Fear, confusion prompted false confessions, Fairbanks 4 say

Two of the Fairbanks Four say they lied to police about some of what they did the October 1997 night John Hartman was attacked, but maintain they did so out of fear and confusion, not guilt.

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Kevin Pease and Eugene Vent took to the stand Tuesday at an ongoing evidentiary hearing to consider whether they and two others also convicted of the crime, George Frese and Marvin Roberts, are innocent.

Kevin Pease told the court he resorted to a lie about being with his girlfriend the night John Hartman was fatally beaten on a downtown street because he had not tracked the time during a rambling night of partying and travel around town.

“I lied because I was scared. I lied because I wasn’t there. And you know, it’s just…. I knew everything was not going right. And I did not handle the situation correctly.

Eugene Vent, who’d been drinking heavily during the night, including at a party with Pease, said he blacked out for part of it, before being picked up by police. During questioning Tuesday by his attorney, Pease admitted to lying to police about some of the events of the evening, saying he confessed to involvement in the Hartman attack after Police offered false evidence.

“Tellin’ me that there was blood… and that my footprints were in the blood — numerous times.

Vent said he reconsidered his confession after sobering up.

“I just realized that… I wasn’t with Marvin. I wasn’t with George…. um… I know I blacked out from 3:00 until I got arrested. And I just, I got a chance to think. And I just realized that there’s no way I could’ve done nothing like this.”

Tuesday’s testimony by Vent and Pease followed that of George Frese last week. Marvin Roberts has yet to take the stand.

Dan Bross is a reporter at KUAC in Fairbanks.

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