Anchorage police arrest bail jumper for sexual assault of woman in tent

A tent with a gray tarp over over it set up with a kids playground in the distance.
A tent set up within Valley of The Moon Park in Anchorage on Monday, July 1, 2024. A woman sheltering in a tent nearby reported being sexually assaulted at gunpoint on June 4, followed by another’s woman’s report of an attempted sexual assault at knifepoint on June 8. (Adam Nicely/Alaska Public Media)

Anchorage police arrested a bail jumper last week accused of sexually assaulting and robbing a woman at gunpoint who was sheltering in a tent near a city park. Police say they’re also investigating a separate account of an attempted sexual assault at knifepoint in the same place four days later by a man with a similar description. 

Alesana Siaulaiga, a.k.a. Shadow, is being held at the Anchorage Correctional Complex on $50,000 bail. The 22-year-old is charged with two counts of sexual assault, one count of armed robbery and one count of assault, all felonies tied to the reported rape on June 4 near Valley of the Moon Park.

Siaulaiga pleaded not guilty and is being represented by the Public Defender Agency. His attorney Keith Thomas said Wednesday he had just been assigned the case and had no comment. 

Detective Robin Nave of the Anchorage Police Department’s Special Victims Unit is investigating the case. In a court filing seeking an arrest warrant for Siaulaiga, she relayed the victim’s account. The woman told Nave she woke up on the morning of June 4 to a stranger armed with a handgun unzipping her tent. She said he threatened to shoot her if she didn’t comply with his demands. After forcing her to have sex, she said the assailant stole her laptop and left.

Nave told the court she was also investigating an attempted sexual assault with a second woman that occurred a few days later – in the first victim’s now vacant tent.

The second victim told the detective she met her assailant for the first time when she was on a park bench on June 8. They chatted and then they walked into the treeline to the tent that he indicated was his. Then, at knifepoint, he took her phone and forced her in. She convinced him to let her go outside to relieve herself, then was able to push him away, but cut her hand on the knife. She ran and screamed for help, according to Nave.

Nave wrote that the second attack is still under investigation, but she believes Siaulaiga is connected to the assault.

Anchorage police spokesperson Renee Oistad declined to say if there are other open sexual assault or attempted sexual assault cases targeting victims who shelter in tents in Anchorage. 

“Due to protecting the integrity of the investigation, we do not discuss active sexual assault cases unless/until charges are filed,” she said in an email. 

Nave told the court that the two women did not know each other. Nor did they know their assailant. They gave similar physical descriptions of their assailant and both noted his Samoan accent. 

Oistad said the Special Victims Unit doesn’t encounter sexual assault cases very often where the victim and assailant are strangers. According to Bureau of Justice Statistics data analyzed by the RAINN, the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network, only about 1 in 5 rape victims are assaulted by a stranger. 

Nave, the detective, told the court that while neither woman was able to positively identify Siaulaiga in a photo lineup, DNA recovered from the first victim matched an existing profile for him in a database law enforcement agencies use. 

Before his arrest last week, Siaulaiga was already wanted for six felonies and four misdemeanors for theft, assault, armed robbery and failing to appear in court after being bailed out. Those charges were filed last October and November. 

Academic researchers have long found that people without homes are the victims of violence and sexual violence at extraordinarily high rates compared to the general population. 

The National Coalition for the Homeless believes there’s a direct link between the criminalization of homelessness and the violence people without homes experience. 

“Criminalizing homelessness not only villainizes people experiencing homelessness; it also forces them into isolation, making them easy targets for those intent on causing harm to them,” wrote the authors of a May coalition report

The U.S. Supreme Court last week overturned a Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals precedent that had protected homeless people in Alaska and other western states from punishment for camping in public spaces when they have nowhere else to go.

The coalition warned that the “ruling could open the door to mass criminalization of people experiencing homelessness, which in turn could lead to more lost lives.”Former Anchorage Mayor Dave Bronson supported the ruling, while the new Mayor Suzanne LaFrance said it shouldn’t distract from real solutions like housing, shelter and access to treatment.

Editor’s note: If you need to someone to talk to about or resources for surviving sexual assault, the nonprofit STAR runs a free, 24-hour statewide hotline at 1-800-478-8999.

a portrait of a man outside

Jeremy Hsieh covers Anchorage with an emphasis on housing, homelessness, infrastructure and development. Reach him atjhsieh@alaskapublic.orgor 907-550-8428. Read more about Jeremyhere.

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