Two men killed a Hooper Bay teenager in Bethel after tying him to a table saw and beating him for at least a day, according to documents that prosecutors filed in court Friday. Bethel police say the "brutal and vicious" torture and subsequent murder are among the worst violence they've seen.
Bethel residents Jeffrey Hout, 46, and Harry Williams, 32, are charged with first-degree murder. They are accused of beating 19-year-old Benjamin J. Kaiser to death.
Kaiser was tied, naked, to the saw as early as Tuesday morning and was still alive when one of the accused men and another man untied him Wednesday morning, according witness accounts in a police report filed in court.
"Suffice it to say, in 31 years of investigating hundreds of homicides, this ranks in the top 10 for the amount of violence involved on another human being prior to his death," Bethel police chief Larry Elarton told The Tundra Drums newspaper.
Elarton told the newspaper that the investigation is continuing, and other arrests are possible. The chief also said police believe the saw itself was not used on the victim.
Wednesday evening, Nick Cooke walked into the Bethel Police Department and said that earlier that day he had seen a badly beaten Kaiser bound on top of a table saw in a shop, according to police reports.
After finding his home burglarized that morning, Cooke was following footprints in the snow when he ran into Hout and Williams. They said they had something to show him, and Cooke went with them to a shop across town at 125 North Ave., according to police.
Both Hout and Williams hit Kaiser with a piece of electrical wire and were asking the teenager about a missing pickup, Cooke told investigators. Kaiser had wounds all over his face and unclothed body and didn't appear to be alive, until Cooke saw that he was breathing, Cooke told police.
The three men left Kaiser tied to the table and went upstairs to Hout's residence, where they drank coffee and talked about mining. Hout left, and Cooke told Williams that they needed to help the beaten teenager. They went back to the shop, untied Kaiser, and brought him upstairs, Cooke told police.
Cooke then steered police to another witness, David Kenney, who lives below Hout. According to the court documents, Kenney told police he had woken up to go to work Tuesday, but his truck wouldn't start. He went to the shop to get tools and saw Kaiser tied on top of the table saw. Kenney turned to leave and ran into Hout, Williams and a third man coming into the shop, and Kenney told them they needed to get medical treatment for the teenager.
Kenney also told police the missing truck was his, that he'd bought it from Hout, and that the two of them found it parked at Fifth Avenue and Willow Street, about 1 1/2 miles from the shop. It's unclear in the court filings what day they found the truck.
Acting on Cooke's tip Wednesday night, police applied for a search warrant and found Kaiser dead in the back bedroom of an apartment at the North Street address, according to court documents. Investigators also noted blood stains on the table saw in the shop.
Police say in the court documents that Kaiser's injuries indicated that "more than one type of weapon" was used in assaulting him.
Identifying Kaiser was difficult, due to his extensive wounds, police told the Tundra Drums. An Alaska State Trooper in Hooper Bay who knew Kaiser was called in to identify the victim.
Hout and Williams turned themselves in to authorities Thursday.
Hout, who owns several rental properties in Bethel, has a drunken driving arrest on his record from 2001, court records show.
Williams has a more extensive criminal record that includes drunken driving, importing alcohol into a dry community, assault, and violating conditions of his release, according to court documents.
Police are interested in talking to anybody with further information, and investigators can be reached at 907-543-3781.
Find Casey Grove online at adn.com/contact/casey.grove or call him at 257-4589.
By CASEY GROVE
Alaska Dispatch Publishing