- Associated Press - Monday, April 14, 2014

JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) - A jury convicted a Montana man of second-degree murder in the 1996 shooting death of his girlfriend at a lodge in Yakutat after failing to reach a verdict on a higher level charge.

The judge declared a mistrial late Friday on a first-degree murder charge for Robert Kowalski. Juneau Superior Court Judge Louis Menendez scheduled a hearing for Thursday when the state could ask for a retrial, KTOO reported (https://is.gd/1OGrsA ).

A sentencing date on the conviction will be set after Thursday’s hearing.

Kowalski was charged with killing Sandra M. Perry while the couple were on vacation at Glacier Bear Lodge in Yakutat. Kowalski and Perry then lived in Washington state, and he later moved to Montana.

Alaska investigators at first concluded the death was accidental. The case was reopened after Kowalski was convicted of killing another girlfriend six years ago. Both women were shot in the head at close range, and Kowalski claimed both were accidents.

Kowalski did not testify at his Alaska trial but told investigators at the time that he and Perry, 39, who was from the Seattle area, heard a noise outside their room at the lodge. He said he grabbed a 12-gauge shotgun and walked to the window as Perry sat on the bed. He walked back from the window, tripped on a bed leg and fell on her, he said.

Perry startled him by saying “Boo!” and when he pushed himself off her, the gun fired, he said.

Kowalski, who was 35 in 1996, was not charged initially, and Alaska State Troopers even destroyed evidence because officers concluded it would never go to trial, Assistant Public Defender Eric Hedland said during the trial.

But then, Kowalski, whose last address was in Creston, Mont., was convicted of criminally negligent homicide in the 2008 shooting death of Lorraine Kay Morin near her house in Columbia Falls, Mont. That led to the reopening of the Alaska case.

After the Montana shooting, Kowalski fled to his home and was arrested after a 31-hour standoff.


Information from: KTOO-FM, https://www.ktoo.org

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