Former Skagway resident charged with manslaughter in 2 overdose deaths

a police vehicle
A Skagway Police Department vehicle (File/KHNS)

After a lengthy investigation, an arrest has been made in the overdose deaths of two men who took fentanyl last year in Skagway.

Jacob Cotton, 33, was taken into custody at the Juneau Airport by Skagway Police Chief Jerry Reddick and Officer James Michels. Cotton is charged with two counts of manslaughter and misconduct involving a controlled substance. He is being held at the Lemon Creek Correctional Center in Juneau.

Reddick was pleased with the development.

“It’s something that the families needed,” he says. “It’s something that our community needed.”

Anthony Bowers, 28, and James Cook, 44, died of overdoses the weekend of Jan. 13, 2023. Bowers and Cook were the first Skagway deaths officially linked to fentanyl.

According to the police department, Cotton provided fentanyl to Bowers, who then gave it to Cook. In a charging document against Cotton, police said Cotton had allegedly shipped the drugs to Skagway from Washington, and that Bowers had talked to Cotton online about selling the pills in Skagway.

Reddick says Cotton is officially a resident of Washington, but was doing work in northern Alaska. Cotton lived in Skagway intermittently and moved away a few years before the deaths.

Reddick says he understands when people get frustrated an arrest didn’t happen sooner. There is a process to follow. Once evidence is compiled, it must be sent to federal authorities, who decide if federal charges will be filed. The federal authorities declined, and it became the jurisdiction of the state district attorney.

At times, Reddick says he was frustrated. He approached the state senator’s office for help. 

“The main thing is that, you know, it takes our entire community to make this possible,” he says. “We work diligently. I can’t praise Officer Michels enough for his dedication, his hard work. And this, I mean, there’s countless hours in this.”

Cotton’s next hearing is scheduled for June 14.

Previous articleStedman confident education funding will survive the governor’s desk
Next articleYukon River communities balance conservation, survival amid near-total salmon fishing closures