Nikiski man charged with murder in his mother’s death

a sign outside says Nikiski, Alaska
The Nikiski, Alaska sign photographed in 2022. (Riley Board/KDLL)

A 20-year-old Nikiski man is facing a first-degree murder charge in the death of his mother.

Alaska State Troopers arrested 20-year-old River Aspelund on Tuesday after finding 49-year-old Jeryl Bates dead at their shared home. Bates’ daughter had asked police to check on her after Bates failed to show up for work.

After entering the home through a back door, troopers found Bates’ body with gunshot and stab wounds. Troopers say Aspelund was asleep and initially unresponsive in the home when they arrived, but he eventually woke, moved a dresser that was barricading the back entrance of the home, and was eventually detained.

Troopers returned later that day with a search warrant and found a bloody revolver and knife in a car in the driveway, along with mail and clothing belonging to Aspelund. An investigator also found empty bottles of bleach and cleaner and signs that Aspelund dragged Bates’ body inside the house.

Police haven’t pointed to a motive, but Aspelund’s sister told troopers that earlier that week her brother had taken a firearm out of a safe in her mother’s home and only returned it after she threatened to report him.

Aspelund was in custody at the Wildwood Pretrial Facility in Kenai on Friday. He is charged with murder in the first degree and tampering with evidence.

The Kenai Public Defender Agency, which is representing Aspelund, did not respond to requests for comment before this story aired.

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