Crime & Courts

Utah man charged with abduction, murder of Homer woman missing since 2019

A former Homer man has been arrested in Utah and charged with the murder of Anesha “Duffy” Murnane, missing since she vanished from Homer’s downtown in October 2019.

On Saturday, prosecutors charged Kirby Calderwood, 32, with murder, kidnapping and tampering with physical evidence, court records show.

Calderwood was arrested Monday in Ogden, Utah, the Homer Police Department said. The department followed “hundreds of tips and interviewed numerous people” over the course of the more than two-year investigation, the statement said.

The charging document in the case describes Calderwood as a violent, disturbed man who planned to torture and kill a victim and targeted Murnane nearly at random, picking her up off the street because she trusted him enough to get into his Subaru.

Police had been investigating Calderwood since May 20, 2021, as a possible suspect, speaking with former partners who described a history of disturbing and sexually violent behavior.

One former partner told police that Calderwood had raped her while he was in the U.S. Army, and the rape had been reported to the military, according to an affidavit by Homer Police Department investigator Matthew Haney. Another woman had also reported a violent sexual incident to the Army. At one point, Calderwood allegedly told a partner he was “fantasizing about killing someone” and using a website to “check out potential victims.”

Calderwood moved to Homer and had abusive relationships with women there too, according to descriptions in the affidavit. In a 2018 interview with KBBI, Calderwood said he moved to Homer after his brother, who worked on fishing charter boats, died of a drug overdose.

The affidavit in the case said that Calderwood met Murnane in 2018, when he was working as a direct service provider at the supported living apartments where she lived. South Peninsula Behavioral Health Services said Calderwood worked for the organization between 2017 and August 2019.

Police were already investigating Calderwood when, on April 14, an anonymous caller left a detailed tip on a CrimeStoppers tip line that was “very specific in naming the person responsible and how the kidnapping, murder and destruction of evidence were committed,” the affidavit said.

The caller, according to the affidavit, turned out to be Calderwood’s most recent partner, who had moved from Homer to Ogden, Utah, with him.

At first the woman said she was “very afraid” and didn’t want to give a recorded statement to police, but changed her mind and talked to police on May 6, repeating the detailed account left on the police tip line.

According to the charging document, on Oct. 17, 2019, Calderwood had “taken the day off work and was driving his Subaru around looking for a victim” when he happened on Murnane, who agreed to get into his car.

He took Murnane to an unoccupied house where he tortured her before killing her in a crawlspace, the affidavit said. He later disposed of her body in a trash bin.

When police searched Calderwood’s home in Utah, they found a Timex watch that matched one Murnane had owned. They also found a missing person flier of Murnane that included an appeal from her mother that she be dropped off in a safe place.

Murnane, a trained Montessori teacher who was born and raised in Homer, disappeared on Oct. 17, 2019, in Homer’s downtown commercial district. Her family said she’d struggled with mental illness but had been living a quiet, stable life in her hometown. Her family described her as gentle, kind and a talented teacher.

On the day she went missing, Murnane had left her home at the MainTree supported housing apartments to walk to an appointment roughly a mile away. She never arrived at the appointment.

“It’s like she vanished into thin air,” her mother Sara Berg said at the time.

The 38-year-old’s disappearance confounded Homer, a town of less than 6,000 people at the end of the Kenai Peninsula.

In July 2021, a jury in Homer declared Murnane officially dead after a presumptive death trial, a court hearing to legally declare a person has died even if a body can’t be located, the Homer News reported at the time.

Her disappearance remained a painful mystery in Homer, with signs asking “Where is Duffy?” posted on buildings and bulletin boards.

Murnane’s family and the Homer community banded together to build a memorial bench for Murnane and other missing people in Alaska, raising more than $30,000 for the project. A memorial and dedication of the bench was planned for June.

On Monday, the Facebook group “Bring Duffy Home,” where more than two thousand members have discussed vigils, searches and memorial efforts, published a statement thanking the community for efforts to find Murnane and for surrounding her parents “with so much love and support.”

“There is a whole other road in front of Duffy’s family now,” the statement said. “So please keep holding them close.”

Michelle Theriault Boots

Michelle Theriault Boots is a reporter who covers news and features about life in Alaska, and has been focusing on corrections and psychiatric care issues in the state. Contact her at mtheriault@adn.com.

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