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Press Release

Glennallen Man Charged in 1997 Slaying:
First Cold Case prosecution charges Derek Sawyer for killing his wife

SOA v. Derek Sawyer, 3GL-S06-25 CR

February 23, 2006

(Anchorage) - Susan Parkes, Deputy Attorney General for the Department of Law's Criminal Division, announced today that Derek Sawyer** has been charged with first degree murder for the death of Gretchen Sawyer in July 13, 1997. This is the first prosecution to be brought by Senior Assistant Attorney Rick Svobodny in his capacity as the state's cold case prosecutor.

"The cold case prosecutor position is a new addition to the department and I am pleased that we are already seeing results," said Parkes. "Rick has put the picture together in this case and I hope his efforts bring closure to the friends and family of Gretchen Sawyer."

Gretchen Sawyer was fatally shot in the home she shared with the defendant at Mile .5 of the Tok Cut Off Road. At the time Derek Sawyer claimed he was taking a shower when his wife was shot. He claimed that the couple's 29-month-old child had obtained the hand gun involved from a kitchen table and took it the bedroom where the gun was discharged.

"I want to credit the Alaska State Troopers Cold Case Homicide unit for their work in moving this matter forward to prosecution," said Svobodny. "I anticipate that through continued cooperation between our two departments that we will move forward in resolving a number of unsolved cases."

Derek Sawyer was indicted on Wednesday. Troopers arrested Sawyer on Thursday, February 23rd. He appeared before Valdez District Court Judge Daniel Schally this afternoon. Sawyer remains in custody. His bail was set at $500,000. His next court appearance is scheduled for Thursday, March 2nd at 3:00 p.m.

The cold case attorney position was funded in last year's department of law budget through the efforts of Representative Bill Stoltze (R-Chugiak). The position will be part of the Office of Special Prosecutions and Appeals. The Alaska State Troopers Cold Case Homicide Unit was created in 2004.

Any citizen with information about a cold case or tips regarding unsolved cases are urged to call the Alaska State Troopers at (907) 269-5611.

** The charges in this case are merely an accusation. Defendant Derek Sawyer is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.

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