A Juneau teenager accused of stabbing two people at a Douglas apartment Thursday morning, killing a 37-year-old father and injuring the man’s 19-year-old son, made his first court appearance Friday.
Juneau District Court Judge Thomas Nave ordered Kevin Scott Nauska, 19, be held behind bars on $100,000 cash bail. If Nauska were to post bail, he would be placed with a third-party custodian approved by the court.
Nauska was arrested Thursday on suspicion of first-degree murder and attempted murder for the death of Jordon J. Sharclane and for injuring Michael Sharclane.
“What’s alleged here is knife play resulting in the death of someone,” Juneau District Attorney James Scott said in court for the high bail amount, arguing while Nauska does not have a criminal record, he’s still a flight risk given the amount of jail time he’s facing. “Very serious offense,” Scott said. “This type of alleged behavior presents a profound danger to the community.”
Juneau police and medics responded to multiple reports of a stabbing at the Cedar Park apartment complex on Foster Avenue on Douglas a little before 4 a.m. Thursday. Jordon Sharclane was pronounced dead at the scene. Police found the younger Sharclane, Michael, with stab wounds so serious that they caused his “intestines to protrude from his stomach,” a prosecutor put it in charging court documents. Michael Sharclane was taken to Bartlett Regional Hospital, underwent surgery and is expected to recover from his injuries, his family said.
Police have yet to speculate on a motive for the stabbing. A department spokesperson only said there was a property dispute over “at least one or two items” that preceded the incident. Likewise, prosecutors did not note any possible motive during the court hearing or in charging documents.
Members of the Sharclane family, however, described the stabbing as senseless and said it was over a stolen cell phone and iPod. Ellen Marie Sharclane Gomez, Jordon Sharclane’s eldest daughter, told the Empire that Nauska stole her brother’s phone and iPod, and that Michael and Jordon went to the Cedar Park apartment to recover the items from him. Another Sharclane family member was at the apartment as well.
It’s not yet clear who was renting the apartment, which is in an affordable housing complex managed by the Alaska Housing Finance Corporation. Also unknown is the number of people who were inside the apartment at the time. Charging court documents indicate there were multiple witnesses.
Prosecutors said they are unsure at this time whether Nauska was drinking alcohol that evening.
Murder charges reduced
Seated in the courtroom Friday, Nauska flipped through the charging documents and remained quiet except when asked to speak. He was handcuffed and shackled next to other Lemon Creek Correctional Center inmates.
Many people were in the courtroom during hearing — at least 10 people with misdemeanor citations were in public seating for their own hearings during the same time slot — so it wasn’t clear whether anyone was there to support Nauska.
Nauska told Judge Nave he couldn’t afford to hire an attorney, and Nave appointed a public defender with the state’s Office of Public Advocacy to represent him. The public defender’s office had a conflict with the case and withdrew its involvement.
Although police arrested Nauska on suspicion of first-degree murder and first-degree attempted murder, first- and third-degree assault and tampering with physical evidence, Juneau District Attorney Scott did not charge him with first-degree murder. Scott charged him with five felonies: two reduced counts of second-degree murder — both relate to Jordon Sharclane’s death but under different theories of intent — second-degree attempted murder, first-degree assault and manslaughter.
First- and second-degree murder are unclassified felonies that can carry up to 99 years in prison, but first-degree murder has a minimum sentence of 20 years; second-degree has a minimum of 10. Manslaughter and first-degree assault are the least serious; both are a class ‘A’ felonies punishable by up to 20 years in prison.
Scott told the Empire he chose not to bring first-degree murder charges in part based on the limited information investigators have at this time.
“We’re still very early in this investigation and based on the facts we know right now, we believe that the more appropriate charge is murder in the second degree,” Scott said in an interview. “However … that could change at grand jury. There’s lots of work to be done between now and then.”
“At this stage, we charge what we feel most confident in out of an abundance of caution,” he added.
He said that charges are always subject to change “up, down or sideways” prior to trial, and a grand jury could still choose to indict Nauska on first-degree murder charges. A grand jury will likely be convened to hear the case against Nauska next Friday.
One factor that played a role in the charge of second-degree murder rather than first-degree is Nauska is claiming self-defense.
According to a probable cause statement filed by the DA’s office, Nauska told investigating police officers that he asked the Sharclanes to leave his apartment and that he stabbed them when they didn’t.
“Officers interviewed Nauska who admitted to stabbing M. Sharclane and J. Sharclane,” reads a portion of the probable cause statement, filed Friday by Assistant District Attorney Angie Kemp. “Nauska claimed he acted in self-defense. Nauska further said that M. Sharclane and J. Sharclane came to his residence, and he told M. Sharclane to leave. Nauska told M. Sharclane if he did not leave, Nauska would stab him. M. Sharclane did not leave, and Nauska retrieved a knife from his kitchen and stabbed M. Sharclane. Shortly thereafter, J. Sharclane (the father of M. Sharclane) started hitting Nauska. Nauska responded by ‘poking’ J. Sharclane with the knife.”
Under Alaska statutes, the use of deadly force is justified if necessary for self-defense against death, serious physical injury, kidnapping, sexual assault in the first- and second-degree, sexual abuse of a minor in the first degree and robbery in any degree.
A subsection of the statute says that deadly force is not justified if the person could have left the “area of encounter” knowing he or she had complete safety for self and those being defended. The subsection further specifies, though, that there is “no duty to leave the area” if the person using self-defense is on premises that the person owns or leases, where the person resides (temporarily or permanently) or was a guest or invited resident.
On Friday, Scott said in an interview that it’s too early to tell if it was legally justified. The claim, though, did influence the charging decisions because it speaks to intent, Scott said.
“That’s certainly one of the factors that we’re looking at but it’s too early for me to state whether in fact it appears as though there’s a winning self defense issue in this case — far too early for me to say,” Scott said. “But what it addresses really is whether or not at this point in time we can show the necessary formation of specific intent to support a conviction for murder in the first degree.”
To convict Nauska of first-degree murder, prosecutors would have to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he intended to cause the death of Jordon Sharclane. To convict him of second-degree murder, prosecutors have to prove that he only intended to cause Sharclane serious physical injury but that he knew stabbing him would be “substantially certain” to cause his death. The other theory of intent for second-degree murder alleges that Nauska caused Sharclane’s death “under circumstances manifesting an extreme indifference to the value of human life.”
Police also arrested Nauska on suspicion of tampering with physical evidence — a felony offense that relates to Nauska’s admission of running down the street and throwing the knife into the woods after the stabbing. Nauska, who was found at the crime scene and was immediately detained for questioning, described the location of the knife, and Juneau police officers later recovered it in the area.
DA Scott said he decided not to charge that tampering offense at this time.
“What we will need to do, on the eve of presenting the case to the grand jury, is review the evidence and determine whether or not it fits the statute and the case law,” he said. “We proceed very cautiously at this stage, but we’ll see what we have by the time we get to grand jury.”
Nauska’s next court hearing is scheduled for Dec. 14, but that will be vacated if a grand jury indicts him before then. At that time, the case will be transferred to Juneau Superior Court, which handles felony cases.