Jan 9, 2004
Taxi driver in fair condition after being stabbed
Juneau police looking for man, woman who fled scene after robbery
By TONY CARROLL
A cab driver was listed in fair condition at Bartlett Regional Hospital late Thursday, a day after tangling with a man who police say robbed him at knifepoint.
Eric Drake, 37, was stabbed repeatedly, said his boss, Juneau Taxi and Tours Manager Roland Harris.
The company is offering a $500 reward for the arrest and conviction of the man and woman involved in the robbery, and Drake's co-workers are taking up a collection, Harris said.
He said Drake's wife was the cab company's dispatcher on duty when Drake was robbed. She didn't go to work Thursday.
"You hear about this in Anchorage," Harris said. "We don't have it in Juneau. We hardly get bad checks."
Police reported Drake was dropping off a fare at about 9 p.m. at the Super 8 Motel on Trout Street when he was robbed.
Police Sgt. Troy Wilson said investigators are looking for a man and a woman who ran from the scene with an undisclosed amount of cash.
Wilson said officers tracked the suspects to an undisclosed location in the Mendenhall Valley. With snow continuing to fall, the trail became difficult to follow, he added.
"The weather hampered the investigation after awhile," he said.
Police believe that the man violently struggled with Drake and could have sustained an injury to his left hand or fingers, Wilson said.
Police described both suspects as Alaska Natives. The man was judged to be 18 to 22 years old, with a light build and clean-cut appearance. He wore a gray pullover-type shirt with baggy pants.
The woman was judged to be about 19 or 20 and heavy-set. She wore a gray pullover-type shirt and jeans.
On Thursday, the investigation continued with officers following up on leads, Wilson said. They talked with the victim again.
Harris described Drake as a "very quiet" man and "a really nice guy." He said Drake has been driving cabs for three or four years.
"He definitely knew what he was doing," Harris said.
Meanwhile, Wednesday night's robbery has people at the cab company acting more cautiously.
"Now we won't pick up unless we have an address with a telephone number," Harris said.
When it comes to judging whether customers are safe to pick up, cab drivers know they can't decide from the way people look, Harris added.
"When I drove a cab in Anchorage, I was robbed at gunpoint," he said. The man, he noted, was wearing a military uniform with a nameplate on his chest.
Police said anyone with information that could help the investigation should call the department at 586-0600. Crime Line will take information anonymously at 586-4243.
Harris said people who would like to help Drake can contribute to the company's collection at the Juneau Taxi and Tours office, 102 N. Franklin St.
Jan 11, 2004
Attack shatters family's dreams
Taxi driver endures long surgeries after repeated stabbings by fare
By TONY CARROLL
When Maria Miller went to work Wednesday, she was saving up for a nice wedding.
Now she is thinking about taking care of her fiance, who can't even push the pain- medication button from his hospital bed, she told the Empire on Friday.
Taxi driver Eric Drake, 37, survived the stabbing and armed robbery Wednesday night in his cab near Egan Drive in the Mendenhall Valley. But Miller said the "vicious attack" has changed their lives.
"We didn't think he was going to make it," she said. She described waiting through 81Z2 hours of surgery. Drake's family came up from Sitka, where he grew up.
"And these people are still at large," she said of the two suspects, her voice rising with anger.
Police described both suspects as Alaska Natives. The man was judged to be 18 to 22 years old, with a light build and clean-cut appearance. The woman was judged to be about 19 or 20 and heavy- set.
The community needs to find the people who did this, Miller said. The company that employs here and Drake, Juneau Taxi and Tours, has offered a $500 reward for information that leads to the robbers' arrests and convictions.
Police reported that Drake was robbed by a man and a woman, both in their late teens or early 20s. The man, police said, repeatedly stabbed Drake.
Miller, who also drives for Juneau Taxi and Tours, said the injuries covered Drake from head to toe, but that little describes what the robbers took from him before they fled into the snowy night.
"They slit Eric's throat," she said. "It was attempted murder. They told him they were going to kill him."
The most disabling injuries came to Drake's hands, Miller said. About 61Z2 hours of surgery were delicately devoted to putting his severely cut hands back together, to save them for future use.
Drake's fingers will need to be bandaged for six weeks, Miller said. They will have to be in traction for another three months before Drake can even start therapy.
"I'm looking at supporting our family alone," she said. At the same time, Drake will require around-the-clock care.
Police did not disclose the amount of money the robbers took from Drake.
Miller said she didn't want to think about what the robbery would cost her family. She said she and Drake had just made the second payment on their house. She doesn't know if they will be able to keep it.
"We don't have any insurance," she said. "We work for fares."
She said she owns two cabs. The one the robbery took place in is being held by police as evidence - not that she wants to drive it again.
"I don't want anyone sitting in that cab again," she said.
Miller said she wasn't driving Wednesday night, but filled in as a dispatcher.
"I dispatched Eric to the call," she said with regret, although she sent him to pick the customers up only because he was nearest their location.
Cab drivers know there are risks, even with clean-cut fares, she said.
"These people were so polite with Eric," she said.
But the female suspect sat and watched as the male suspect tore at Drake with a knife, she said. Drake was still buckled into his car seat, she added.
Drake had been driving a cab only for two years, but she has had her own cab for eight years. She said she once dealt with a male customer who held a pair of shears eight inches from her.
But Miller said she has never felt so angry and had so many questions about what is happening to the community.
"My 17-year-old son and 20-year-old daughter insist we get out of the business," she said.
Miller said she knows other cab drivers in the city who are afraid to pick up fares. She wondered if cabs in Juneau need wire partitions between drivers and customers as cabs have in New York.
"I've heard so many people say they are upset," Miller said of the crime. People question how something so random and brutal can happen in Juneau, she said.
Miller hopes her fiancÚ will be able to use his hands some day. But today citizens can find the people who attacked him, she said.
"I need everyone to pull together."
Tony Carroll can be reached at: tony.carroll@juneauempir e.com
Jan 16, 2004
Local musician hopes to hold benefit concert for cab driver
Singer-songwriter John Palmes said he finds himself crying when he tells friends about what happened to cab driver Eric Drake last week.
"This is kind of over the edge," he said of the violent attack on Drake on Jan. 7.
Palmes feels a sense of loss from such a violent attack taking place in the community. He has talked to friends about organizing a concert to raise money for Drake and his family and is looking for others who would like to be a part of it.
"Maybe music isn't the point," he said, suggesting others might want to offer poetry.
Palmes said anyone who would like to participate or offer suggestions should call him at 586-2252. He said he hopes the event will take place at Centennial Hall on Feb. 1, but the date is open for discussion. Well-wishers who would like to help Drake and his fiancÚ, Maria Miller, can address them at P.O. Box 32554, Juneau, AK, 99803.
Juneau Taxi and Tours is offering a $500 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the suspects. Crime Line is offering a $1,000 reward and can be reached at 586-4243 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jan 16, 2004
Stabbing victim helps police create suspects' sketches
Drake says he's thankful for support from the community and beyond
By TONY CARROLL
While the cab driver attacked during a robbery last week has left the hospital and is putting his life back together, Juneau Police released sketches Thursday based on his descriptions of the people responsible.
A man stabbed Eric Drake repeatedly at about 9 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 7, while leaving the cab with a female accomplice. The suspects ran from the cab, idling near the Super 8 Motel on Trout Street, toward James Boulevard in the Mendenhall Valley, police said.
Sgt. Troy Wilson said he would like to think the robbers are still in Juneau.
Capt. Tom Porter said police didn't develop sketches of the suspects immediately after the crime, because Drake's condition was a higher priority.
"Quite frankly, he's lucky to be alive," Porter said.
On his way to therapy Wednesday for his recovering hands, Drake, 37, said he felt lucky to be alive. He is happy and surprised with the help he's received from the community and the notes of support he's received from all over the world.
"This isn't going to break me," he said. "I'm going to make it."
On Jan. 7, Drake had about eight hours of surgery, more than six hours of it devoted to putting his hands back together.
"My short-term goal is getting my fingers functioning," he said.
He said he is improving physically. He is walking. Still, he can only work the television remote control if it is lying flat and he can push the buttons with his left thumb.
Emotionally, he said, the nightmares continue. Before he left the hospital, a doctor gave him sleeping pills to help. But when he sleeps, he often relives the attack.
Drake said he was buckled in when he was stabbed numerous times by a passenger in the back seat of his cab. The woman watched from the front seat.
Police said Thursday that based on Drake's description, they believe the man stood 5 feet, 8 inches to 5 feet, 9 inches tall and weighed about 160 pounds. He was wearing baggy blue jeans and a gray, hooded pullover sweatshirt.
The woman was described as standing 5 feet, 7 inches, weighing 170 pounds and wearing blue jeans and a gray hooded sweatshirt.
Wilson said many in the community have been calling with possible leads.
"We encourage those people to continue to do that," he added. Every tip from the community will be tracked down, he said.
"Everyone's mad, who I've met," Drake said. "The cab drivers are scared. He's still out there."
Since he has been home, people have been calling and stopping by. Many have been bringing food. The Mormon Church has been cooking dinners for his family and will continue doing that through Sunday.
"That's helped a lot," he said.
Maria Miller, Drake's fiancÚ, said others have been visiting frequently and have been doing what they can.
Many people have read news of the attack on the Empire's Web site, he said. Drake said the family has been hearing from people wishing them well "from all over the world. I haven't had time to read them all."
He said he will read them all and is both touched and surprised by the support.
"I'm a quiet guy," he said. "I pretty much keep to myself."
He drove a cab for about two years. Before that, he worked in the grocery industry. He worked for Alaska & Proud and its predecessor, Foodland. He was the night manager at Super Bear in the Mendenhall Valley for five years.
He said his next job will depend on how well his hands end up working. He doesn't expect to drive a cab again.
"I definitely have to think about something else to do," he said.
Tony Carroll can be reached at: tony.carroll@juneauempir e.com
Pair charged in cabbie's stabbing
Man accused of wielding knife could face more than 100 years in prison
Friday, February 6, 2004
By TONY CARROLL
A month after the slashing attack on cab driver Eric Drake, Juneau police arrested a young Juneau couple late Wednesday night and charged them in the near-fatal assault.
Aaron St. Clair Jr., 20, was charged with attempted first- degree murder, first-degree assault and robbery in the Jan. 7 attack. His wife, Violet St. Clair, 18, was charged with first- degree assault and robbery.
Aaron St. Clair faces up to 134 years in prison and $1 million in fines if convicted, Juneau District Judge Peter B. Froehlich said before the standing-room-only crowd that appeared for the after-hours hearing.
His wife faces up to 40 years in prison and $500,000 in fines, the judge said.
Froehlich set bail at $500,000 for Aaron St. Clair and $100,000 for Violet St. Clair. Both suspects were returned to the Lemon Creek Correctional Center. They were not asked to enter pleas at the hearing.
Drake attended the arraignment, his hands and forearms still bandaged to hold his fingers in place as he recovers from surgical repairs.
Assistant District Attorney Doug Gardner described the attack as "brutal" and "random" and said Aaron St. Clair was "extremely dangerous to the community.
"It was a planned attack," Gardner told the judge, alleging that the two intended to rob and assault whichever cab driver had picked them up.
At about 9 p.m. Jan 7, police learned that Drake, 37, a driver for Juneau Taxi and Tours, had been stabbed multiple times after dropping off a man and woman who robbed him at the.Super 8 Motel near Egan Drive in the Mendenhall Valley. He said he was cut numerous times by the knife-wielding man, as the woman sat in the front seat watching.
Drake underwent about eight hours of surgery, six of which were spent putting his hands back together, his fiancÚ, Maria Miller, said.
On Jan. 15, police, working with Drake, released sketches of his attackers, as he remembered them. The sketches ran on the front page of the Empire and were posted many places in the community.
A week later, Aaron St. Clair appeared in court to answer to a summons alleging he had violated his probation for a previous crime. According to court records, Juneau Superior Court Judge Larry Weeks placed St. Clair on two years probation on Feb. 4, 2002. St. Clair was originally charged with felony second-degree burglary in the case.
His latest probation violation alleged that he failed to complete his required program through the Juneau Alcohol Safety Action Program. St. Clair left the hearing without being taken into custody.
Leaving court Thursday night, Drake said the sketches didn't look like the people he saw sitting in the courtroom. But he said he believed the police had arrested the right people when he looked into Aaron St. Clair's eyes.
Aaron St. Clair is employed part-time for Juneau Parks and Recreation, the city's personnel office confirmed Thursday. While requesting a court-appointed attorney, he told Froehlich he works as a scorekeeper for adult basketball games.
His wife said she is on call at a Mendenhall Valley fast-food restaurant. She added that she has a young child. Bartlett Regional Medical Center records show the couple had a son on July 21.
Froehlich appointed the Public Defender's Office to represent Aaron St. Clair and the Office of Public Advocacy to represent his wife. If they are released on bail, they will not be allowed to have contact with each other, he added.
Froehlich scheduled a Feb. 13 preliminary hearing to determine probable cause for the felony charges. The hearing would be canceled if they are first indicted by the grand jury, he said.
"They have no idea what they've done to our family or the community," Miller said of the suspects on her way out of court. Both she and Drake said they were disappointed a bail amount was set in the case.
They were notified of the arrests by police at 12:12 a.m. Thursday, about 20 minutes after police made the arrests, according to police reports.
Miller pulled out Juneau-Douglas High School yearbooks and found Aaron St. Clair had gone to school with her daughter.
"I've had conversations with him in my cab," she said. "I'm just sick."
Miller and Drake have set up an account at the Nugget Mall Branch of Alaska Pacific Bank to receive community donations, following the suggestion of one local social agency.
Froehlich told the St. Clairs that if convicted they would be liable for restitution to the victims.
Monday February 16, 2004
JUNEAU (AP) - A couple was after money for diapers and food on the night they left cab driver Eric Drake for dead after a knife attack, police investigators concluded.
Aaron St. Clair Jr., 20, and Violet St. Clair, 18, were indicted by a grand jury Friday. Aaron St. Clair was charged with felony counts of first-degree attempted murder and tampering with evidence. Both St. Clairs were charged with felony counts of assault and robbery.
They are to be arraigned on the indictment before Juneau Superior Court Judge Larry Weeks on Tuesday.
District Judge Peter B. Froehlich set bail at $500,000 for Aaron St. Clair and $100,000 for Violet St. Clair at their first court appearance Feb. 5. Police believe Violet St. Clair took $58 from Drake's wallet at about 9 p.m. on Jan. 7, before the couple left the driver bleeding in the cab, parked between the Super 8 Motel and the Jordan Creek Condominiums.
Police interviewed the St. Clairs on Feb. 4, the day of their arrest, and on Feb. 5.
A search of the home revealed multicolored socks and brown leather sandals such as those Drake said he had seen the woman from his attack wearing as she sat watching in the front seat.
Police also noted that Aaron St. Clair Jr.'s left thumb was bruised. Drake had reported to investigators that he bit his assailant's left thumb during the attack.
Investigative reports, summarized in an affidavit filed by Assistant District Attorney Doug Gardner, indicated the St. Clairs planned to rob a cab driver "for food money and to buy diapers for their 5-month-old child."
Violet St. Clair used the couple's cell phone to make a call to Juneau Taxi and Tours to have a cab pick them up near Riverbend Elementary School, police said.
Aaron St. Clair Jr. was armed with a straight knife with a four- inch blade and ``gut-hook,'' according to charging documents.
Prosecutors say he sat in the back of the cab. When Drake stopped the cab on away from lights at the hotel, St. Clair put Drake in a headlock.
"Without saying a word, Aaron St. Clair Jr. slit Drake's throat from jawbone to jawbone," Gardner wrote in an affidavit. The attacker then told Drake, "I'm going to kill you if you don't give me your money."
Drake resisted. During the struggle, the attacker pulled Drake into the back seat and began "frenzied" stabbing. Drake sustained at least three stab wounds to the head, stab wounds to the stomach and upper chest, and injuries to his fingers when he grabbed for the knife.
After the man and woman left the cab with Drake's money, Drake stumbled into the motel, looking for help. Drake told the Juneau Empire he was in surgery for about eight hours
February 18, 2004
by Tony Carroll
The attorney for the woman charged in the Jan. 7 robbery and slashing attack on cab river Eric Drake said he is not sure his client is fit to stand trial.
Violet St. Clair, 18, and her husband Aaron St. Clair Jr., 20, entered not-guilty pleas during their arraignment Tuesday in Juneau Superior Court.
Weeks set a May 17 trial date for the St. Clairs.
The husband is accused of repeatedly stabbing Drake in an attack that began with the cab driver's throat being slashed, according to court records.
Charges against Aaron St. Clair Jr. include attempted first- degree murder and tampering with physical evidence in the case. Both St. Clairs are charged with first-degree assault and first- degree robbery.
Drake has told the Empire that the woman involved in the attack sat in the seat next to him as he dropped them off next to the Super 8 Motel on the night of the assault. She did nothing to stop it, he said.
According to court records, police allege that Violet St. Clair made the telephone call for the cab on the night the couple planned to rob a driver.
Aaron and Violet St. Clair have court-appointed attorneys. David Seid from the Juneau Public Defender's Office is representing Aaron St. Clair Jr. Wells is from the state Office of Public Advocacy. Wells was speaking Tuesday from Palmer.
The prosecutor, Assistant District Attorney Doug Gardner, said he has identified 10 to 15 witnesses for his case. He said the trial could last two or three weeks.
"I don't know how long it will take with two (defendants)," he added.
October 22, 2004
Defendant in stabbing case to change plea
Plea change would prevent trial slated for Monday
By TONY CARROLL
The man charged with the Jan. 7 slashing attack and robbery of taxi driver Eric Drake is set to enter a guilty plea today in Juneau Superior Court rather than stand trial next week, his attorney said.
David Seid, representing defendant Aaron St. Clair Jr., said Thursday that he couldn't discuss specifics.
"Nothing's official at the moment," said Seid, an assistant public defender. "There is an agreement and we're going to hear it."
St. Clair, 21, was scheduled to stand trial beginning Monday on charges of attempted first-degree murder, first-degree assault, first-degree robbery and tampering with physical evidence. He pleaded not guilty to the charges in February.
During St. Clair's initial court appearance, Juneau District Judge Peter B. Froehlich told St. Clair he faced up to 134 years in prison and $1 million in fines if convicted of the three most serious charges.
Assistant District Attorney Doug Gardner said Alaska court rules prohibit him from discussing any plea agreement. But he said he would be in court for the hearing at 2 p.m. today before Superior Court Judge Larry Weeks.
Weeks on Thursday had not yet ruled on a motion by Gardner seeking to allow an alleged eyewitness to the attack, Violet St. Clair, to testify.
Violet St. Clair, the defendant's 19-year-old wife, pleaded guilty three weeks ago to reduced charges for her role in the attack.
In February, she was charged along with her husband with first- degree assault and first-degree robbery of Drake in his Juneau Taxi cab. She was accused of calling for the cab on her cell phone and sitting in the seat next to Drake as her husband allegedly cut his throat and stabbed him numerous times from the back seat.
On Oct. 1, she agreed to plead guilty to conspiracy to commit robbery. She is scheduled to be sentenced Dec. 23.
Seid had filed an opposition to Violet St. Clair testifying against his client. He cited Alaska court rules that he said protects communications between a man and wife as privileged information.
Gardner had argued that if such a privilege applied, it would be up to Violet St. Clair to invoke it.
State Assistant Public Advocate Steven Wells, Violet St. Clair's attorney, later said he would not oppose his client testifying against her husband.
The man and woman who robbed Drake on the night of Jan. 7
outside a motel in the Jordan Creek area left on foot with $60
from Drake's wallet. Drake spent about eight hours in surgery, in
large part to repair his hands.
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