After hearing conflicting evidence from multiple witnesses of a fatal stabbing, a Juneau grand jury last week chose not to indict a 19-year-old teenager on murder charges.
“No true bill,” “No true bill,” “No true bill,” reads the Dec. 11 indictment issued against Kevin S. Nauska, who told investigating police officers that he stabbed 37-year-old Jordon Sharclane and his son Michael Sharclane, also 19, in self-defense.
Prosecutors on that day had tried to indict Nauska on two counts of second-degree murder and manslaughter for killing the elder Sharclane, and first-degree assault for injuring the younger Sharclane, during a confrontation at a Douglas Island apartment in the early morning hours of Dec. 6.
Manslaughter was the only charge that stuck.
Nauska was arraigned Thursday in Juneau Superior Court and pleaded not guilty to the charge, a class ‘A’ felony that can carry up to 20 years in prison. His court-appointed attorney, Eve Soutiere of the Office of Public Advocacy, requested a jury trial, which Judge Louis Menendez scheduled for March.
Members of the Sharclane family who attended Thursday’s hearing grappled with the grand jury’s charging decision. Archie Lee, one of Jordon Sharclane’s uncles, called it a disappointment.
“You don’t kill anybody over anything,” he said, sitting in the lobby with another family member, Fran Warden. “You just give it (property) back to them.”
“What was the sense? What was the logic behind all that?” Warden asked of the killing. “If (Nauska) was scared, why didn’t he just hand it back to them, if that’s what they were thinking. Why did he kill somebody?”
The Sharclane family said previously that they believe Nauska stole Michael Sharclane’s property — a cell phone and iPod — which led Michael and Jordon Sharclane to confront Nauska about it at his Cedar Park apartment on Foster Avenue, where the stabbing took place.
Friends of Nauska, on the other hand, firmly believe that the second-degree murder charges were rightly dropped by the grand jury. Two teenage girls attended Thursday’s court hearing to lend him support.
“He’s a good guy,” 17-year-old Kylie McKee said. “He wouldn’t have done it if he didn’t need to.”
“Obviously, killing Jordon was an accident,” Sequoia Miller, 16, said. “The only reason why Jordon was involved is because Mikey was sort of getting physical with Kevin, then Jordon came in, and then Kevin just started trying to protect himself after that.”
“Mikey and Jordon are big guys,” Miller added, “and Kevin is pretty small.”
After the two girls left the lobby, Archie Lee had more to say.
“In spite of what other people say,” Lee said, “Jordon might be a big guy, but he’d never hurt a fly. … He was easy to get along with, he got along with everybody.”
Few details released
Exactly what happened the morning of the stabbing is still not known — police have yet to discuss their investigation, and much of the details are not yet in the public record, precluding prosecutors from talking about it.
Juneau District Attorney James Scott was able to shed some light on what happened during an interview at his office this week.
According to Scott, the evening began with five teenagers drinking down at Sandy Beach: Michael Sharclane, his cousin, Nauska, and two other friends. At some point in the evening, Michael Sharclane left with his cousin to another apartment complex, and Nauska and the two others went back to the Cedar Park apartments.
“Michael’s upset because he thinks these other three guys have stolen his … black hoodie,” Scott said. “… So Michael enlists the help of his father, Jordon, and Jordon gets the help of his brother, Robert. So Jordon, Robert and (a) cousin, Carl, go over (to the Cedar Parks Apartment).”
That would have been a little before 4 a.m. on Dec. 6. Inside the apartment was Nauska and the two friends, as well as two or three other people who lived at the apartment, Scott said. Two of those residents witnessed the event and testified before the grand jury, Scott said.
“Some of the evidence was that Michael forcefully went there to recover his property and … confronted Mr. Nauska, and Mr. Nauska said, ‘Leave or I’ll use force,’ words to that effect,” Scott said.
According to criminal information the DA’s office filed against Nauska earlier, Nauska told police that he told the Sharclanes to leave, and threatened to stab them if they didn’t. When they refused, he went to the kitchen, got a knife and stabbed Michael Sharclane.
“Shortly thereafter, (Jordon) Sharclane started hitting Nauska. Nauska responded by ‘poking’ (Jordan) Sharclane with the knife,” Assistant District Attorney Angie Kemp wrote in the probable cause document.
The Juneau Police Department received multiple 911 calls to the residence at about 3:49 a.m. Responding officers found Jordon Sharclane dead at the scene, and Michael Sharclane with stab wounds to his stomach. He was rushed to the hospital and underwent surgery, and is still recovering from his injuries.
JPD arrested Nauska later in the day on suspicion of first-degree murder and attempted murder, but the DA never brought those charges to court. Instead, he brought the lesser second-degree murder, manslaughter and first-degree assault charges.
The grand jury then decided the state didn’t have enough evidence to proceed on those charges, except the manslaughter charge.
At the grand jury hearing, which is secret and not open to the public, 13 people testified, according to a list of witnesses on a copy on the indictment. They were four police officers, a doctor and eight witnesses, including the stabbing victim who just lost his father, Michael Sharclane.
Some of the evidence from all the different witnesses was conflicting, Scott said. Scott also provided the grand jury with legal instructions about self-defense, even though the law did not require him to.
“I wanted the grand jury to hear all of the evidence, all of the evidence about the event, even if it conflicted, because it’s their job to sort it out,” he said of the grand jury.
In his summation of the event during an interview, Scott only mentioned a stolen black hoodie and nothing about a cell phone or iPod. When asked about it, he said there were allegations of a missing phone and iPod, but neither was recovered from Nauska’s apartment. The iPod was recovered elsewhere, he noted.
“Turns out, it appears that wasn’t involved at all,” he said. He added that he doesn’t know if the cell phone was ever recovered.
He did note, however, that the evidence at trial would show the black hoodie was recovered from Nauska’s apartment.
DA: Charge makes sense
Scott said the grand jury’s charging decision makes sense from a legal standpoint. The grand jury must have found that Nauska acted in self-defense when he stabbed Michael Sharclane, hence no first-degree assault charge, he said. As far as the murder charges go for stabbing Jordon Sharclane, the DA said he didn’t think the grand jury could have found self-defense there because the self-defense claim would have also shielded Nauska from being indicted on the manslaughter charge.
“They could not have found self-defense on those because that would have covered manslaughter, too,” Scott said. “I mean, they were instructed on that.”
So why did the manslaughter charge stick? Scott said maybe because it’s the “least clearly defined” homicide statute on the books and “the one that leaves the most discretion up to the jury.” Manslaughter is defined in state statutes as causing the death of another person — either intentionally, knowingly or recklessly — under circumstances not amounting to first- or second-degree murder.
In the courtroom on Friday, Scott revised his bail request, given that Nauska is now only facing the manslaughter charge. Nauska was originally being held on $100,000 bond, and Judge Menendez halved that upon Scott’s request. Defense attorney Soutiere signalled to the judge that she would like to request that to be lowered even more sometime in the near future to either $5,000 or $10,000.
Fran Warden couldn’t help but cry after the hearing in the lobby. No matter what happened or led up to the stabbing, she said, her family is still grieving the loss of Jordon Sharclane. Sharclane was married and left behind his wife, five children, grandchildren, three brothers and his mother, Myrna Brown.
“I mean, this is how I am,” Warden said, wiping away tears in frustration. “This is how I’ve been since the whole thing started. I can’t get by it. I can’t imagine how my cousin Myrna feels. My heart has just been ripped open. I just want him back so bad.”