FBX 4 investigators testify, point to languishing evidence

Two Alaska State Troopers hired in September 2013 to re-investigate the 1997 John Hartman murder case testified in state court in Fairbanks on Monday.

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Jim Gallen and Randy McPherron took the stand during day six of a month-long evidentiary hearing prompted by men, known as “The Fairbanks 4,” who claim they were wrongly convicted of Hartman’s beating death. Among numerous issues addressed was a 2011 memo to Fairbanks Police from a California prison guard, sharing information from inmate and former Fairbanks resident William Holmes, claiming he and a group of high school friends, not the Fairbanks Four, are responsible for Hartman’s death.

The 2011 Holmes confession that’s become central to the Fairbanks Four post-conviction relief filings was not promptly acted on by Fairbanks Police.

Trooper investigator Jim Gallen testified that the memo was not included in the department’s Hartman murder case evidence record, but he found it in January 2014 while going through a box of case interview tapes at the station.

“Inside of it was this memo that I had not seen before,” Gallen says.

Gallen said he was surprised to find such an important document stashed in a file.

“We had not seen it before, and it would’ve been nice to have it.”

Gallen said he asked Fairbanks Police Lieutenant Jim Gier about it.

“Gier looked at it and said, uh, ‘about that time, Detective Thompson, he says, Detective Thompson walks in, he says Detective Thompson is good at finding these things on the internet. I believe he found it on the internet.’ Thompson seemed confused, kind of nodded in agreement, and we didn’t pursue it anymore.”

Former FPD detective Chris Nolan testified last week that he let the Holmes’s confession memo languish on his desk for two years, but gave it to Lieutenant Gier in September 2013, when the Fairbanks Four filed their suit.

How long the state knew about the memo is also at issue. Gallen said State prosecutor, and assistant Attorney General Adrienne Bachman refused to release email communications about it.

“I recall the investigator asking about these emails, and Ms. Bachman told him we were not getting it.”

Gallen testified that the 15-month investigation of the Hartman case was incomplete when terminated in January of his year.

Dan Bross is a reporter at KUAC in Fairbanks.

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