Preying in Anchorage
Updated: Jul 31, 2022
Welcome to Crime Raven, real life stories from law enforcement crimes and issues, crime fighters face. This podcast, crimes researched using publicly available information or personal recollections. Content may be graphic disturbing or violent, and maybe upsetting to some. Listener discretion is advised.
Suspects are considered innocent until found guilty in a court of law.
Hello listeners. I wanted to tell you about the narrative you're about to hear, because it's a little different than what we've been doing the past few recordings. For the narrative, I've changed names of victims and at some points I've compiled stories into one experience that represents that of several victims. When we get into the investigation, those are the real names and people. The instances I've included are real, and I chose them because they represent common themes among this group of victims. For the significant events. I can name a specific person who trusted me or another detective with the story.
Trigger warning. This episode discusses the sexual abuse and exploitation of minors.
Stuart and Debbie
Debbie and Stewart were high school sweethearts from the Midwest. Stuart, considered one of the smartest kids in his class, dreamed of getting away. But a year after graduation, he was still living in his parents' basement. He was feeling the pressure to get his life moving. Debbie wanted Stewart and a house with a picket fence, surrounded by family. She worried that Stewart would not be satisfied staying in a small town. One day, there was a quiet knock at the door. As Stewart stepped outside, a flood of words came out of Debbie that sent Stewart's head spinning. She took a test. She's pregnant. She doesn't know what to do. Stuart tried to console her, but did about as well as most 19 year old boys might. His mind flooded with thoughts about his own life, even as he tried to reassure Debbie. They took a walk, and began the most adult conversation they'd ever had.
And Stuart had two realizations. He and Debbie would always be bound together through this child and he needed to start making money. Stuart wanted to provide for his family in a way that a job as a cashier at the Dollar General could not. He decided to do what everyone warned him not to do: trust the recruiter. His mind reached out and grasped the opportunity like a life raft. From thousands of conversations over the last few years, Stuart knew what Debbie wanted. Maybe they could have a family and he could do something interesting.
The recruiter had liked his grades and said that he had great potential in the air force. It would be an adventure. When Stuart mentioned his new family situation, the recruiter gave him a knowing smile. Don't worry. That's exactly what happened to me. And it's the best decision I ever made.
Six weeks had passed in the blink of an eye with everything blurring together. There was a courthouse wedding. He had no time to adjust to married life, just the blizzard of paperwork, questions, and examinations. When he and Debbie had parted, they both worried about what lay ahead. Stuart was halfway through his training when the call came about the baby. He was granted five days to return home. THey named the baby Mary after Debbie's favorite aunt.
Following weeks of additional training Stewart received his first PCS or Permanent Change of Duty station orders. He had requested bases close to home, but was shocked to read that he would be reporting to Elmendorf Air Force Base in Anchorage, Alaska.
Alaska! Stuart had visions of polar bears, igloos, mountains, and ice caps. He looked at a map and it was 5,000 miles away. The news was not easy to break to Debbie. She would be a new mother in a foreign land with no family to support her. Stuart became the chief consoler and pep talker every night on the phone. One tangible point he often brought up were the medical benefits that had already paid for Mary's birth. During the early days of their marriage, Stuart and Debbie reassured each other, that all the sacrifices were to provide for Mary.
When the big day came, Stuart and Debbie flew to Anchorage. When the plane descended towards the city, they cleared the ice covered mountain tops. And the view was a wide valley with braided gray tributaries feeding a much larger ocean inlet. Tucked to one side, they saw the city. It was a relief to see clusters of tall buildings, gleaming in the sun. The urban sprawl extended from the water's edge to midway up the mountain side. It was larger and more modern than they envisioned. There were no igloos. And aside from small patches of snow in the mountains about the city, it was clear they wouldn't be living on an ice cap.
The airplane ride was one of many new experiences, but Debbie and Stewart soon found their bearings in a new life. Stuart loved his job and took satisfaction from serving the country while supporting his family. After a few months, Debbie took a part-time job at a store on base. Mary spent a few hours a week at the daycare center, where over time she won the hearts of all the workers and her schoolmates. Like her daddy, she was a sharp one.
The family was comfortable and thriving. A year after arriving in Anchorage, Debbie shared the good news with their growing circle of friends: baby number two was on the way. Stuart was promoted and with the money he was bringing in they could afford a small house in the Russian Jack neighborhood, a couple miles off base. After the second winter Stuart and Debbie realized they liked living in Alaska. They passed what their more tenured friends said was the actual test. That first winter everything's still new. The second is when it gets old. After number two, you know what to expect and how long it'll last. Stewart's more senior coworkers told him, make sure you find something you like to do in the snow and plan in your summers during the darkest winter days.
The terms of Stuart's enlistment passed. He had been promoted several times and took satisfaction from serving the nation. But over six years he saw many of his friends leave and do very well in the oil industry. Stuart was hired by a major oil field services company before the ink was dry on his separation papers. The oil field services gig went well for Stewart. For two weeks a month, the cares of family life were distant. He did feel guilty about leaving Debbie at home to do all the work, but he was winning the bread and work was far from ordinary.
At the beginning of Mary's 12th year, she was doing well in school. She loved outdoor activities and told everyone she wanted to be a veterinarian when she grew up. Her greatest love and annoyance in life was her sister. Debbie sometimes felt that most of her days were spent refereeing disputes, but she laughed on the inside, remembering what it was like with her sister. They love to hate each other, but like her girls and they were inseparable
One night, there was a knock at the door, while Debbie and the girls were in the living room, watching TV. Mary answered. It was a police officer who asked for her mother. Mary yelled, "mom! Cop!" Debbie, almost to the door, shaking her head, smiling and about to apologize for the rudeness, but her humor vanished when she saw the officer's face. Debbie said, "it's okay, go watch TV." She pushed past Mary onto the porch, closing the door behind her. The officer introduced himself and asked Debbie if she was related to Stuart. Her mind was spinning as she whispered "husband."
Ma'am, I regret to inform you... As the officer spoke, the words seemed unreal, but at the same time were etched on Debbie's mind. Stuart died in a plane crash outside of Fairbanks. He and a coworker, a pilot, had been out in his friend's new Cessna when it crashed into a hillside and both were killed instantly. The words took Debbie's breath away. The officer asked if he could help her. Was there anybody else that he should speak with? She simply shook her head and thanked him and went back inside.
The first worst moment of Debbie's life was facing her girls, who were both staring at her. She crumpled onto the floor sobbing. Several long agonizing days, followed. Debbie had Stuart cremated. She didn't want to face anyone. They had a small Memorial service at the church down the street. Their Alaskan friends were the only ones who came. And that was okay with Debbie.
The downward spiral for Debbie was steep. Shock turned to depression, and during that turn, she started to self-medicate. It was only a little booze at first. Then when the alcohol wasn't enough, she found an old bottle of pills in the back of the cabinet. The girls dealing with their own waves of grief, went easy on their mom, but I got old. Sorrow became something more insidious in the onces happy home. Friends and family kept regular contact at first, but the calls and visits dwindled.
Debbie went through the small life insurance payout in a few months. She started looking like she wasn't taking care of herself. The manager at the store on base where Debbie worked part-time started asking questions, so she quit. She lost the house within a year and a half of Stuart's death. After the foreclosure, they moved into a one bedroom apartment in Muldoon, one of the few places Debbie could afford. By the time they moved into that Muldoon apartment, Mary was 13. She had learned that her once gregarious mom wasn't happy or dependable anymore. Her mother had several part-time jobs, mostly at restaurants, but those came and went. Mary noticed a pattern where Debbie would rally and do okay for a few weeks and back into zombie land.
She and Michelle just tried to live their lives around Debbie. In one of the up times, Debbie met and brought home Mike. After a few days, Mike invited himself to move in, crowding the already tight living space. The girls were uncomfortable seeing their mother showing affection to this new guy.
They became increasingly alarmed about Mike's affinity for drugs and alcohol.
The other problem with Mike was that when Debbie was out of a room, he would grab Mary. He acted like he was being playful. Mary knew when he rubbed her breasts or her butt he was doing it on purpose. Once as Debbie lay passed out on the sofa, Mike grabbed Mary and a bear hug as she came out of the bathroom. He laughed and pushed her against the bedroom door, put his hands down the back of her pants, only letting go when Mary cried out.
With the groping incidents becoming more frequent, Mary started spending as much of her time away as possible. She would stay over at friend's houses. And the lady two doors down didn't like Mike and was sympathetic, so Mary and Michelle would go there when things got bad. Mary worried that Mike would try to do something to Michelle. When Mary tried to tell her mom what was going on, Debbie flew into a rage, accusing Mary of always needing to be the center of attention.
Mary on Her Own
Marcy: Despondent, Mary left, and stayed with a series of friends She tried to call home and talk to Michelle, but Mike answered and he demanded know where she was. Mary continued to stay away. She started hanging out with a new group of kids around the downtown bus center. Mary liked the action down there. Something was always happening. She smoked weed for the first time in town square. And the group she was with fancied itself, a Guild of thieves. They dared each other to steal items from nearby shops, mostly clothing and jewelry. They would model their loot for the group at a predestined meeting spot. And the one who stole the most expensive item was the winner. Within a week, Mary and several of her friends were arrested as they gathered on benches behind the bus center. Mary was listed as a runaway, but she couldn't be released to a parent. The officer told her that there was an order to take her to the youth detention center. At McLaughlin Youth Center, Mary was interviewed by a social work. And during that conversation, Mary learned that she couldn't go home because there'd been a complaint filed against her mother and Mike. The social worker asked her several general questions about what it was like at home. Mary didn't want her mother in trouble, so she pretended everything was fine. The questions included several about Mike and how he treated her and Michelle. Mary said she didn't like Mike, but she wouldn't elaborate. Mary asked about her sister, Michelle, and the worker told her that she'd been placed in a temporary foster home. And that Mary would also be placed in a home. Mary had heard horror stories about foster parents from the downtown kids, but was hoping Michelle was better off now that she was away from Mike. Mary had no intention of staying with people she didn't know. So when the social worker dropped her off at a house in the Fairview neighborhood, she waited 10 minutes, ate the sandwich they gave her and walked out the back door.
For the next few weeks, Mary hung around downtown. sometimes stealing sometimes begging off friends. She was more careful now, always on the lookout for police. She slept over at a friend's garage, in a tent in the woods, and at Covenant House, the kid shelter. Mary didn't actually like Covenant House; they asked too many questions. During one of the couch surfing nights at her friend Dawn's apartment. Mary was introduced to a girl named Bambi. Bambi was 20, pretty with dark hair and striking blue eyes. Bambi sat down on the chair next to Mary and they talked for a long time. Mary was flattered that an older girl would be interested in anything she had to say. They talked about Mary's family and how she met Dawn. As Bambi left the house, she gave Mary her phone number, telling Mary to call her if she ever wanted a ride. Mary watched Bambi drive away in a newer looking car. Mary asked Dawn how she knew Bambi. "Oh, she works with my sister", Dawn said. "Does she live around here?" Mary asked. "She knows some rich guy who buys her shit. She's cool. My sister said she can get whatever you want." Mary asked," like beer" Dawn nodded. "Yeah, but also like she got Jenny and me some weed and she gave my sister some other shit."
A few days later, Mary went by Dawn's apartment, but nobody was home. Downtown was dead for a summer afternoon, but Mary saw a couple of her friends. They were bored and wanted to steal some liquor or find something to trade for weed. Mary remembered Bambi and borrowed a phone to call her. "Hello?" Bambi sounded irritated. When Mary identified herself, Bambi's voice softened, "yeah, I remember you. Hey girl, what are you doing?" Mary told Bambi that they were looking for something to do and wanted to know if she could help them. Bambi said," yeah, I can pick you up, but only you. There's no room for anybody else."
When Mary said yes, Bambi told her to be on the corner behind the bus station in 30 minutes. Bambi, repeated that she was only picking up Mary and added she didn't trust anybody else downtown. Mary agreed and hung up. And Mary waited, first standing on the corner and then laying in the grass in the concrete planter near the sidewalk. About an hour and a half later, Mary was ready to give up when a pickup truck pulled onto the street.
At first, Mary didn't recognize the ride because the driver was a black guy she didn't know. The truck bumped up on the curb and Bambi yelled out the window to Mary. Mary jumped off the planter as Bambi got out and they hugged. "Hey girl, this is Al you can sit between us." as she motioned for Mary to get in. Al gave her a head nod and smiled as Mary slid in. Mary noticed Al was older. She gets about 30. They drove around for a couple of hours, passing a travel mug back and forth. Bambi offered Mary a drink. It was fruity with a distinct alcohol bite. Mary looked at Bambi with her eyebrows raised. Bambi, laughed, "rum punch. You like it?" Mary smiled nodded, as she took a bigger drink. The conversation flowed easily after that. They talked about all kinds of things. Al was mostly quiet. Mary noticed Al never laughed when they joked, and Bambi made that into a joke. "Al's pissed because a Spernard crack ho stole his sense of humor." Al only smiled, but the girls laughed until their faces were red.
They stopped at several apartments around town. Bambi told Mary they were picking up and dropping off. Sometimes Bambi went in. Sometimes Al. During one stop at a small place near Mary's old house, Al went to the door. A young guy answered. And a minute later, Al suddenly yelled something, forcing the guy back and disappearing from view. Mary could hear Al yelling inside the building. Then a woman began screaming. Frightened, Mary looked at Bambi who told her not to worry. 30 seconds later, Al came back outside, tucking a watt into his pants pocket as he walked back to the car as if nothing happened. And they drove away.
After a stop in Spenard, Bambi told Mary they were going to a party at a friend, Joe's, house. Did Mary want to come along? Having nowhere else to go? Mary said, yes. She got a little nervous during the drive which was south away from downtown. When they passed Dimond off ramp, the only place she'd been in this direction was the town of Seward two hours away. "How far are we going?" Mary asked. Bambi said, "it's not far. Joe has a mansion on the ocean." 10 more minutes, and they turned off the highway into one of the last neighborhoods before leaving Anchorage. The area had houses on large, lots, mostly separated by tall stands of Birch and spruce. Through the trees behind some of the houses, Mary could see Cook Inlet shimmering in the low evening sun.
Marcy: They pulled into the driveway of a big house. There were a few other cars parked off to one side. Mary surveyed the scene as she got out. It wasn't the mansion she envisioned from TV, but it was nice and had manicured landscaping. Mary thought she had never been inside a place like this. Feeling out of place. Mary asked Bambi, "you're friends with Joe's parents?" Bambi and Al both laughed as Bambi, threw her arm across Mary's shoulder and pulled her towards the door. "This is Joe's crib. This is the Playboy mansion of Anchorage. You can do anything you want here. You just have to keep your mouth shut."
Mary noticed that Al opened the door without knocking, and they went inside. As they walk through the entryway, a thin tall white guy who looked to be in his twenties, appeared from a side room. He greeted Al and Bambi. Bambi asked him who was there and he nodded his head toward the living room, "Vally trash in there. Joe's in the bedroom." To Al he said, "Re-up?" Al ignored him and walked past, down the dark hallway. Bambi told Mary, "you go that way and see who's in there. We'll be out in a minute," and she followed Al down the hallway. The white guy looked at Mary and chuckled to himself, "you here for Joe?" Mary shrugged and walked past him into the living room. There was an older guy sitting on a couch watching TV, a teenage looking girl with long blonde hair, was laying on the couch asleep, her head in the man's lap. The coffee table in front of them was strewn with liquor bottles, beer cans, and a couple of bongs. The man sleepily looked up at Mary and nodded, "hey." Mary barely noticed him. Her attention had been drawn to the back window and the stunning view of the ocean. It looked as if the wide strip of lawn extended from the rear of the house, way out into the ocean. With the mountains across the inlet backlit, the view was stunning. Mary, transfixed, walked through the house to the back glass doors.
After absorbing the view, Mary saw that there were two young women sitting outside on the deck. They noticed Mary at the same time. One of the women startled grabbing an object off the table as if she didn't want Mary to see. After a few seconds of looking at Mary, both women relaxed, waving around outside, and Mary opened the door. The woman who hid the item said, "Hey girl, you scared us" and put the crack pipe back on the table. The other woman laughed. They introduced themselves. Like everybody else she met so far, no one asked her how old she was.
Mary and the women exchanged stories. They were there to see Joe. They called him Millionaire Joe. He always had the best parties. They asked Mary if it was her first time, and she said it was. One said, "this place is awesome. Sometimes fucked up shit happens, but it's worth it. You can have anything you want. You want to hit this?" she motioned to the pipe. Mary said, "not yet. Thanks." Bambi came outside, holding a drink for her. "There you are." Mary notice Bambi was talking much louder than she had been. She looked and sounded like she was vibrating. " Hey, you have to come in and meet Joe. Joe is awesome. This is his place. Isn't it great. Joe's like my second daddy. Come and meet Joe." Bambi pulled Mary out of the chair and through the house talking seemingly without taking a breath. In a large bedroom an old man was sitting in an armchair. The coffee table in front of him had an assortment of drugs. Mary saw various powders pills, pipes, and syringes.
Bambi blurted out, "Joe. This is Mary. Isn't she pretty!" Mary was shocked by the incongruty. Joe reminded her of pictures that she'd seen of her grandfather. He was certainly old enough to be her grandfather. The piles of drugs in front of him were a contradiction that she couldn't wrap her brain around.
Joe, who'd been staring out the window to his right jerked, his head to face Mary. He regarded her with unusually wide eyes as if he was trying to focus. Mary thought ,damn he's high too. Joe smiled broadly after a few seconds. "Yes, she's very pretty. Mary? Is your name, Mary? Like you can marry me?" Bambi and Joe broke into peels of laughter at that joke. Mary given nervous smile. "Mary, do you like my house?" Mary nodded, "It's great." "Good." Joe gave an abrupt nod. " You know, I bought it for friends like you, I bought it so they'd all have a place to come and have a good time. Together." He leaned forward in the chair and padded the side of Mary's thigh. An awkward silence was broken by a ringing phone, which Joe answered. Bambi said, "let's go get you right."
The following two days were a blur for Mary. She smoked cocaine and then anything they gave her. The crack made her feel invincible, the sadness and the weight of her life fell away. She wanted to never feel hopeless again. And that was the promise that the drugs whispered as they washed over her.
Mary remembered people coming and going from the house. She remembered dancing barefoot on the backyard grass with a group of people she didn't know. She didn't care. She had flashes of being on the grass with the skinny white guy. They were kissing and he was caressing her breasts. She didn't care. She passed out.
When Mary came to her brain was a fog. She was on her back and a bed in a dimly lit room. She was aware of pressure, realizing it was a hand between her legs pressing inside of her. Mary realized a man was sitting next to her. His weight pinning her down on one side. She tried to focus. As the man leaned closer, she saw it was Joe. Mary was able to weakly say, "Joe, no". Joe smiled broadly, "sheesh. Call me daddy." Mary tried to struggle, but the drugs just washed her back into the abyss.
Mary woke up to Bambi shaking her. She was lying in the sunlight on one of the living room couches. "We have to go." "Huh?" "We have to go use the bathroom if you need to." Mary rolled off the couch groaning as she stood. She was sore all over, but mainly her head hurt. A few minutes later, Mary and Bambi were outside in the driveway. The cars that were there when she arrived were gone. Al pulled up in an old car. Bambi told Mary to sit in front and they both got in. Bambi, told Mary that she had a place for her to stay in Spenard. She said there were rules that Mary had to follow to stay there and she couldn't tell anybody about Joe's place.
They pulled into the parking lot of a small dilapidated condo complex. Bambi showed Mary inside and upstairs to one of the rooms, where a young woman was asleep in one of four twin beds, two on each side of the room. Each bed had a clear plastic box underneath of it. Bambi pointed to the only bed with an empty tote. "You sleep there." Mary asked, "is this a shelter?" Bambi smiled, "kind of. Stay here. Al and some guys will come by and take care of you. Most of the girls here are cool but some can be bitches. Call me if you have any problems." They hugged and Bambi went downstairs. Mary noticed Al was standing outside in the hallway. He stepped into the room and handed her a baggie with pills. He leaned close to her his face serious, "do what she said. Stick around here and don't say shit about Joe's place. Understand?" Mary shrank back, but nodded.
Police investigations can start in several different ways. The most common way is that citizens call the police to report a crime. This can be a crime in progress or one that's happened at some point in the past. Another way that an investigation can begin is when attentive police officers or detectives gather information piece by piece. Sometimes over weeks or months, indicating something illegal is going on. That is how the Joseph Boehm investigation began.
Before 2003 Boehm, a 58 year old resident of Anchorage was best known as the owner of the Alaska Industrial Hardware, or AIH, a prominent equipment company founded in 1959.
The description from AIH's corporate website reads "from our humble beginnings in a Quonset hut on the corner of Seward highway and Fireweed lane in Anchorage, we have grown into an Alaskan brand, recognized by generations of trades people and do it yourselfers. We began with a simple plan buy surplus nuts and bolts, repackage them and sell them. As Alaska has grown, so have the needs. And AIH has risen to the challenge. We expanded our original plan to offer nuts and bolts and we haven't stopped."
Boehm got rich with AIH because the company was a major supplier of tools for constructing the Alaska oil pipeline. The company is very well known in the region because of its wide selection of tools and it's decades, long investment in local philanthropy, sponsoring teams, clubs, and neighborhood improvement across Anchorage and throughout Alaska.
Before 2003, ominous rumors swirled that despite Boehms upstanding reputation, he was a man with some very illegal proclivities. Rumors can go unaddressed by a police department because there's never a lack of cases drawing attention. The information that stimulates a response must be specific and compelling enough to prioritize over other pressing cases. Sometime in 2002 or 2003 Boehm's problems reached critical mass and broke through the static. A detective was investigating the sexual assault of a teenage girl. The assault did not involve Boehm, but what the detective was told was later described by Tatabuline Brandt, a reporter from the Anchorage Daily News, Boehm's house had, "a reputation among some teenagers and adults as a crack house, a place filled with pornography, where runaway teenage girls from Anchorage and the valley could go for drugs and a place to stay, if they were willing to have sex with Boehm and other people."
Boehm's residence was a 4,000 square foot, five bedroom house in the exclusive ocean vi