Deaths Awaken Fear in Sleepy Alaska Town

By: By STEVE QUINN
By: By STEVE QUINN


SITKA, Alaska (AP) -- Not much new happens in this sleepy little southeast Alaska fishing community, and the locals seem to like it that way.

But a call to 911 last week ruined their sense of peace.

A man on a cell phone directed officials to a home where there was a "guy outside stabbing people." The dispatcher heard screaming in the background.

By the time police arrived, three people were dead inside the house, and two more lay outside bleeding; only one would survive. Police don't have a motive for the attacks, the city's first slayings since 1996.

Jason Alex Abbott, a gaunt 18-year-old with a shaved head, has been charged with four counts of murder, accused of using a dagger to kill his grandparents, an aunt and her fiance.

He's also charged with a single count of attempted murder for stabbing another aunt multiple times; she was the sole survivor of the March 25 slayings.

"It was a very horrific type of crime with a lot of blood," Police Chief Sheldon Schmitt said. "It was a very chaotic scene. There was a lot of blood in the home and on the street."

The violence has left this community tucked between snowcapped mountains and the Pacific Ocean a little less isolated from the problems of the rest of the world. Residents hope word of the homicides fades before the city welcomes another 200,000 summertime visitors off cruise ships.

Word of the stabbing hit the streets fast. Drivers were lined five-deep waiting their turn at a curbside rack to buy the latest Sitka Daily Sentinel for details of the slayings.

Three days before the killings, Jason Abbott was arrested for allegedly trying to punch his mother because she had orange and red colored items in her home. He said they were "evil colors," according to court documents.

Authorities said all five people were stabbed repeatedly, and suffered wounds to their backs and fronts, including some defensive wounds.

The survivor, an aunt whom police have not identified but court documents list as M.R., woke to the sound of her mother, Alice Abbott, 68, screaming, according to authorities.

M.R. went downstairs to see her mother covered in blood and scrambling from the house. She then saw the defendant come at her with a knife, authorities said.

Abbott chased his aunt, catching her in the driveway, where she screamed for him to stop as he stabbed her repeatedly until police arrived, authorities said.

Alice Abbott, Jason's grandmother, staggered outside and collapsed against a police car. She later died on the operating table.

Officers said they had to use a stun gun on Jason Abbott after he put the dagger to his own throat.

Police then entered the house and found John Abbott, Jason's 69-year-old grandfather, in the living room, seated in a recliner, covered in blood.

They later found Elizabeth Abbott, 40, in the bathroom face down in a pool of blood and her 37-year-old fiance, Charles Tate, in a bedroom, also face down in blood.

The suspect's mother - the victims' daughter and sister - told The Associated Press that she has forgiven her son, and believes her parents would as well.

"My parents would feel the same if one of them was here," said 41-year-old Kathy Jack. They would forgive and forget. And that's how our family was."

Jack said she has met with her son since his arrest and gotten his explanation for the events, though she declined to elaborate.

Most people in the town of 8,600 people either knew the victims or the accused or someone close to them. They have questions.

"My 10-year-old came home from school and had a lot of questions," resident Karren Smith said. "I'm just trying to tell him the truth; I'll tell him whatever I can."

Talk of the stabbings could be heard at harbors, the local hamburger joint and the town's signature watering holes, where locals and fisherman congregate.

"I didn't believe it when you told me; I still don't," said fishermen Anchor Lindholm, of Anacortes, Wash., on his 10th fishing trip to the city. "Sitka's always been a quiet little town."

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