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Murder and Mystery in the Last Frontier

True Crime Podcasts

Listen to tales of true murder and mystery in Alaska.

Listen to tales of true murder and mystery in Alaska.


United States


Listen to tales of true murder and mystery in Alaska.






The Saga of Chris McCandless

On September 6, 1992, two young hikers from Anchorage arrived at the old Fairbanks city bus #142, a makeshift shelter located on the Stampede Trail, twenty-five miles west of Healy. They immediately noted a stench emanating from the bus. A red leg warmer swung from an alder branch near the vehicle’s rear door. A note taped to the door terrified the hikers. It read: S.O.S. I NEED YOUR HELP. I AM INJURED, NEAR DEATH, AND TOO WEAK TO HIKE OUT OF HERE. I AM ALL ALONE, THIS IS NO JOKE. IN THE...


Vanished in the Alaska Wilderness

Erin Marie Gilbert As I’ve mentioned in other episodes, each year, an average of 2,250 people disappear in Alaska, twice the national average. According to the Alaska State Troopers, approximately 1,520 people currently are listed as missing in Alaska. The cases date back to the 1950s. Some of these people vanished on purpose, and others suffered unfortunate accidents. We know a few met with foul play, though. They were alive, well, and happy one moment, and then they suddenly disappeared...


Maximum Security Part 2: Bryan Perotti

In 1994, Kristopher Marcy and his friend, Bryan Perotti, managed the unthinkable when they escaped from Spring Creek Correctional Center in Seward, Alaska. When Marcy and Perotti first escaped, the police warned the public to be on the lookout for the pair. They considered both inmates dangerous, but they believed Bryan Perotti was the most violent of the two. Since Kristopher Marcy was in prison for stabbing a grandmother 26 times and then raping her as she lay dying, I couldn’t imagine a...


Maximum Security Part 1: The Brutal Murder of Shirley Koonz

Alaska is a dangerous place; many things can kill you here. Vicious predators, extreme temperatures, treacherous terrain, raging rivers, violent storms, and the churning ocean describe a few of the challenges facing humans in the 49th state. Wilderness dangers did not worry Shirley Koonz, though. She'd spent most of her adult life in the Alaska wilderness, and along with her husband, she’d raised her six kids on a one-hundred-and-sixty-acre homestead. Shirley knew how to survive in the...


Ed Krause – Alaska’s First Serial Killer

Many serial killers have called Alaska home, and if you apply the broadest definition to the term, then serial killers terrorized settlers here long before profilers coined the term “serial killer.” A near-total lack of law enforcement in Alaska in the early 1900s allowed human predators to prowl the territory and prey on settlers and gold miners. Imagine the nervous miners who had amassed a quantity of gold. How did they sleep? Terror must have gripped them during the long trek from their...


Betrayal of Trust: The Murder of Sonya Ivanoff

Recent events have reminded us that we cannot always trust the police to protect us. In the U.S., though, bad policemen and women represent only a small minority of law enforcement. I feel I can turn to the police if I need help, and if I report a crime, I believe they will respond and investigate my claim. The police in Nome, Alaska, however, often did not take reports of sexual harassment seriously, especially claims made by Alaska Native women. The Nome Police Department had a serious...


Funny River Bones

Alaska is big; the state spans an area as wide as the distance from California to Florida, and much of the terrain is wild and inhospitable. Alaska has 39 mountain ranges, 12,000 rivers, 100,000 glaciers, and 3 million lakes. Much of the state is heavily forested, while boggy tundra covers other areas. In some regions, mudflats along the ocean act like quicksand, entrapping a hapless interloper so tightly, he can do nothing but watch the tide rise until he drowns. Avalanches and mudslides...


How to Become a Widow

Someone entered Buck Hofhines’s Fairbanks home on a bitterly cold January night and shot him seven times. His young bride, Verna, discovered his body, and she appeared shocked and confused. She told the Alaska State Troopers that she didn’t know why anyone would want to murder her husband. Authorities immediately suspected her of the crime, but she had a convincing alibi. Verna Hofhines was on stage performing as an exotic dancer when someone brutally murdered her husband, Buck. This crime...


Mystery Swirls Around the Disappearance of Vladimir Kostenko

Alaska Hatcher Pass Friends and family describe Vladimir Petrovich Kostenko as a seeker, a man searching for the meaning of life and hoping to find his place and purpose in the universe. Alaska, with its raw, untamed wilderness, is a place popular for “seekers” trying to find themselves, calm their minds, and even attain spiritual enlightenment. Unfortunately, though, many of these dreamers have no idea how to survive in the harsh environment of the northern wilderness. Alaska is often...


The Murder of John Hartman and the Fairbanks Four

“You’re trying to fill my brain with things I didn’t do.” Rabinowitz Courthouse, Fairbanks At 2:45 am on October 11th, 1997, three friends in Fairbanks were heading home from a bar when they discovered the badly beaten body of 15-year-old John Hartman. Someone had kicked the boy’s head so many times that he was unrecognizable. He died the following evening when his parents agreed to take him off life support. Sources: O’Donoghue, Brian. 7-12-2014. Vent attorney alleges ‘prosecutorial...


The Bethel School Shooting

Before Santa Fe, before Marjory Stoneman Douglas, before Sandy Hook, and even before Columbine, there was Bethel Regional High School in Bethel, Alaska. On February 19, 1997, Evan Ramsey loaded a Mossberg 500 12-gauge shotgun, hid the gun in his pants, and rode the school bus to the Bethel Regional High School, where he attended classes. What happened next would tear apart the small town of Bethel, Alaska, and as with all the school shootings to follow, students and parents would be left...


The Kidnapping and Murder of Amy Sue Patrick

We can never know another person’s thoughts and motivations. Most killers have a reason to commit murder; whether for revenge, jealously, or money, they understand why they killed their victim. Kyung Yoon, though, said he did not know why he killed Amy Sue Patrick. He claimed he murdered her on the spur of the moment, but some evidence suggests Yoon premeditated the crime. Events in this case took a bizarre twist when the troopers arrested Yoon and hauled him to prison. Sources Mathiesen,...


The Murder of Judy Burgin

August 28, 1993 was a beautiful autumn day for a bicycle ride along the Parks Highway to Grey’s Creek at mile 81.5 on the highway. The burnished leaves of fireweed painted the hillsides a deep red, and a carpet of golden leaves covered the ground. In the distance, Mt. Denali stood watch over the region, wearing a coat of white from the first snows of the season. Judy Burgin When the cyclists noticed a swath of material peeking through a pile of leaves, they stopped to investigate. What they...


Gone Without a Trace

Ben Eielson Russ Merrill Airplanes first disappeared in Alaska as soon as they glided over the mountains, glaciers, oceans, tundra, and forests here. The rugged ocean and landscape of Alaska offer an abundance of places for a plane to vanish. Over the years, many planes have gone missing in Alaska, but not all the outcomes were bad, especially in the early years of aviation in the territory. Often, days or even weeks after a plane disappeared in a remote region and the pilot was assumed...


Deadly Passion

What would you do for love? What if someone stands between you and your heart's desire, and the person in the middle is your true love's estranged spouse? What if the woman you love and her spouse try to rekindle the flames of their damaged marriage, and you must think of them together? Would you accept defeat and quietly walk away, or would you take a more proactive approach? Jim Wheeler decided the best path to his true love's heart was to blow up her husband's truck with her husband in...


The Murder of Shelley Connolly

As soon as detectives saw her body, they knew someone had violently abused and murdered her. Forty-one years later, investigators believe they finally know who killed Shelley Connolly. Sources: DNA links Oregon man to 1978 cold case murder of Shelley Connolly Oregon man arrested, charged with teen’s murder in 41-year-old Anchorage cold case...


The Brutal Killings at Cache Creek

Money often leads to greed and sometimes even to murder, so we should not be surprised to learn about a miner killing other miners for their gold, the rawest form of currency. This story sounds believable from our jaded twenty-first-century perspective. In 1939, though, to the miners in Cache Creek country, the residents of Talkeetna, and people in Anchorage, the murders at Cache Creek represented the worst type of betrayal of the code of trust and respect followed by the independent men and...


Finding the Murderer of Jessica Baggen

When a small Alaska town loses one of its children, the entire community grieves, and when a monster brutally rapes, murders, and discards that child, the residents cry out for answers and justice. In the case of Jessica Baggen, the folks in the community of Sitka, Alaska, would not have those answers for twenty-four years. Sources Boots, Michelle T. 8-11-2020. Suspect in 1996 cold-case murder of Sitka girl killed himself last week in Arkansas, troopers say. Anchorage Daily News. Available...


Miranda Barbour, Serial Killer or Pathological Liar?

Miranda Barbour In December 2013, after police arrested Miranda Barbour, 19, for the murder of Troy LaFerrara in Pennsylvania, Miranda told a news reporter she had murdered between 22 and 100 people. She said she killed a few in North Carolina, Texas, and California, but she claimed most of the murders occurred in her home state of Alaska. Her statement startled law enforcement officials across the country, but they soon began to question her declarations. Was her claim of serial murders...


The Wreck of the SS Princess Sophia – The Unknown Titanic of the West Coast

The deadliest marine disaster on the west coast of North America occurred in Lynn Canal on October 24, 1918, but few people have ever heard of it. Approximately 345 people died when the SS Princess Sophia slid off Vanderbilt Reef and sank. Did the captain’s recklessness cause the disaster, and did his poor decision-making doom the passengers and crew of the Princess Sophia? Sources: SS Princess Sophia Expedition. Available at: Sullivan, Toby. 12/12/2018....