Alaska in Brief

Alaska Department of Corrections reports 11th death in custody of 2022

By: - September 7, 2022 3:33 pm
This symbol is inside of the Alaska Department of Corrections office on Sept. 7, 2022, in Douglas, Alaska. (Photo by Lisa Phu/Alaska Beacon)

This symbol is outside of the Alaska Department of Corrections office on Sept. 7 in Douglas. This week, the department announced the 11th death of a person in custody this year. (Photo by Lisa Phu/Alaska Beacon)

The Alaska Department of Corrections has announced the 11th death of a person in custody this year. Bernie Alexia, 76, died in Goose Creek Correctional Center on Sept. 4, according to a Corrections press release on Tuesday. The department said it was an “expected death.”

With about four months left in the year, Corrections has already surpassed the nine in-custody deaths that took place last year. Of the deaths this year, several took place after only a short time in state care. The timing of some of those deaths has only recently become clear, after the department provided more information about the length of time they spent in custody in response to questions from the Beacon. 

The deaths of Kitty Douglas and Leefisher Tukrook, both in their 20s, were previously publicly reported by the Alaska State Troopers in its daily dispatch, but its reporting didn’t include the dates they were taken into custody.

Douglas, a 20-year-old White Mountain resident, died in Corrections custody after six days. Douglas was remanded on June 5 and died on June 11. According to the trooper dispatch, she was “located deceased by correctional staff” at Hiland Mountain Correctional Center.

Tukrook, 28, was remanded on June 5. Less than two weeks later, Tukrook “was found deceased in his cell” at Spring Creek Correctional Center, according to the trooper dispatch. “He was subsequently taken to a Seward area hospital where he was pronounced deceased,” it said. 

Jarvis Sours, 46, and Luke Dennis, 25, each spent months in Corrections custody before dying. Sours’ death was also previously reported by the troopers, but the date he went into custody wasn’t included. Dennis’ death was one of two deaths this year that went unreported publicly by the state, which a Corrections spokesperson called “an oversight.”

Sours went into custody on February 15 and died June 20. The trooper dispatch said Sours was “located unresponsive in his cell” at Anvil Mountain Correctional Center. “Despite life-saving efforts by DOC staff, Sours was declared deceased at the facility,” according to the dispatch.

Dennis was remanded Dec. 9, 2021, and died in Corrections custody on June 5, 2022. He was found unresponsive and pronounced death at Anchorage Correctional Complex.

As previously reported by the Beacon, 35-year-old Nastashia Minock and 34-year-old Austin Wilson each died after less than 24 hours in Corrections custody. Another person, David Bristow, 62, died within 18 days. All three deaths took place in August.

Fourteen people died in Corrections custody in 2020; COVID-19 was a contributing factor to five of those deaths. The department had four in-custody deaths in 2019. Within the past 10 years, Corrections saw the most deaths in 2015; 15 people died in custody that year.

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Lisa Phu
Lisa Phu

Lisa Phu covers justice, education, and culture for the Alaska Beacon. Previously, she spent eight years as an award-winning journalist, reporting for the Juneau Empire, KTOO Public Media, KSTK, and Wrangell Sentinel. She's also been Public Information Officer for the City and Borough of Juneau, lead facilitator for StoryCorps Alaska based in Utqiagvik, and a teacher in Tanzania and Bhutan. Originally from New York, Lisa is a first generation Chinese American and a mom of two young daughters. She can be contacted at [email protected]

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