Alaska State Troopers say they arrested a 47-year-old man in Selawik this week on a murder charge in the death of a village resident whose body was found in a tote in the village dump.
A criminal complaint filed Friday in the case identified the man, Lance Brickley, as the husband of the school principal in the Northwest Alaska village. Brickley faces charges of first- and second-degree murder, evidence tampering and third-degree misconduct involving a weapon, according to the complaint.
Troopers said Friday they were notified at almost midnight Wednesday that the body of a man later identified as 41-year-old Timothy Snyder had been found. Troopers based in Kotzebue, investigators from the Alaska Bureau of Investigation and crime scene technicians from the state crime lab traveled to Selawik on Thursday morning.
A community member called troopers late Wednesday night after seeing a hand or arm near a black tote with a yellow cover at the dump, according to an affidavit filed with charges.
The tote, which was covered by a blanket, was marked with either Brickley’s name or the name of his wife, Jeannie Brickley, the affidavit said. A witness told investigators Lance Brickley had brought the tote to the dump with the school’s snowmachine.
Jeannie Brickley was listed as principal of Davis-Ramoth Memorial School in Selawik on Friday morning, but her name and photo were removed from the school website by noon. Assistant principal Jamie Cowart is now acting principal, according to Northwest Arctic Borough School District superintendent Terri Walker.
Troopers said they identified Snyder as the deceased man inside the tote and discovered he had been shot. Investigators determined that Lance Brickley shot Snyder at his home in teacher housing, where Brickley and several other men were drinking, the affidavit said.
Cowart called troopers Thursday morning to say Brickley had confided in him that he had shot Snyder after Snyder hurt a child in the home at the time by squeezing the child’s hand, according to the affidavit signed by troopers Investigator Craig Markiewicz. Brickley told Cowart that Snyder came to his house with weapons, and Brickley shot him around 8 p.m. Wednesday, then “panicked” and took the body to the dump, the investigator wrote.
Other witnesses provided different details than those Brickley gave the school staffer, according to the affidavit.
A witness told investigators he was one of four men drinking at Brickley’s apartment, a group that included Snyder, when Brickley shot the other man with a pistol, the affidavit said. The man said he helped Brickley take the body to the dump and helped clean up at Brickley’s apartment in the four-plex, it said. He also told investigators Snyder did not have weapons at the time of the shooting.
Another man in the group said he saw Brickley chamber a round in his pistol and put it into his pocket before the shooting occurred, though the man was not at the apartment at the time the weapon was discharged, the affidavit said.
Interviewed by Markiewicz on Thursday afternoon, Brickley said Snyder squeezed the child’s hand and tried to push the child’s head toward his crotch, according to the affidavit. Brickley said he had a gun in his coat, which he left at the house when he took the child to the school after the incident with Snyder.
When he came back, Brickley told the investigator, Snyder had kicked in the door and “had the gun out on a table,” the investigator wrote.
Brickley said he put the gun back in his pocket but it somehow came out again and the two men struggled for it before Brickley said he got the gun back, the affidavit said. As Brickley moved the gun from one hand to the other, he told the investigator, the weapon “inexplicably” shot Snyder three times as he was on his back on the floor, Markiewicz wrote.
Brickley said he went to the police department to report what happened but no one was there, the affidavit said. He also said he planned to retrieve the body Thursday when he reported what happened to police.
Brickley told investigators he “never should have had a pistol in the first place” because he was a felon, the affidavit said. Investigators confirmed multiple felony convictions in other states.
Jeannie Brickley, in an interview with troopers, said she got home around 10 p.m. Wednesday to find her husband and two other men there and blood on the kitchen floor, then went to bed, according to the affidavit. The next morning, her assistant principal told her what her husband had shared, the document said. “Lance told Jeannie that he had to do it to protect” the child, Markiewicz wrote.
Jeannie Brickley said the family had a dog that would go into heat “and there is usually blood on the floor from it,” he wrote.
Lance Brickley was arrested without incident, troopers spokesman Austin McDaniel said. He was detained at the Selawik Police Department.
Brickley was expected to be flown from Selawik to the Kotzebue Jail, McDaniel said.
Cowart, the assistant principal, will serve as acting principal in Selawik for the rest of the school year, superintendent Walker said Friday morning.
“I am working closely in cooperation with the Alaska State Troopers,” Walker said. “Because this is an ongoing investigation, I cannot provide any further additional information at this time.”
The State Medical Examiner Office is conducting an autopsy on Snyder’s remains. An investigation continues.
Selawik, a village of about 800 people, is about 90 miles east of Kotzebue and 670 miles northwest of Anchorage.