Laron Carlton Graham listens to his attorney, Natasha Norris, in Juneau Superior Court on Tuesday, Sept. 3, 2019, during his trial on two counts of first-degree murder for the Nov. 15, 2015 shooting deaths of 36-year-old Robert H. Meireis and 34-year-old Elizabeth K. Tonsmeire. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Laron Carlton Graham listens to his attorney, Natasha Norris, in Juneau Superior Court on Tuesday, Sept. 3, 2019, during his trial on two counts of first-degree murder for the Nov. 15, 2015 shooting deaths of 36-year-old Robert H. Meireis and 34-year-old Elizabeth K. Tonsmeire. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Double murder trial shines light on Juneau drug scene

The investigation turned up many interesting witnesses.

Editor’s Note: This article contains the use of a racial slur and could be offensive to some readers.

A double murder trial in Juneau is shining light on Alaska’s capital city drug scene.

The trial against 42-year-old Laron Carlton Graham — who is facing two counts of first-degree murder for the shooting deaths of Robert Meireis and Elizabeth Tonsmeire — began in Juneau Superior Court this week, and has featured a colorful cast of witnesses during the first three days of testimony.

Elizabeth Tonsmeire, 34, and Robby Meireis, 36, were killed in a double murder in Douglas in 2015.

Elizabeth Tonsmeire, 34, and Robby Meireis, 36, were killed in a double murder in Douglas in 2015.

Drug dealer. Skinhead. Brusque. Violent. Quick to judge. Volatile. Braggadocious.

That’s how witnesses — former prison acquaintances, drug users who had purchased methamphetamine, and people who’d partied with him before his death — have described Meireis. Meireis and Tonsmeire were found dead in Tonsmeire’s Douglas apartment in November 2015.

“The only reason I knew (he dealt drugs) is because he was kind of braggadocious about it,” said David Williams, who knew Meireis from prison. “He wanted you know about it.”

Williams said he got lunch with Meireis the day of his death, recalling Meireis’ arrogant personality and fixation on flashing his cash and firearms.

“He had a lot of guns,” Williams said.

David Williams answers questions from the witness stand in Juneau Superior Court on Wednesday, Sept. 4, 2019, during the trial of Laron Carlton Graham on two counts of first-degree murder for the November 2015 shooting deaths of 36-year-old Robert H. Meireis and 34-year-old Elizabeth K. Tonsmeire. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

David Williams answers questions from the witness stand in Juneau Superior Court on Wednesday, Sept. 4, 2019, during the trial of Laron Carlton Graham on two counts of first-degree murder for the November 2015 shooting deaths of 36-year-old Robert H. Meireis and 34-year-old Elizabeth K. Tonsmeire. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Prosecutors believe the murders were a result of a bad sale of drugs by Meireis to Graham, based on an alleged confession Graham made to a fellow prisoner while incarcerated.

According to prosecutor John Darnall’s opening statements, Graham went to seek recompense for a dodgy batch of heroin. Meireis — allegedly a white nationalist, a theory given credence by photos of his Nazi-themed tattoos — declined to refund Graham and called him the N-word. Graham, who is African-American, allegedly took exception to the racial slur and shot Meireis in the face, and then killed Tonsmeire to cover up the crime, Darnall’s theory goes.

The defense, meanwhile, maintains there’s no forensic evidence proving that. There’s also no witnesses to the deaths, or murder weapon, Defense Attorney Natasha Norris said in her opening statements at the start of the week.

At the time in 2015, police and investigators cast a wide net interviewing anyone who might have information that would develop the case. Sometimes, those sources came to them.

“As a group of people, they understand that kind of behavior is not OK and they come forward,” Juneau Police Department Lt. Krag Campbell told the Empire.

It’s not unusual for people involved with drug users or connected to the trade to come forward to offer information after a violent crime, Campbell said.

“If someone’s in the drug scene and commit a crime, the people who know about that are probably going to be affiliated,” he said.

Police sergeant testifies on crime scene photos, drug use in double murder trial

Fate Wilson, a witness in the case, said on the witness stand he purchased methamphetamine from Meireis hours before Meireis died. He might have been one of the last people to see Meireis alive, besides the killer.

“I was buying drugs from him,” Wilson said.

Wilson, along with others who knew Meireis, either directly or indirectly through his business selling methamphetamine, are often some of the best sources of information for the investigation, Campbell said.

“My experience in Juneau, there’s a lot of people who are involved in the drug scene, but there isn’t as much violence as a bigger city,” Campbell, who has been with JPD for 17 years, said.

Wilson was one of a number of people who dealt, directly or indirectly, with Meireis in his unsavory trade. The web of witnesses who knew of Meireis in his chosen occupation has expanded with each day of the trial.

Others from Meireis’ social circle knew him in other ways.

“I knew Meireis better than most,” said James Barrett, no stranger to controversy himself. “He was an elusive man.”

James Barrett is questioned by Defense Attorney Natasha Norris in Juneau Superior Court on Wednesday, Sept. 4, 2019, during the trial of Laron Carlton Graham on two counts of first-degree murder for the November 2015 shooting deaths of 36-year-old Robert H. Meireis and 34-year-old Elizabeth K. Tonsmeire. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

James Barrett is questioned by Defense Attorney Natasha Norris in Juneau Superior Court on Wednesday, Sept. 4, 2019, during the trial of Laron Carlton Graham on two counts of first-degree murder for the November 2015 shooting deaths of 36-year-old Robert H. Meireis and 34-year-old Elizabeth K. Tonsmeire. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Barrett testified during the trial that he had suspicions about what Meireis did, but never confirmed them. Barrett also knew Tonsmeire, loaning her his truck, and talking and texting with her in the weeks before her murder.

The trial will continue on Tuesday.


• Contact reporter Michael S. Lockett at 523-2271 or mlockett@juneauempire.com.


More in News

A Princess Cruise Line ship is docked in Juneau on Aug. 25, 2021. (Michael Lockett / Juneau Empire File)
Ships in Port for the week of Sept. 18

Here’s what to expect this week.

An Alaska judge has ruled that a state lawmaker affiliated with the Oath Keepers, Rep. David Eastman, shown in this February 2022 photo, may stay on the general election ballot in November even though he's likely ineligible to hold public office  (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire File)
Judge keeps Oath Keepers lawmaker on November ballot

Judge ordered delaying certifying the result of the race until a trial scheduled for December.

Water rushes down Front Street, just a half block from the Bering Sea, in Nome, Alaska, on Saturday, Sept. 17, 2022 as the remnants of Typhoon Merbok moved into the region. It was a massive storm system — big enough to cover the mainland U.S. from the Pacific Ocean to Nebraska and from Canada to Texas. It influenced weather systems as far away as California, where a rare late-summer storm dropped rain on the northern part of the state, offering a measure of relief to wildfire crews but also complicating fire suppression efforts because of mud and loosened earth. (AP Photo / Peggy Fagerstrom)
Repair work begins in some Alaska towns slammed by storm

ANCHORAGE — There’s been significant damage to some roads and homes in… Continue reading

j
Sniffen indicted on sexual abuse counts

Sniffen will be arraigned Monday.

In this undated file photo the Trans-Alaska pipeline and pump station north of Fairbanks, Alaska is shown. (AP Photo / Al Grillo)
Oil price drop endangers plan to fund Alaska schools a year early

If oil prices fall, amount is automatically reduced to an amount the state can afford. At

(Michael Penn / Juneau Empire File)
Juneau Police Department announces technology and reporting updates

Emergeny services and direct reporting will not be interrupted

The hoverfly can perceive electrical fields around the edges of the petals, the big white stigma, and the stamens. (Courtesy Photo / Bob Armstrong)
On the Trails: Electric flowers and platform plants

You cannot see it, it’s electric.

(Juneau Empire File / Michael Penn)
Police calls for Tuesday, Sept. 20, 2022

This report contains public information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

Most Read