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Crime & Justice

Timeline of the Fairbanks Four case

  • Author: Lisa Demer
  • Updated: September 30, 2016
  • Published December 16, 2015

Friday, Oct. 10: 1997: Small party at the apartment of high school student Regent Epperson, whose mother was out of town. Group of young men who had been at the party cruise town looking for "drunk Natives" to "mess with."

Around 1:30 a.m., Oct. 11. 1997: Franklin Dayton assaulted outside Eagles Hall in Fairbanks. John Hartman fatally beaten on the corner of Ninth Avenue and Barnette Street in downtown Fairbanks.

Oct. 11 and 12, 1997: Eugene Vent, George Frese, Kevin Pease and Marvin Roberts arrested.

Oct. 15, 1997: Vent, Frese, Pease and Roberts indicted.

1999: All four convicted in three trials, with Pease and Roberts tried together and Vent and Frese tried separately. Key evidence was the testimony of Arlo Olson, an eyewitness to the assault on Dayton near the time Hartman was attacked, and a purported confession from Vent. Their sentences ranged from 33 years to 77 years.

Sept. 2012: Lawyers for the Fairbanks Four say there is new evidence to establish their innocence: the signed "confession" of another man, Bill Holmes, who said he was at the party in 1997 and was the driver of a group of four other men who attacked Hartman.

Sept. 2013: Fairbanks Four file applications for "postconviction relief," seeking a declaration of innocence and freedom.

Sept. 2015: Governor's office contracts with law firm of Holmes Weddle and Barcott for up to $15,000 to review records in the case of the Fairbanks Four and make recommendations. State has refused to release the findings, citing attorney-client privilege.

Oct. 5. 2015 – Nov. 10, 2015: Hearing before Fairbanks Superior Court Judge Paul Lyle on the newly discovered evidence. Lyle says he expects to take six months or longer to rule once he receives the transcripts.

Dec. 10, 2015: Lyle cancels a hearing set for the next day to free the men through a settlement between their lawyers and prosecutors. The judge said he needed information on the legal authority for such an arrangement, or they needed to rewrite the terms. A spokeswoman for Gov. Bill Walker revealed he has been looking into a pardon for several weeks.

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly dated Superior Court Judge Paul Lyle's decision to cancel a hearing on a settlement to free the men. Lyle canceled the hearing on Dec. 10, not Nov. 10.

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