A Yakutat Borough Police Department vehicle sits in front of the site of a fatal stabbing in Yakutat on Sunday, Oct. 14, 2018. (Courtesy Photo | Yakutat Borough Police Department)

A Yakutat Borough Police Department vehicle sits in front of the site of a fatal stabbing in Yakutat on Sunday, Oct. 14, 2018. (Courtesy Photo | Yakutat Borough Police Department)

Drunken jealousy spurred stabbing, witness speculates

Witness, suspect give different accounts of Yakutat murder circumstances

The only witness and the suspect in a murder in Yakutat earlier this month gave very different accounts to investigators after the crime, according to charging documents filed in the case.

John Lee Stapleton, 46, faces three counts of second-degree murder for the stabbing death of 61-year-old John Fergerson, Jr. in the early hours of Oct. 14, according to an indictment released Friday. The two longtime friends were in Yakutat on a fishing trip with Stapleton’s ex-girlfriend and her father, according to charging documents, when Fergerson was stabbed three times.

Alaska State Troopers Andrew Adams and Ted Nordgaarden investigated the death and interviewed both Stapleton and the ex-girlfriend, according to their report in the charging document. Stapleton told the troopers that he and Fergerson had been drinking beer and vodka throughout the day Saturday and that sometime during the day Fergerson got mad at Stapleton. Later in the day, Stapleton told troopers, he was in the kitchen eating steak and pie and had a knife in his hand to cut the steak.

Fergerson continued to be upset with Stapleton and aggressively came at Stapleton, Stapleton told Adams and Nordgaarden. Stapleton pushed Fergerson away, and indicated to the investigators that he was still holding the knife in his hand as he pushed Fergerson away multiple times. Fergerson then fell to the floor and Stapleton saw blood in Fergerson’s mouth, according to his account to investigators.

The ex-girlfriend’s account differs from Stapleton’s account, according to charging documents. The woman was not named in the indictment, only being referred to as the “female witness.” She told Adams and Nordgaarden that she had also been drinking with Stapleton and Fergerson that day, and that Stapleton was very drunk and had gone to bed. She told the troopers that she didn’t remember Fergerson being upset with Stapleton earlier in the day.

She and Fergerson sat in the living room watching TV when Fergerson asked her to walk around the room in her underwear, according to her account to investigators. She refused, and left the unit to go outside. Charging documents don’t say where she went or how long she was gone.

When she came back in, she found Fergerson on the floor with blood coming from his mouth and saw Stapleton begin doing CPR on Fergerson, the investigators’ report states.

“She speculated Stapleton may have overheard Fergerson asking her to walk around in her underwear, causing a jealous reaction,” Adams and Nordgaarden’s report reads.

Investigators on the scene found a knife with a black blade and black handle underneath Fergerson’s shirt, the charging document alleges. The knife was a Homehero brand knife, with an eight-inch, smooth-handled blade, the report reads.

Adams and Nordgaarden wrote that Stapleton had a fresh cut on his hand just under his right pinky.

In an earlier interview, Yakutat Borough Police Chief Robert Beasley told the Empire that the woman had called 911 twice that night. On the first call, she told police to come to the Weather Service housing unit they were staying in, and the second call was much more urgent, stating that someone wasn’t breathing, Beasley said.

The indictment released Friday mentions one 911 call at 3:20 a.m. It also states that Fergerson was pronounced dead at 3:51 a.m.

Other cases

• Jesus M. Maldonado, 47, was indicted for one count of scheming to defraud one or more people of more than $10,000, according to the Juneau grand jury’s indictment, Maldonado is also known as Jose Francisco Piron-Damian, according to the indictment. The fraud is alleged to have occurred from March 5, 2003 to March 29, 2015 in Juneau. Fraud is a class B felony.

• Jon Vincent Bonifacio, 33, was indicted on three counts of unsworn falsification and two charges of second-degree theft. The indictment alleges Bonifacio made false statements on his Permanent Fund Dividend applications in 2015, 2016 and 2017.

• Contact reporter Alex McCarthy at 523-2271 or amccarthy@juneauempire.com. Follow him on Twitter at @akmccarthy.

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