A Palmer man was convicted of ten felonies following three home invasions that resulted in two deaths, as well as setting the bodies and detached garage on fire. (Courtesy Photo / DOJ)

A Palmer man was convicted of ten felonies following three home invasions that resulted in two deaths, as well as setting the bodies and detached garage on fire. (Courtesy Photo / DOJ)

Palmer man convicted of murder in string of robberies

The man committed multiple home invasions near Wasilla, targeting houses allegedly involved in drug trafficking.

A Palmer man was convicted of 10 separate felonies — including two counts of murder — on Tuesday afternoon by a federal jury in Anchorage. The charges stem from a series of armed home invasions and robberies in 2015 and 2016.

John Pearl Smith II, 36, was arrested for charges stemming from three robberies of residences Smith allegedly believed were involved in drug trafficking in Wasilla over a roughly one-year period that resulted in two deaths, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.

The first robbery occurred in September 2015, when Smith, armed with a rifle, kicked in the door in of a house that was the location of a marijuana growing operation. Smith fired a round to scare the resident, and stole drugs, firearms and jewelry, according to the DOJ.

A Palmer man was convicted of ten felonies including two murders, following which he attempted to conceal this revolver by burying it in a marsh. (Courtesy Photo / DOJ)

A Palmer man was convicted of ten felonies including two murders, following which he attempted to conceal this revolver by burying it in a marsh. (Courtesy Photo / DOJ)

The second incident occurred in May of 2016, according to the department. Smith identified the residence of an alleged drug dealer, forced his way in, bound the occupants with duct tape, and robbed the residence, stealing heroin, cash and a .22 caliber revolver.

On June 5, 2016, Smith traveled to a residence in Wasilla owned by Ben Gross, encountering Gross, Crystal Denardi and another man when Smith kicked in the door of a detached garage, according to the DOJ. Smith fired several rounds into the ceiling, before Gross threw a beer bottle at Smith. Smith shot Gross several times, killing him, according to the DOJ.

Smith held the two remaining people at gunpoint while he searched the garage for drugs or anything else to steal, according to the department, but was unable to locate any. Smith then shot Denardi in the back of the head, killing her, and shot the other man in the chest as he attempted to escape, the DOJ said. The third victim was able to escape in a kayak, paddling across Cloudy Lake, where a homeowner called 911.

Still at the scene, Smith poured gasoline on the dead bodies and set the garage on fire, according to the DOJ.

Smith was arrested on June 28, 2016. Investigators located the revolver involved in the crimes in a marshy area where Smith had concealed it, as well as a map in Smith’s handwriting to the site of the weapon, according to the DOJ.

Smith was convicted of two counts of using a firearm to commit murder in relation to drug trafficking, two counts of interference with commerce by robbery, one count of attempted interference with commerce by robbery, three counts of attempted possession of controlled substance with intent to distribute, and two counts of brandishing a firearm in relation to a drug trafficking crime, according to the DOJ.

These charges carry a mandatory minimum sentence of 34 years, according to the DOJ, with a maximum sentence of life imprisonment. A federal district court judge will sentence Smith at a future date.

The Drug Enforcement Administration, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and Alaska State Troopers were involved in the investigation.

Read the Department of Justice news release below:

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