- Associated Press - Thursday, April 9, 2015

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) - The Alaska State Troopers unit that works on solving old murder cases faces elimination under the proposed budget lawmakers are considering.

The state says it would save $383,000 a year if the cold-case unit is cut, the Alaska Dispatch News newspaper in Anchorage reported (http://is.gd/hZnFaz ).

Gov. Bill Walker asked the Department of Public Safety, of which the troopers are a part, and other state agencies to identify potential cuts. The department’s administrative services director, Kelly Howell, said cutting the cold-case unit was among the DPS recommendations.

If the unit is cut, four positions would be eliminated as of June 30.

Its investigations have led to new arrests or charges in nine cases since it was founded in 2002, according to Alaska State Troopers Director James Cockrell.

The solved cases include the 1994 murder of 18-year-old Bonnie Craig, who was raped before being dropped off a ledge near McHugh Creek south of Anchorage. DNA linked a man to the crime in 2006, after the unit began looking at the case. Kenneth Dion, who has denied killing the teenager, was sentenced to 124 years in prison after his conviction in 2011.

When the unit was established, troopers had a backlog of more than 100 cold cases, Cockrell said. Of those handled by the unit, 27 were closed after being found impossible to further investigate.

The unit’s investigators are based in Anchorage, Soldotna and Fairbanks. The unit is looking at 74 cases for further investigation. Of those, 33 are in Anchorage and the Matanuska-Susitna Borough, 22 are in Fairbanks, nine are on the Kenai Peninsula and 10 are from other parts of Alaska.

“It’s a slow, methodical method that the investigators use,” Cockrell said. “They have time to focus.”

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Information from: Alaska Dispatch News, http://www.adn.com

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