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  • Mark Rein

Big City Danger: Taking Bethany Correira

The hour arrives. Kind of an unusual time of day, but the man is very eager. He gathers supplies. Who knows how long he could be? If it works out right, he could be away for a while. He finished his dressing, looking in the mirror. He looked good for his age, slicked back hair. He was happy to be a large man, tall, almost 300 pounds, gut protruding over his belt, but his powerful build is what makes him so successful with the ladies.


Intro

Welcome to Crime Raven; true crimes, real-life stories from law enforcement and issues crime fighters face. This podcast highlights crimes researched by retired Detective Sergeant Mark Rein using publicly available information, court records, and personal recollections. Content may be graphic, disturbing, or violent. Listener discretion is advised. Suspects are considered innocent until found guilty in a court of law.


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The Date

Mark: She breezed into his life an unexpected radiant beauty. The man's breath caught as they spoke, his chest tight with excitement he could barely contain. She asked him her question. He caved to her, giving her a sweet deal, but that was the business. The rest was pleasure.


She tried to leave. She knew he was a busy man, didn't want to keep him from his work, but he couldn't help but pulling her back, extending the conversation. He was in her thrall, or maybe she was in his. He was older. She might be out of his league, but he has to try. The man poured on the charm and she said, yes; they have a date. She would call him later for the details.


When she departed, the man knew he would be worthless for the rest of the day, maybe for the week. He felt a little embarrassed at himself. It wasn't like he hadn't had a beautiful young woman before.


In his life, the man had experienced the highest highs, then the lowest lows when it came to

his dalliances. But with this, it felt like destiny was calling. So lucky to have been where he was when he was. He'd never experienced that feeling before. It was like cosmic gratitude.

The man was right. He wandered through his work the rest of the day, unable to concentrate, fantasizing about the date he had made. He closed his eyes and thought about her lithe, youthful body, her dark hair, piercing eyes, and the smile. He melted again, thinking of her smile. She was alluring, but it wasn't just the beauty. There was something else about her. For one, so young, so small. Her self-assurance, her poise, was remarkable.


Most young girls were wary, maybe even intimidated, around him. Not her. She seemed like a full speed ahead, in your face, as confident as they come kind of girl. A girl like that with qualities so rare. He found her simply irresistible.


And so, with just that brief initial contact, they have a date. He was excited, like he hadn't been in years, maybe decades. He floated through his daily routine with a fresh spring in his step. People he worked with knew something was up, wondered about it, but the man kept his secret. He didn't want to jinx it.


Besides, everybody knew his recent breakup had been hard. He hasn't been himself. He didn't want his coworkers to think of him as a crazy, erratic guy, so he was going to keep everything under wraps.


Marcy: The girl starts her day as most days- full of appreciation. This day was particularly good, though. She was loving her new life, the new city, the new apartment, the new job that just fell into her lap. The world seems brighter, full of boundless potential.


She is a whistle while you work kind of person. Having grown up on a homestead, hard work is something to take pride in, something you embraced. That might be where the thankfulness came from. Life had a way of rewarding hard work beyond the warm glow of accomplishment. She knew that hard work had put her where she was today on a path to college and then medical.


The vibrant new city, the new apartment overlooking the ocean were her tangible rewards. She secretly always wanted the ocean to be part of her life. Ever since her year crewing on a small sailboat around the South Pacific, the landlubber country girl had fallen in love with the sea, and its wonder. Its adventure. Just catching sight of it made her feel fulfilled. And now a double blessing. The ocean view apartment came with a job, not an aspirational position, just a menial job to help make rent. Nothing more.


The girl stood at the doorway to the vacant apartment building next to hers. Very aware that she was at a threshold. The trailhead to the rest of her life. She was in this new city for college and her path would not end until she could call herself Doctor.


She wanted to help people. Nothing was gonna distract her from that goal. Not the job she left behind, certainly not the boyfriend. She opened the door to the building. Her new job was to clean inside. Renovation is scheduled to start. Her new boss really seemed to like her. She would show them her work ethic. Maybe she could make some real money. The girl set to work with a smile focused not on where she was, but on where she inevitably would be. The world was her oyster.


Mark: The hour arrives. Kind of an unusual time of day, but the man is very eager. He gathers supplies. Who knows how long he could be? If it works out right, he could be away for a while. He finished his dressing, looking in the mirror. He looked good for his age, slicked back hair. He was happy to be a large man, tall, almost 300 pounds, gut protruding over his belt, but his powerful build is what makes him so successful with the ladies.


On the way out the door, he grabs his pistol and throws the rest of his supplies into the Mercedes. He drives north and parks the white SUV where he thinks no one will notice it. He wants this element of surprise. He watches for a few minutes but sees no activity. If his girl is where she's supposed to be, she's inside doing the job he asked her to do.


He walks up and opens the door with his master key. All is quiet as he steps into the common entry. The individual apartment doors are open for easy access. All the residents having either transferred to one of their other properties or evicted in the anticipation of the renovation project.


The man still listens for any sound. After a few seconds of silence, he's rewarded by a scraping, dragging sound somewhere upstairs and further into the building. With directed focus, he can hear someone walking, moving around up there. He steps quietly in that direction.


He finds his girl as expected in an apartment, doing the job he hired her to do. The scraping sound is a large rubber-made trash can. She drags it across the floor, pile to pile, cleaning the rooms of debris, and then sweeping.


Marcy: The girl was trucking right along. She secretly hoped that they had a lot of work like this. She liked the solitude and gave her time to think and to plan. She turned seeing the building manager standing at the threshold of the apartment. He's leaning against the doorjamb, just staring at her. The girl is so startled, she physically jerks and cries out places, a hand over her mouth to obscure the grin that breaks into her face. "Oh gosh, you scared me."


Mark: The man put on his most charming smile. He strikes up a conversation. How does she like the apartment? How does she like the job? He doesn't know her, so it's natural for him to fire off question after question. He's her boss, so she can't very well not answer up. He doesn't even hear most of what she says except for her mother isn't expected until tomorrow or is it next week? Who gives a shit? All that matters is now. As the girl prattles on, the man thinks about how much he hates women. They have only one thing he wants. That and he wants them to be nice about it. No, he demands, they show him a little respect. The man stares at the girl. She's small. She looks like easy prey. That self-confidence he senses is a worry in the back of his head, but in the front of his head, it makes him angry. He wants to destroy that about her.


The man realizes the girl has stopped talking and is just looking at him from 10 feet away. Her look's expectant. He shakes back to the present minute. A what?


Marcy: Oh, I just wanted to know if there's anything else you wanted me to do.

Mark: The man chuckles to himself. The start of a grin. The smile flattens and turns into a sneer. Yeah. I want you to strip.


Marcy: She frowns. Questioning. Sure she needs, wants clarification. What?


Mark: Take all your clothes off.


Marcy: The girl's face changes. She now looks at him intensely.

She recognizes him for the predator that he is. She shakes her head, "No!"

Looking from side to side, scanning for an exit. The man is blocking the only easy way out. As she moves towards one wall is if she's going to go around him. The man pulls out a pistol.


Mark: You're gonna do as I tell you.


Marcy: The girl pauses for an instant, calculating, then tries to blow past the man. She's quick, but in the tight quarters, near the door, his meaty paws grab her, slam her backwards. Her head fractures the drywall.


Mark: He considers just shooting her, but that would end the fun. Instead, he pistol whips across your head as it comes out of the wall. The man throws the stunned girl to the ground and falls on top of her. He sets the pistol off the side above her head and begins ripping off her clothes.


The girl's still in shock at the cataclysmic turn of her life. When she struggles, the man beats the fight out of her. He takes his rage out on her small body as he rapes her. In the end, she sobs quietly, and it fulfills him.


The man couldn't articulate why he did what he does next, but it is her strength that makes him not trust her. He would rather she just crawl off and disappear. He knows her well enough now that she won't do that. While he is still pinning her down, the man reaches over, grabs the pistol, pulls it close, and, pushing it up against her ribs, pulls the trigger.


Investigation

On the morning of May 4th, 2003, two calls came into police Dispatch Center in Anchorage, Alaska. The first was a building fire. An unoccupied condominium was burning in the bootlegger's cove neighborhood, a desirable area of the city, right up against the waters of the cook inlet. The second call was from a mother. Her 21-year-old daughter was missing from her newly rented apartment on M Street.


A paper delivery driver on her route made the first call. The fire. Firefighters got there in time to save the structure. The Blaze had gutted the building but hadn't destroyed it, probably because it was being renovated and wasn't filled with flammable personal property.


The second call, the 21-year-old missing from her apartment on M Street, was called in by Linda Correira. She told the police call taker that her daughter, Bethany Correira, had moved into the apartment just a few days before. The family home was over two hours north in Talkeetna, where she had traveled from that morning.


They'd had plans to do some shopping together in the city. What had alarmed the mother was that Bethany was a very responsible person, not the type to miss a meeting or disappear without letting people know where she was going. Also concerning, Linda found items of Bethany's personal property still in the apartment that Bethany would've taken with her if she were gonna be gone for a significant time.


It didn't take long for someone at APD dispatch to realize that the fire and the M Street missing call were one building apart. The dispatch supervisor called the homicide supervisor, Sergeant Scott Jesson, and discussed the incidents with him.


At the Anchorage Police Department, they tracked missing person reports in the homicide unit. Most reports do not get an immediate call out. Linda Corriera's effect on the call taker had been significant. It didn't sound like the usual missing person report. That, coupled with the unusual early morning building fire next door, was suspicious.


Sergeant Jesson agreed. He sent Detective Glenn Klinkhart to assess the situation. What the detective found when he went to the M Street apartment was indeed suspicious.

The fire scene next door was still smoldering. They hadn't completed an arson investigation, but the good news was they hadn't found a body. Bethany Correira's mother was still at the apartment trying to come up with a game plan to find her daughter. From conversations with her and a survey of the property still in the apartment, it seemed that Bethany had vanished, taking nothing with her.


Bethany Correira was raised on her family's homestead in Talkeetna, Alaska. The little town has a full-time population of about a thousand and was the longtime home to the democratically elected mayor, Stubbs the cat. The town's airstrip is a favorite departure point to access Denali and other peaks in remote areas of the national park. Growing up in a tight-knit family life in the remote town without indoor plumbing or central heat was demanding. Bethany could take care of herself.


Even at her young age, Bethany had already traveled to foreign countries and sailed around the South Pacific on her own. Recently, she'd worked for a regional air carrier from Nome, Alaska. She quit that job and moved to Anchorage to go to college and pursue a career in medicine.


When Bethany arrived in Anchorage, she wasted no time in finding the M Street apartment. She impressed the manager there, and they offered her a job cleaning and maintaining their buildings. The same company owed several properties along M Street, including the one that caught fire.


When Bethany's missing turned from one day into two, it was clear something was very wrong. The entire Correira family and many from the Talkeetna community converged on Anchorage for a massive overland search. Many volunteers from out of town pitched tents on grassy patches in Bootlegger's Cove. The Correiras coordinated the search and the effort to get the word out. The missing person flyer featuring Bethany's face became a fixture at the front of stores, coffee shops, and utility poles across the city.


While the searchers covered the bases for a lost person or accidental death, investigators started their search on the bet that Bethany's disappearance was a criminal act. The detectives considered themselves lucky that the pool of people Bethany knew in Anchorage was small. They spent some time looking into the usual suspects. Bethany had a boyfriend who was a pilot with a regional air carrier she had just quit. The boyfriend was significantly older and separated from a wife who, for the usual reasons, didn't like Bethany. The boyfriend had an alibi. He was flying his air route when Bethany disappeared. As for the estranged wife, she lived in a remote location and there was no evidence linking her to the disappearance.


Those two people with solid alibis comprised what investigators would consider the usual suspects. Since Bethany wasn't having conflict with any of her family, nor had she had any recent contact with them, that left detectives with two possibilities. The small pool of known recent associates, and worst of all, random suspects.


Detectives could not reach the building manager who hired Bethany, but found a number from Michael Lawson, her husband, who was also an employee of the same real estate holding company.


Two detectives went to Lawson South Anchorage residence and met with them. Lawson, a tall, heavyset man in his fifties, explained that he, his brother, Bob, and his wife all worked for the same construction and property holding company. The week prior, Lawson's wife suddenly quit her job, demanded a divorce, and caught a plane to the lower 48.


Lawson said the last conversation he had with Bethany was over the phone the day before she went missing. She had a problem accessing a building because of a mix-up with keys. Lawson assumed that she'd worked it out because he hadn't heard any more from her. When asked where they were on Saturday, both brothers said that they were at the house, watching NASCAR races almost all day. Lawson only went out once to a nearby gas station to buy smokes.


The officers came away with an uneasy feeling. The responses seemed rehearsed. Lawson was too slick and acted too familiar. Younger brother Bob looked to Lawson before answering, and Lawson spoke as if reinforcing a story to Bob. These things stood out to the investigators as unusual. To them, first contact with the Lawson brothers was suspicious and creepy and in detective work, feelings like that are always worthy of follow-up.


As the media circus around the missing young woman in Bootlegger's Cove gathered steam, tips began pouring into the APD homicide unit. Most were unhelpful. Some had to be investigated, but the early focus turned toward Lawson, at least until they could exclude him.


Detective Klinkhart made a surprise visit to the construction site where Lawson was working. Lawson seemed flustered and nervous by the unexpected contact, but he attempted to be cordial and allowed the detectives to perform a cursory search of his vehicle.


The car, a white Mercedes SUV, was dirty on the outside from driving around muddy construction sites and unkept on the inside with debris throughout. Detectives didn't find anything but came away from the meeting with the same gut feeling of suspicion.

That evening, one employee who worked with Lawson at the construction site reached out to detectives. He said that immediately following the police visit, Lawson began acting strangely. He started talking about his lack of interaction with the missing girl, almost like he was trying to convince everyone of what he was saying. He also spoke about Bethany disparagingly calling her a bitch. Lawson had then left the construction site and when he returned a few hours later, he had had the car cleaned. According to the informant, the car had been detailed and was now spotless inside and out.


A check of Lawson's criminal history revealed that he had spent a year in prison in the lower 48 for raping a young woman. In fact, he'd not complied with his requirement to register as a convicted sex offender. Detectives notified Lawson that they would arrest him if he didn't register immediately. This discovery cemented Lawson's place as the prime suspect.

The Anchorage Fire Department Arson Investigator initially ruled the fire next door to Bethany's apartment as an electrical problem. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms volunteered to fly up their arson investigator for a second opinion. Within the week, the ruling on the fire was reversed. It was arson. The Blaze started with an accelerant.


While interviewing people peripheral to the Lawson brothers, detectives discovered two other potential rapes. In the first one, the teenage daughter of an employee claimed that Lawson raped her. When the family confronted Lawson, Bob covered for him, saying the girl was making up her story. That event happened in the city of Fairbanks and was never officially reported.


The second event was an account from a young female bartender at a place Lawson frequented. The bartender said that Lawson invited her and a friend to go bowling after her shift. They agreed, but on the way Lawson said that he needed to stop by his office.

Once there, the three went inside. According to the woman, Lawson pulled a gun on them and told both ladies to take off their clothes. As they disrobed, another employee came into the business. Lawson put away the gun and tried to play it off as if he'd been joking. The women knew better. They fled, but did not report the incident.


As more and more data and information was revealed, the investigation surrounding Lawson kicked into high gear. The cell phone analysis came back. It disputed the Lawson brother's account of having been home all day. In fact, Lawson's phone was hitting on a cell tower near Bethany's apartment around the time she disappeared. Lawson called Bob, who was initially at their residence in South Anchorage. Then Bob's phone also moved north towards his brothers. The phones returned to the South Anchorage home, and then traveled north out of the city where the signal was lost.


The road they headed north on was the George Parks Highway, which ultimately led to the City of Fairbanks, some 350 miles through mostly undeveloped wilderness. A few hours after the phone signal disappeared, it picked back up, headed south, and returned to the Lawson residence.


Detective Klinkhart interpreted the cell data as indicative that the two Lawsons met up after some event on M Street. He hypothesized they took Bethany from either her apartment or the adjacent property and took her south to their house. Then they took the long drive north. Considering the time that the phone signal dropped and the time they reacquired it, gave investigators an idea of the furthest possible distance traveled. The problem was that if detective Klinkhart's theory of the crime was correct, the potential search area was more than a hundred miles.


The investigators turned up the heat on the Lawson brothers. They executed search warrants on his car and residence. They put him under surveillance. They placed a tracker on his car. The informant who worked at the construction company wore a wire and recorded conversations. They interviewed all of Lawson's close contacts, including his ex-wife and girlfriends.


After the search warrants, Lawson hired an attorney and refused to answer questions. Bob became uncooperative, refusing to budge from the initial story.


Weeks after Bethany Correira's disappearance, investigators thought they knew what had happened to her, but they couldn't prove it. What they had was an enormous pile of circumstantial evidence, no Bethany, and no straightforward way to get over the impasse.

Weeks, then months, went by with no progress. As the primary investigation languished, the detectives plan to focus on Bob. During their dealings with him, detectives sensed that if either of the brothers had a conscience, it was Bob. It was Bob who cleaned up messes as Lawson went through life like a bull in a china shop. People enjoyed dealing with Bob over his hothead older brother. The Lawsons had a history of keeping their business only marginally afloat.


Detective Klinkhart suspected that if they scrutinized their finances, they might find some leverage. To accomplish this, he took the case to federal investigators. After analyzing the Lawson's business financials, federal agents determined that the Lawsons had violated various laws, mostly involving the applications for business loans.


The brothers were charged under the US code for fraud. The arrest was a big showy raid on the Lawson house. As they impounded Lawson's Mercedes, they handcuffed each brother at gunpoint as detectives and agents rushed into the house, search warrant in hand. Lawson was remanded into jail while they took Bob to the FBI office for an interview.


Once there, agents laid out the financial case in black and white. They clarified that Bob was facing significant time in prison, but there was a way out for him. At that point, detective Klinkhart began his presentation of the evidence in Bethany Correira's disappearance. He told Bob that he knew about what Lawson had done and that Bob had been covering for his brother for years.


He appealed for Bob to do the right thing. And told him if he did, he wouldn't be going to prison. In the end, Bob did do the right thing. He confessed that the detective's suspicions were correct.


On the Saturday in question, his brother had called him and asked for his help at the M Street property. When Bob arrived there, he found Bethany laying naked on the floor of one room in the vacant building.


Bethany was dead in a pool of her own blood. Lawson had shot her in the side of the chest. Bob said they didn't talk much about what happened to Bethany. He was stunned into silence. He and Lawson wrapped Bethany into plastic, placed her in the back of the Mercedes, and drove south to their house to drop off Bob's vehicle.


From there, the brothers drove a couple of hours north on the parks highway. Lawson's initial intent was to drive the seven hours north to dispose of the body in Fairbanks, but the further they drove, the more nervous he became.


The body had begun to smell and Lawson was afraid the state troopers might pull them over. They began to look for a turnout where they could dump the body. It was May, but there were already people camping along the Parks highway. Finally, they found an unoccupied gravel pit where they could drive a short distance away from the road..

Once they stopped, the brothers carried Bethany's body into the woods. They tried to dig a grave, but the ground was still frozen just below the surface. They threw the body down an embankment and fled back to Anchorage. Once home, Lawson told Bob to go to the apartment complex and set fire to it, which Bob did.


During the discussion of times, detective Klinkhart determined that the fire Bob set could not have been the blaze that was discovered burning early on Sunday morning. He surmised that Lawson must have returned to the building later and re-lit the fire.


The newspaper delivery driver who called in the fire corroborated this. She said there was a

white SUV parked nearby. The driver, a man, appeared to be watching the building burn.

Bob agreed to show detectives the dump site and led them to the location. By that time, it was in the middle of winter. Several feet of snow covered the ground, preventing an immediate search. While the investigators waited for spring thaw, they took steps to strengthen their case. Bob agreed to make recorded phone conversations with Lawson, who was still in prison. During the recorded conversations, Lawson was cagey.


He didn't wanna talk to his brother about the crime. But also wanted Bob not to cooperate with the police. Bob said he was having problems living with what they had done and wanted to understand what had happened. Lawson told Bob that Bethany had walked in on him as he was cutting up a package of cocaine.


He was holding her at gunpoint when the gun went off and accidentally shot her. Bob asked why the girl was naked. Lawson said he made her strip so she couldn't run away. When they were done running the wires against Lawson, detectives had him saying many suspicious things and a few statements directly showing his culpability in murdering Bethany Correira.


In May, the ground had cleared at the body dump site. Detectives, crime scene, and search teams converged on the location. They searched the area for several days. In the end, they discovered Bethany's skeletal remains scattered across the forest floor where animals had dragged them. They also recovered many clothing items and distinct jewelry known to belong to Bethany. The site turned out to be only 40 miles from the Talkeetna homestead where Bethany grew up. They notified her family as the search was wrapping up. Family members responded to the location to talk to people who recovered their daughter and to thank them.


With the search complete Lawson was charged with the murder of Bethany Correira. As the trial approached, Bob felt increasingly guilty for assisting in the investigation.


One day, shortly before he was to testify, he parked his car in the garage at his home, closed

the garage door, and left the engine running. Bob left a note saying he couldn't bear to testify against his brother. Bob's suicide left a hole in the prosecution case. Without his testimony, the judge would exclude from consideration much of the firsthand account of the events.


Luckily, statements on the wire were allowed in. At trial, the prosecution presented as much as it could of the theory that Lawson intentionally attacked and murdered Bethany Correira. The defense tactic was to admit that Lawson had shot Bethany, but to say it was a complete accident. They explained the coverup as a misguided attempt to avoid the consequences.

The jury deliberated for four days and convicted Lawson of second degree murder. Because of the lack of testimony, they acquitted him of arson and kidnapping.


After the main trial, in a separate hearing, the jury was asked whether to convict Lawson of a felon in possession of a firearm. They did after learning the felony conviction was for a prior rape. That prior rape had been excluded from the main trial.


Anchorage Judge John Suddich had access to all of the information that was suppressed at trial. At sentencing, he told Lawson that he was undoubtedly guilty of murder in the first degree and much more. The judge said he was determined to issue a sentence, commensurate it with the true nature of his crime, and gave Lawson 99 years.


Discussion

Mark, why did you pick this case to do an episode?

Mark: This is a landmark case in my career. I wasn't the case officer, but I helped in certain parts, and it was the first major case that occurred after I went to the detectives. The case had a huge impact on Anchorage.

There's a lot of interest in it in the media. It caught public attention. I've talked about the case of Sophie Sergi, a young woman who is murdered at the University of Alaskan in Fairbanks. And her case was similar in effect for that city. Almost a cautionary tale. What can happen to girls and young women in a state where people like to think of themselves as having an old-fashioned sensibility, people helping people and being neighborly.

These cases, if they don't shatter that fallacy, they certainly damage it

Marcy: and it should be damaged. The fact that Alaska has dismal statistics on victimization of women, and there are a lot of stories like Bethany's. Another one that comes to mind. When we moved to Anchorage, the city was covered with billboards that said, who killed Bonnie? Asking for information about the rape and murder of Bonnie Craig.

Bonnie was a college freshman who disappeared while she was walking to class one morning and was later recovered in the water of McHugh Creek, which is a park south of Anchorage.

Mark:. Yeah. Mentioning Bonnie Craig brings back a lot of memories. I wanted to cover this crime because that had an impact on the city. It also had an impact on the path of my career. I was of the same generation of cop as the lead homicide detective here, Glen Klinkhart. His experience with the case and some of the things that happened afterwards influenced where I chose to go in the department and what I did.

While I'm on the topic of Glen Klinkhart, he wrote a book about this investigation. The book is called finding Bethany. While the case was going on, I was generally aware of what was happening. As it was in progress. But reading Klink' book an account of what happened brought back a lot of memories and filled in some of the blanks I was missing. It's a good book, an authentic count of a homicide investigation. He also talks candidly about the toll the job can take on investigators. So if you're interested in that kind of thing, I'd recommend the book.

Marcy: We'll put a link to it in the show notes as well. Bethany was only in Anchorage for four days before this happened to her.

Mark: Yeah, there's an urban-rural split in Alaska, which I guess is true of a lot of states that have remote areas.

People in the rural areas commonly refer to the city as Los Anchorage. The implication there is that the city is dangerous, violent crime is rampant. Gang members lurk on every street corner waiting to kill you or steal your car. The city dwellers commonly think the opposite. They're certain that in rural Alaska, death is waiting behind every tree. The cold can kill you. The animals can kill you. And if those don't, some backwards anti-social weirdo is waiting to kidnap you and take you to a shack in the wilderness and to do God knows what.

The thing about Bethany's case, as it spoke directly to the stereotype, it was shameful that a young woman from Talkeetna only lasted four days before some big city animal destroyed her.

The rural town, barely a town. Talkeetna. Those people, her community, came down en massed to search the city for her.

Marcy: I wanna take just a little moment to talk about Talkeetna, cuz it's a really neat, very small community. It's the taking off point for those that climbed Denali. It's on the road system, which a lot of Alaska's not, but it remains a tight community feel which can be unusual.

And for more than 20 years, Talkeetna's mayor to Stubbs the cat who held office on a perch on the counter of a general store. And when he passed away, they elected a new cat mayor of Talkeetna had called Denali. Talkeetna was even the inspiration for the nineties TV series, Northern Exposure, if you ever watched that one.

Mark: A lot of the, a lot of the people live there close to the land hunting and fishing subsistence lifestyle for a lot of them. Any supplies require a long haul. You have to go down to town, probably two or more hours.

Winters are harsh, snow is deep. It's, they have brutal cold and wind up there. Her family built their house from the ground up using local resources. And, in a place like that, what can't be resourced locally has to be shipped for a long way, barged or flown up to the port of Anchorage and driven up the Parks highway up to the whatever road you have on the up to the Homestead House site. In a community, in a situation like this, you have to rely on your family and your community to survive.

Marcy: That's why so many of them came to Anchorage to search for her. A lot of them knew the family, and they were searching for a member of their community.

Mark: I gotta look at search headquarters while it was going on. I was a fairly new detective working in burglary. I didn't get pulled into this case until days or weeks after it started. What I remember is I had to go downtown to the courthouse and, like the lieutenant said, Hey, you're going outta the courthouse.

Take this over to ATF to the fire scene. Some piece of equipment or something I had to take down there. And the M Street location. Most of downtown Anchorage is up on a bluff above the ocean, and M Street is down the slope. So as I came over and looked down and there's just a huge search area there. I met with a female ATF agent who showed me around next door.

I'm looking down the street. Some of the search team guys were down there. They're camping out, there's campers everywhere, and it just it made an impression on me because I was surprised at how big the search was.

I knew about the investigation, but honestly, going down there and seeing how integrated the search was and all the parts and stuff really got me in tune that it was a big case for the department, but I hadn't been involved in it yet.

And years later, when I had the opportunity to integrate the civilian search team as part of my investigative support operations in my unit, I jumped to the chance because I saw the value in that, of their ability to search. When I went down there and looked at the scene for the Bethany Correira case,

Marcy: You and I talked about how fortunate it was that Bethany's mother caught the attention of the call taker when she called to report Bethany missing. You wanna talk about why that is?

Mark: Yeah, we've talked about this from past cases. Like Mindy Schloss, people, particularly adults, who are reported missing regularly most of the time they show up fine.

The difference between taking the information over the phone and just waiting to see if a person shows up often depends on the judgment of the person who took the call. I'm not disparaging dispatchers at all. Sometimes a reporter can underplay the seriousness of a situation, or maybe it doesn't seem like that big a deal over the phone.

In Bethany's case, the mother was really worried. The call taker thought the situation needed follow up ASAP. This was passed on to a supervisor who sent out a detective to take a look. The detective immediately sensed this case was different than your usual adult going missing. On the weekend, people go out and party, go missing for a couple days.

That's not that unusual. And for a case that turned out to be worst-case scenario, this was as good as we could have done in terms of response.

Marcy: I actually remember when I was in the dispatch academy, they spent a quite a lot of time talking about listening to your gut and recognizing your gut.

And I think that was a true benefit here, that the call taker listened to her gut and recognized that something needed follow up. And then Detective Linhart also recognized something just wasn't right, even before he could put his finger on what it was. People listening to their gut in this situation all along the way really led to solving this.

Mark: Like I said, best-case scenario. And we didn't always have that. There are cases in my career where we didn't have that kind, the kind of response that should have happened right away. But like I said, there's a lot of cases that you just, they just don't seem they don't stand out in terms of suspicious, at least not immediately.

Marcy: Okay. Let's talk about the AFD fire investigation.

Mark: Yeah. I worked regularly with members of the Anchorage fire department my entire career. And despite good natured rivalry between the two departments, I think there's a lot of mutual respect and I certainly have very good memories of working with the medics and firefighters.

That being said, it doesn't mean that performance doesn't fall short from time to time. The initial ruling here that the fire in the apartment building on M Street that it wasn't arson was an embarrassment for their department. Here's a fire that was started, but with accelerant twice it was white gas and the can was found in the apartment building later. When ATF came in and took over, they brought up a guy who was a nationwide recognized specialist, and they immediately said, yeah, this is arson.

They had the equipment. When I went to meet with the ATF representative, the lady showed me this brand spanking new at ATF vehicle they were very proud of. And actually that's part of the reason why they were excited to be part of this case, is because they wanted to use their new toys.

Which is, ironically my experience with almost every federal agency. The feds were more than happy to take their toys out for us. When ATF came in and basically they had chemical testing and stuff, we're immediately able to show with no problem that there was an accelerant used in a fire in arson.

Marcy: But how did the ATF actually get initially involved in this?

Mark: The main problem is I don't think there was a lot of confidence in the initial ruling. Most cops don't believe in coincidence. You have two buildings right next door to one another. It's a quiet. Weekend morning.. A pretty young woman who lives alone in a building next door disappears, and right next door there's a fire, an unexplained fire. Both buildings have the same owner, it stinks. It's highly suspicious. So there needed to be a second opinion. It just happened that ATF was there and volunteered.

I wanna mention the Anchorages Fire Department has since made changes to their investigation unit. They brought additional people and made some improvements in expertise. One investigator they hired started out as a police officer with my department and moved over there as the arson investigator.

Marcy: what was the purpose of the fire if it wasn't to dispose of the body?

Mark: Lawson had a prior rape conviction. He knew, and probably from his own case, and definitely from the cases of the other cons he was spending time with, that forensics was nailing people. There was a lot of focus at that time on new processing techniques.

DNA was becoming increasingly reliable. One of the most popular television shows on TV at the time was CSI. And that although that showed exaggerates the abilities in forensic science, a lot of crooks were becoming at that time hyper-vigilant of what they were leaving behind at crime scenes.

The fire of the scene was for one simple reason to destroy trace evidence. Bethany had bled there. There were probably other body fluids, hairs, fibers that could have been recovered if they hadn't been destroyed by the fire.

Marcy: So was the fire an effective tactic?

Mark: Yes and no. It did destroy trace evidence, but it also did something that was very bad for the Lawsons. It pinpointed the scene of the crime.

It's funny when I think about the fire in this case. I'm reminded of what happened with Martin in one of our early episodes. He set fire to the murder scene in our Murder on Main Street episode. I'm convinced that he didn't try to set the fire again in the evening because he wasn't successful in burning down the house the first time, and he didn't wanna draw attention in the evening. Since in the evening, he had killed two more people. He opted to move those bodies away from the murder scene to distract away from the scene.

in this case, the second fire that Lawson lit was successful at destroying evidence. Yes. But it also punctuated the seriousness of the missing person case. From next door. I will say that had he not lit that fire, I think that there would've been indication of the scene of exactly what happened.

This was a sexual assault. I don't think there's any doubt about that. There's a reason he did it. When he did it, where he did it. He knew she would be there alone. But a lot of evidence of that had been destroyed when he set the fire. So when he was convicted of murder two. Just like the judge said, looking at all the evidence, he was guilty of the whole enchilada. Murder one, rape, kidnapping, everything.

The fire kept him from being, from that being clearer.

Marcy: It didn't take long for the focus of the investigation to turn to Lawson, though.

Mark: There just weren't many likely suspects. The ones that were there were far away, ex-boyfriend off flying somewhere, accountable. His wife, who's a potential suspect, is also very far away. You're really shoestring it to try and find a suspect.

And the worst of all is just a guy who bumbled by and did it, right? Maybe a burglar. So an unknown, a complete unknown. And that's worst-case scenario if you're trying to investigate this crime.

. Once it was known that Lawson was a sex offender who had committed unreported sex assaults in Alaska. He's the predator in the water. He's the one you have to focus on until you can absolutely rule him out or put him behind bars.

Marcy: One of the things that profilers often talk about is that sometimes these cycles of violence are spurred on by events in a killer's, personal lives, and Lawson's wife had just dropped everything, including him and run away from him outta state. Do you think that influenced his attack on Bethany?.

Mark: Yeah, I think that's a stressor that may have contributed to him wanting to attack her. I don't think we really know what caused the wife from just dropping everything and leaving. She was apparently so scared she didn't wanna say anything about him.

Marcy: You mentioned that you were pulled in to help on this case a little bit later in the case.

Mark: In big cases where people are needed. Manpower. Available detectives are poached from other units. I think my partner got pulled in earlier.

Maybe I had court going or something a case that I couldn't break away from. But my first involvement was mobile surveillance. And mobile surveillance is man intensive. And that's before we put the bird dog on. We were following him and watching his car.

In some of my later units, vice unit and drugs I did following and mobile surveillance all the time. But this case was really my first experience with that.

Marcy: Wait, what's Bird Dog?

Mark: It's a mobile tracker that you attach to a car. The authority for that is under by sealed search warrant.

Marcy: How did the surveillance go?

Mark: It went okay for a while. A lot of guys like me at the time were inexperienced, so after a few days, Lawson knew he was being followed. He started doing what we call heat checks. Speed through alleys, turning down dead ends and waiting for people to. Try and see where he is going.

Once he saw, he started like waving at people, flipping people off once he spotted a couple cops. He was really paranoid. So everyone, even remotely cop looking, got the one-finger salute as he was driving around. I got it. I think that it was he discovered the tale sometime on my weekend, and I came back for my weekend and he saw me sitting on the side of a road.

I wasn't directly following; they call it a dance with vehicles that follow him. I see him and he's flipping me off and I don't even think he knows I'm a cop. He knows what he's done, he's knows he is murdered a girl.

And this guy's driving around angry, trying to flip cops off. That's who he was. But after the bird dog went on, he's followed less. But the case officers wanted to keep the pressure on him. That's what the thinking was. So we did intermittent following and some of that was obvious, so he always thought he was being followed.

Marcy: Brother bob seems pretty pitiful. Was he really just always his brother's cleanup guy or do you think he actually had a role in the attack on Bethany?

Mark: No, it's pretty clear from the phone evidence that Lawson called Bob at their home and their house was like 20 minutes south.

Bob was Michael's fixer. He was a reasonable personable guy, and he covered for Michael's rape when he raped a teenager in Fairbanks convincing the parents that their daughter was lying, which is horrible. But. That's what Bob was about. Bob was about covering for his big brother.

Marcy: Talk about the rapes that were never reported to police.

Mark: That's one of the most extraordinary things I thought about in this. I didn't know all the details of this investigation. Reading the book really fleshed out some things. It's extraordinary. There's three victims there that went unreported.

When I was a supervisor of the Sexual Assault unit, I read every report that we got that was even remotely sex-related, hundreds of them. And I remember at the time thinking about the estimates of only maybe a quarter of all rapes and sexual attempts are reported. So you know, the teenager in Fairbanks., the two ladies, Lawson, held at gunpoint and told the strip - that was an attempted rape.

These are emblematic of what we never hear about the, that missing, that unknown number. And there they are in this investigation. They start the investigation and boom; we encounter people that have had this guy do something to them.

Marcy: You told me that the bartender's account of the rape attempt was how you decided to approach writing the crime against Bethany in the narrative.

Mark: Yeah, I think that's how it went down. If you think about the bartender's accounts, basically, he had them alone. And what did he do? He whipped out his pistol and told them to strip. So that's how I wrote it. I think he had a fantasy, and he tried it once, it didn't work and. He tried it again. He knew that nobody was it's his building, right? Nobody's gonna walk in on him this time. And I don't think that Bethany reacted the way he expected. One of the things that Bob said was that Michael was open about his hatred for women.

He talked about them in the crudest terms. This was backed up by the informant, who stepped forward from the business. Who was suspicious of Michael because of the way he was talking about her, his derogatory language. I think that Bethany didn't cower. I think she wasn't sub submissive enough for him. Didn't live up to what he had fantasized it would be like. And that made him angrier, and that's why he killed her. And this also conclusion in his book that detective Klinkhart came to when he looked at all the evidence.

Marcy: You've talked about how much you respected detective Klinkhart's end plan in this case?

Mark: One day, several weeks after I was doing the surveillance on Lawson, I was sitting at my desk and Detective Klinkhart comes into our office. The homicide unit's, a different room across the hall a little bit. And sometimes in the detectives when you need a break, you get up and walk around. You might go into one of the other units.. There are lots of different units, but actually now they mention it. There are two units that were exceptions that nobody ever went into on the walkabout just to see what was going on.

The first unit nobody walked around was in financial crimes. And you can probably guess why no one wanted to go in there to shoot the shit. The second was cyber crimes because you didn't wanna see what they were looking at and you definitely didn't want to hear the details of what they were looking at.

Back to Klink. Walking in, I'm at my desk. And he plunks down across from me, and I asked him how the case was going. And you're almost afraid to ask. I knew there hadn't been any major changes.

Nobody had been charged. And that after the time lapsed, that wasn't good. He told me that the investigation was almost at the end of the road. Everybody knew Bethany was dead. Everybody knew who had killed her, but there was just no way to close the case, without getting a cooperative, without getting the information just to put it over the top.

And he told me he'd come up with a plan that relied on Bob Lawson having a conscience and a little bit of a spine.

Marcy: That's what I went over in the investigation part, arresting both of those brothers on criminal discrepancies in the financial disclosures on their loan applications. Right?

Mark: Yeah. And that's basically what Klinkhart laid out for me. And I think, now, he came over to just hash it out with somebody who hadn't been involved in the planning and see what I thought. At the time, honestly, the idea of Bob Lawson having a conscience and coming forward seemed like a long shot.

He'd protected his brother. We all knew that. And in talking to him, I remember having been worried about the effect the case was having on Klink and how, if he didn't close this case positively, that was gonna have a heck of an effect on him.

My history with Klinkhart was he's the detective that took the Susan Bailey murder to trial that I detailed in an earlier episode.

That was a case I was emotionally invested in because it had languished for a couple of years. He picked it up and I could see he cared about it as much as I did. The Bethany case was a big case for the city, and I knew Glenn had become close to the family, and that increases the emotional weight for him with this case.

Marcy: But his plan worked. Bob talked.

Mark: Yes. And what a relief that was for everyone.

Marcy: Bob showed them where they dumped the body, but it couldn't be recovered until spring. That must have been excruciating for the family.

Mark: Yeah. That was the part that I didn't know until I recently read the book. I knew they knew where she was. But I didn't know that Glen trusted the family. He told them that Bethany was dead, but he swore them to secrecy about it. He couldn't tell them where she was or the details of her death., he asked them to trust him and he told them that the case may depend on them, keeping it a secret.

The wire, finding the body. All that came after the family knew Bethany was dead. And they kept that secret because they trusted him and he trusted them. And what a burden that must have been.

Marcy: Bob killed himself and a whole bunch of the evidence was excluded because he wasn't there to testify to it.

Mark: Basically all of his observations at the scene he wasn't there to test, to testify about them, so they weren't admitted.

Marcy: At some level, the jury saw past the bullshit and convicted him at least of murder two. Instead of totally buying his, I accidentally killed her. And I have no idea how it happened.

Mark: After the main trial, the jurors were appalled to learn about Lawson's past; they took no time in convicting him of felon in possession.

The reason for the fell in possession charge after, because if they had admitted it before, the jurors would've, it would've been prejudicial. The jurors would've known he had a prior felony arrest.

Marcy: I can't believe they're not allowed to know he had a prior similar conviction. It's just amazing to me that they weren't allowed to know that. Once they did consider the felon and possession charge, they pretty much were able to come to the conclusion that probably he should have gotten the murder one conviction plus this, plus the rape.

Mark: Yeah. Okay, so things are excluded because of the rules of the court, right? You can't tell because of somebody's prior contacts. Say I had a felony conviction, and that doesn't necessarily mean maybe I had a property crime felony, but that doesn't necessarily mean I did a rape later.

But that prior felony could prejudice the jury's judgment on the current case. So it's gotta all be evidence in the current case. So these rules exclude a whole bunch, and sometimes you come away with some wacky rulings that make prosecution almost impossible. I went to trial on a case where I literally had to draw with a pencil, a shotgun. We lost a gun related charge because the jury didn't wanna rely on we actually recovered the shotgun, but because of the way we recovered it, we lost it in evidence. And here I am drawing a shotgun, and the jury thought it was crazy.

So they didn't go with that charge. But anyway, so it's all based on the rules of court and yeah. Without the testimony of Bob the sexual assault, her being naked wasn't backed up. There was some reference to it on the tape, but wasn't backed up.

A lot of those kind of charges went by the wayside. But afterwards, after the trial is over and he's convicted, all the information is clear to the judge and the judge saw through it. He, the judge, knew. Like everybody, knowing all the facts here, knows exactly why she was attacked.

He wasn't cutting up cocaine early in the morning, miles from his house in a vacant building. He knew where she was gonna be. He attacked her because he knew she was gonna be there and he wanted to do something to her. And everybody knew it once all the facts are known. That's exactly what happened.

The trial judge saw through Lawson's bullshit. He knew what this was about. Lawson was a monster in the darkness, attracted to Bethany's light.

The good thing is now he can't hurt any more women.


Exit

Marcy: Please rate and review Crime Raven wherever you listen. It helps us get better, and it helps other listeners find us. Also, if you email us a screenshot of your review or send us a question or a case, we'll send you a promo code for $10 off our very cool merchandise. Send them to crimeravenpodcast@gmail.com. And if we use your question or your case in an episode, we'll send you a free Crime Raven t-shirt. Remember, email us at crimeravenpodcast@gmail.com.

Thank you for reading. If you haven't already, please subscribe to Crime Raven, so you don't miss an episode. Please recommend us to your friends too. Check our website at crimeraven.com. Crime Raven hosted by Mark Rein and Marcy Rein is written and directed by Mark Rein and edited and produced by Marcy Rein and it's a 3 Little Birds, LLC production.


Sources

Klinkhart, G. (2014) Finding Bethany (https://www.amazon.com/Finding-Bethany-Glen-Klinkhart/dp/0985351136/ref=sr_1_1?crid=1FM84542VSFVI&keywords=finding+bethany&qid=1678999306&sprefix=finding+bethany%2Caps%2C148&sr=8-1)

https://www.adn.com/books/article/finding-bethany-details-detectives-quest-solve-horrific-murder/2014/07/20/

https://www.nbcnews.com/id/wbna24831943

https://www.alaskastar.com/2017-01-13/former-detective-shares-thoughts-crime-personal-safety

https://www.frontiersman.com/news/lawson-draws-99-years/article_d21b98e0-cace-5983-aeea-f5eea9a06570.html

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