk in the gas station and she’d just have that smile. She just wanted you to be her friend no matter who you were,” she said. “She’d give the shirt off her back to anybody.”

Zaz Hollander

Longtime ADN reporter Zaz Hollander is based in the Mat-Su and is currently focused on coverage of the coronavirus in Alaska. She also covers the Mat-Su region, aviation and general assignments. Contact her at zhollander@adn.com.

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