Crime & Courts

Double murder trial of Jerry Active opens in Anchorage

The trial of Jerry Andrew Active, accused of a notorious 2013 double murder and multiple sexual assaults, began Thursday in Anchorage Superior Court with Active listening while prosecutors recalled the night of the crime, saying Active was arrested near the scene clad in bloody socks.

Active's attorney, meanwhile, argued during opening statements that the state lacks the DNA evidence to tie Active to the crimes.

Active is the 26-year-old Togiak man charged with killing a Cambodian couple -- Touch Chea and Sorn Sreap -- in their Mountain View apartment in May 2013. He is also accused of sexually assaulting three generations of the family, including a toddler and a 90-year-old great-grandmother, and assaulting two relatives living in the same apartment who returned home to find their loved ones dead from blunt-force trauma.

The great-grandmother died about three weeks later from "natural causes," said Judge Philip Volland. He asked the jurors if the woman's death would impair their ability to fairly view the evidence in the case, as "Mr. Active is not accountable for her death."

None spoke up with concerns.

State: A grisly scene

Assistant attorney general Adam Alexander opened the prosecution argument by detailing the 10 felonies and two misdemeanors against Active, including charges of murder, sex assault, assault and burglary.

He displayed a movie ticket stub dated May 25, 2013, for "Fast and Furious 6." Husband and wife Vong and Minesoreta Seng watched the blockbuster after a day of family errands, Alexander said. This is what followed that outing, according to Alexander:

Vong planned to take Sorn Sreap to bingo after the movie, but when he returned home the door was locked. The window had been jammed with a dowel. The window was generally kept open for fresh air, Alexander said.

Hysteria gripped Vong, and he broke the window and climbed inside. After seeing two of his family members dead, he went outside and looked around for anyone suspicious as he screamed for neighbors to call police.

Minesoreta had also entered the apartment. She found the door to a bedroom locked and forced it open out of fear for her 2-year-old daughter, who had been left in the care of the grandparents. In her daughter's room, Alexander said, Minesoreta found a half-naked man who punched her in the face as she reached for her child.

The man, who Alexander said was Active, managed to slip into a pair of boxers and tried to flee. But a fight followed in the courtyard of the apartment building. Neighbors spilled out of their living rooms; some called 911.

One of the neighbors, who prosecutors plan to call as a witness, followed Active when he eventually ran from the courtyard down North Bragaw Street toward a church, Alexander said.

The prosecutor displayed a photo of the apartment courtyard. Small yellow evidence markers ran from there to the exterior hallway leading to the victims' apartment.

Police arrested Active on nearby Irwin Street; Alexander said Active had knocked on the door of another apartment to seek refuge but was turned away.

The prosecutor said detectives seized bloody socks from Active, and the sole of his right foot was wet with blood. Alexander did not say whose blood it may have been.

Defense: Active wasn’t in the apartment

Active listened to the state's argument quietly, occasionally speaking to his attorney, Chong Yim, but otherwise did not react to the court proceedings.

Yim argued that prosecutors avoided mentioning DNA evidence in their opening statements because detectives found nothing to link Active to the scene of the murders.

"There's nothing definitive that links (Active) being inside that apartment," he said. There is no doubt a struggle occurred, Yim said, but his client wasn't involved.

The Sengs cut themselves when they entered the apartment, so blood was everywhere, Yim said. Despite footprints, fingerprints and other forensic evidence, "nothing definitive" was found in the apartment, he said.

Police recovered a black sweatshirt from the bedroom where Active allegedly fought with Minesoreta, Yim said.

"Why not test it?" he asked jurors.

Yim said Active had been in a fight earlier in the night and had gotten blood on himself.

The Sengs' statements to police contradict each other, he also argued. Vong Seng said he witnessed his great-grandmother safe in a wheelchair and his daughter watching TV in the bedroom while Minesoreta told police something more in line with the state's version of events, Yim said.

The trial could last four to six weeks, attorneys said. Witnesses are set to take the stand starting Monday.