Frustrated and fearful Kvichak River village questions why killer roams free awaiting possible homicide charges to be filed after Friday night killing.
On Friday, July 14, Ellis Kaloke and his girlfriend Bonnie Apokedak came back to Levelock from a short trip to Naknek. They had been staying in Levelock for about a month this summer, living with Apokedak’s first cousin S George Peterson. He lives alone in his grandmother Ida Apokedak’s house, and says he didn’t mind the couple staying there.
“There was no place for them to stay around here, so I said what the hell, let them stay at my house. She cleans up around the house, I get to be lazy, they do their thing, I do mine,” Peterson said in an interview with KDLG Tuesday.
Kaloke and Apokedak began drinking that evening, and Peterson claims he grew tired of their company and ordered them out of the house. Apokedak was apparently in the restroom as the confrontation between Peterson and Kaloke spiraled out of control.
“He’s standing outside my porch, and yelling all sorts of obscenities at me. As I’m going out there to confront him, first thing I’m thinking is ‘I’m just going to throw this guy off my porch.’ But as I’m about to go up to him, he hits me.”
Peterson said he recovered from that blow and the two men grappled.
“First thing I thought to myself was, ‘Don’t be afraid to defend yourself, don’t be afraid to defend yourself.’ You know there’s laws that protect you, castle law, especially inside your own house. So I defended myself … he got a knife in the back. He got right back up and looked unfazed, so yeah, I got him again.”
Kaloke, the 37-year-old from Eagle River, ran out the back door where he fell to the ground and died.
Bonnie Apokedak emerged from the bathroom hysterical. She and Peterson confronted each other for a few hazy, adrenaline-fueled moments before Peterson claims he called 9-1-1 to notify the troopers that Kaloke was dead.
“I took one look outside the back window of my house, I’m see him laying there. He’s gone, laying in a pool of his own blood.”
What really happened that night, what triggered the fight, and why hasn't Peterson been arrested?
Several people in Levelock spoke with KDLG after the incident, describing a village on edge, fearful to go on with their normal lives with the young killer still on the loose. Most asked for anonymity as they provided details.
One woman did not.
“I’ve got nothing to hide,” said Danielle Dobkins, a former health aide in the village and also Peterson’s boss at Levelock Electric Coop. She is not buying Peterson’s self-defense argument.
“It’s S’s word against Ellis’s, and Ellis can’t speak for himself.”
Dobkins said her boyfriend picked her up from the village the next morning, and she is not planning on returning anytime soon.
After he stabbed and killed Kaloke, Peterson said he called 9-1-1, then went for a walk to calm his “anxiety.” He showed up at a neighbor’s house and sat down to join in a game of Scrabble, and for more than a half hour did not mention a word about what had just happened.
Dobkins had joined, too, as this game was at her sister’s house. She didn’t right away notice the missed phone calls as Apokedak, still with the body, was frantically seeking a medical responder. She did notice that Peterson made a few cryptic remarks.
About the time she saw her phone messages, she recalls him saying, “Well, I guess you don’t have to worry about me coming to work on Monday.”
“What? Why?” she was asking, as the picture that something had happened to Kaloke was taking shape in her mind.
“You’re going to hear about it eventually, but Ellis is gone … gone-gone,” Peterson said, according to Dobkins’ account.
“He showed no remorse. I mean, he just murdered that boy, and just sat there,” she said.
Dobkins went to the scene. She found Kaloke lying face down, and Bonnie Apokedak was holding a towel to his back. It had been probably 45 minutes since he was stabbed, but Apokedak appeared to be in shock and believed her boyfriend was still alive. Dobkins said the body was stiff, but she briefly thought there might have been a pulse.
“I did CPR for eight minutes,” said Dobkins. She believes air escaping a punctured lung was being mistaken for breathing. It was a “horrible, horrible gurgling” sound she said she will not forget for the rest of her life.
Several people stayed on scene until troopers Travis Lons and Alfred Borrego arrived from King Salmon in a state helicopter around 11 p.m. It was a “foggy, misty” night and the village residents had not been sure law enforcement would make it in.
Dobkins said she finally went to bed around 2 a.m. but couldn’t sleep. She remembers hearing the helicopter take off a little before 4 a.m. Kaloke’s remains were transported to King Salmon and later sent to Anchorage for an autopsy.
S George Peterson claims he fully cooperated with the officers while they were in Levelock and spoke with them for “what felt like hours.”
“I let them inside my house, look at my phone, go in my room, search what they had to search, do what they had to do. And they said they’d call me back, sometime, and this was Friday, and so far they have not.”
He knows his neighbors, not to mention the family of the victim, want to see him arrested for killing Kaloke. Peterson has not yet spoken with an attorney, and believes self-defense laws will protect him from criminal charges.
“Homicide? Well it’s definitely homicide self-defense, legal or not. Manslaughter charge, maybe … but you’d think there’d be laws that protect you, I mean, I really did feel scared in my own house.”
Alaska laws allow for the use of deadly force when a person “reasonably” believes it is necessary to protect against death, serious injury, rape, or kidnapping, unless the person can safely leave “the area of the encounter.” However, under Alaska statute 11.81.335, a citizen has the right to stand his or her ground if on premises he or she owns, leases, resides in, or works at.
Neither state troopers in Bristol Bay nor the supervising assistant district attorney in Anchorage Allison O’Leary have said yet if Peterson will be charged, though the case is being investigated as a homicide.
On Saturday morning the village of Levelock woke up on edge and uneasy, with some residents saying they were fearful to let their kids outside. Some adults requested to be excused from work Monday. Many of Levelock’s residents, especially men and boys, are commercially fishing downriver. It is usually a quiet time as the 40 or so still there put fish in the smokehouse and wait on berries. There has not been a village public safety officer in Levelock since Mike Meyers left several years ago, and the nearest law enforcement officers are the state troopers a flight away in King Salmon.
Several commented that Peterson made himself present in uncomfortable ways, riding his bike ubiquitously or listening to loud music near a Bible school class. No one wanted to confront him.
He said he is just trying to get on with his life.
“People been seeing me out, and I’ve been doing my same routine. Riding around, walking around, visiting with certain people,” he said. Peterson said he understands what people must think, but he hopes they let him return to normal life.
“I feel alright. I’ve accepted the fact of what happened, and I’ve decided I’m not going to let that bug me. Especially since that was inside my own house. Some people understand it. Most people here, they don’t look at me or talk to me.”
News of Kaloke’s killing reached Edmond Kroener quickly. He set nets at Igushik Beach, and has known Ellis Kaloke since middle school. He said by high school they were close buddies.
“There’s a few Native kids in Anchorage, not too many at the school I was going to, and they all seemed to hang out together. I got to know him by chance, and we hit it off,” Kroener said.
He described Kaloke as a good friend with handy skills who was always willing to help out on any type of project. Six or seven years ago Kroener invited Kaloke to fish a summer in Bristol Bay.
“It turned out pretty good,” Kroener said. “He learned quickly how to fish and run the site. It got to the point I didn’t even need to be at the nets anymore. In the morning I wouldn’t have to wake him up, he’d already be up and he’d already be at the net. He loved to fish. I think it was almost as if it was in his blood.”
Kroener hired him for a few more summers, and in 2012 or ’13 Kaloke stayed in Dillingham after the season, landing work at L&M Supplies where Kroener also worked. For the next couple of years he worked for Bob and Blanche Kallstrom at that shop or managing the Dillingham Hotel, and fished at their family’s set net sites near Dillingham.
It was during this time he met with Bonnie Apokedak. The two quickly grew close, but their at times rocky relationship had on occasion involved the police. Reached by phone this week, Apokedak said she has left Levelock for now and is not ready to talk about the situation. Nor was Kaloke’s family.
Sometime after the 2016 fishing season, the couple left Dillingham and moved in with Kaloke’s family in Eagle River.
“I think that they were just trying to get away from negative influences,” Kroener said.
The couple came back to Bristol Bay this summer, moving to Levelock and staying with Peterson.
Before the fight that left Kaloke stabbed in the back, several people say he and Peterson got along fine and were frequently seen out and about together. Peterson confirmed this was true.
“Actually I was hanging out with him quite a bit before that happened. See the worst part is, I actually liked him. We would go out riding, go out hunting, hell we even found some baby foxes last month. I had to let them go, turns out I can’t own wildlife, but yeah, we had some good times.”
Danielle Dobkins said Peterson killed those fox pups he had found after he killed their mother, and bragged about it to others, part of a pattern of disturbing behavior. She and others are frustrated that this young man, a loner who showed no remorse after he stabbed and killed another man, is still free to roam the village.
Peterson said if he could go back, he would have found a way to avoid the outcome of the fight. But he is not apologetic.
“I’m definitely not sorry about it. I think that’s what lets me sleep at night. I mean I understand that, you know, somebody died but uh … I don’t know, I’ve been having really, really mixed emotions about it.”
A case, if charges are filed, may need to rely on the testimony of the only other witness, Bonnie Apokedak. So far no one believes she actually saw the fight or the stabbing, and by all accounts she was intoxicated.
Edmond Kroener said for now he is just frustrated by the senseless death of his friend Ellis Kaloke.
“I really don’t understand fully what happened, and until I do, my opinion is I’m just glad I had the guy in my life. He was a real good friend, and he will definitely be missed. He was a real all-around great person. He had a great personality, he loved to be around children and kids and, you know … he definitely deserved to live a lot longer than the life he had.”
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