Crime & Justice

Anchorage teen pleads guilty in hit-and-run death of cyclist

A 17-year-old Anchorage girl pleaded guilty Monday to criminally negligent homicide and DUI in the death of well-known Anchorage cyclist Jeff Dusenbury last summer.

"It's not going to bring him back," said Dusenbury's wife, Melissa Holder, after the hearing.

But the guilty plea means there will be no trial, bringing her family closer to closure in the legal chapter, she said.

Dusenbury was an avid cyclist who had accumulated a broad circle of friends and colleagues through his biking and work at Food Services of America.

The married father of one was killed July 19 when Alexandra Ellis backed into him while trying to turn around and then left the scene of the accident, police said at the time. When police found her at her home, less than a half-mile from the scene of the accident, she had a blood alcohol content above the legal limit. Ellis was charged as an adult with manslaughter and other crimes.

In Anchorage Superior Court on Monday, Ellis appeared with her attorney William Ingaldson, who asked that her case be waived into juvenile court. Prosecutor Clint Campion didn't agree, and that matter was not resolved during the hearing.

Ellis pleaded guilty to criminally negligent homicide, a class B felony, reduced from the manslaughter charge. A felony charge of leaving the scene of an accident without assisting an injured person was dismissed as part of the plea agreement.


Alexandra Ellis could face a maximum of 10 years on the criminally negligent homicide charge, though attorneys on both sides said in court they had agreed to a sentence of three years with two suspended.

Superior Court Judge Michael Wolverton will make a final sentencing determination in August.

Ellis spoke little in court Monday, answering the judge's questions with "yes" and "no."

Ellis' mother wrapped an arm around her as they walked out of the fifth-floor courtroom to the elevator bank. Ellis is currently under supervision of a third-party custodian.

"It's nice to see her take responsibility for her actions," said Peter Van Tyne, a Dusenbury family friend who attended the hearing.

A memorial ride for Dusenbury is in the works for this summer.

Holder said she hopes for a productive life for Ellis, who will turn 18 next week.

Maybe, she said, she'll do something like speak to teenagers about the power and responsibility that comes with driving a car.

"A car is a weapon," she said. "She pleaded guilty today to killing someone."

Michelle Theriault Boots

Michelle Theriault Boots is a longtime reporter for the Anchorage Daily News. She focuses on in-depth stories about the intersection of public policy and Alaskans' lives. Before joining the ADN in 2012, she worked at daily newspapers up and down the West Coast and earned a master's degree from the University of Oregon.