Crime & Courts

Woman charged with murder in two separate East Anchorage killings within hours, police say

A 24-year-old woman is accused of fatally injuring two men within a period of hours in separate crimes that unfolded blocks away from each other earlier this month in Anchorage’s Sand Lake neighborhood.

Brianna S. Wassillie was arrested over the weekend and charged in the deaths of Travis Sheldon and Gregory Pitka, police said in an update Monday morning.

Both men were killed on July 3, although authorities did not find Pitka’s body for several days, according to a criminal complaint filed with murder charges.

It’s not clear from the complaint whether Wassillie knew either of the men before encountering them on July 3. There are few details about what brought her to the Sand Lake area, where both killings happened. The charging document says she was homeless.

Police were called to an area of woods near West 88th Avenue and Molanary Drive, near Dimond Boulevard and Jewel Lake Road, just after 5:30 p.m. on July 3 because a man was found bleeding from his head, according to the complaint signed by Anchorage police Detective Troy Clark. Police said at the time that they had been called to the area because an injured man was walking outside. The charges, however, said 36-year-old Sheldon was unconscious and severely wounded when officers arrived.

Police found a large rock and a credit card belonging to Pitka near where Sheldon had been injured, Clark wrote.

At the scene, investigators talked with the man who had reported finding Sheldon in the woods. He told detectives he had seen Sheldon drinking with another person before he left the area, the complaint said. When he returned about 15 minutes later, Sheldon was bleeding.

Sheldon was taken to the hospital and Clark wrote that he died from the injuries the next day.

On July 5, police were called to the Jewel Lake Alaska Club location on West Dimond Boulevard because a man had been found dead, the complaint said.

Pitka’s body was found covered by a blanket behind a trailer parked inside a walled-off enclosure, Clark wrote. He had been dead for several days and an autopsy showed he had been sexually assaulted, the complaint said.

Surveillance footage from a nearby Taco Bell restaurant showed the same man who had earlier reported finding Sheldon dead had also visited with Pitka around 1 p.m. on July 3, the complaint said.

After the man left the area, a woman walked up to Pitka, the complaint said. The wall partly obscured the scene, but Clark wrote that movement could be seen for the next hour before the woman spread a white blanket and walked away.

On Wednesday, police were notified about a suspicious container found behind the Walmart on Old Seward Highway, according to the complaint. When officers picked up the container Thursday, they found Pitka’s ID card and several letters written by Wassillie, the complaint said.

In the letters, Wassillie wrote about killing and sexually assaulting a man.

Police located her at a gas station Saturday near the area where both men were found and brought her to police headquarters for questioning, Clark said.

She admitted to killing both Pitka and Sheldon, according to the complaint.

Wassillie told detectives she was upset with Pitka because he wouldn’t steal liquor for her. She’d “punched him, slapped him, and banged his head against the ground” before leaving, the charges said. When she returned later in the day, she choked him using the strings of his hoodie until he died, the complaint said. She then sexually assaulted him, looked for cash and covered his body with a blanket before taking his backpack and leaving, Clark wrote.

Wassillie told detectives she had been drinking in the woods later that day when Sheldon “walked up on her” and she gave him a beer. Then she took away the beer and choked and hit Sheldon with a rock, the complaint said.

Wassillie, who has no prior criminal convictions, was remanded Sunday to Hiland Mountain Correctional Center on two charges of first-degree murder and a count of misconduct with a corpse.

She was scheduled to appear in court Monday, but refused to be transported from the Eagle River prison for the hearing.

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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