Tue, 09 Mar 2021

ANCHORAGE, AK / ACCESSWIRE / February 19, 2021 / Anchorage, Alaska's oldest cold case - the mystery of who shot the city's first Police Chief - has been solved. After nearly two years of research, Ghost Tours of Anchorage Owner Rick Goodfellow and Historian/Musician Laura Koenig have revealed that Jack Sturgus actually died at his own hand.

Why his suicide was covered up for all of these years remains a mystery, but Anchorage friends probably wanted to shelter his wife, Anna, from the truth for religious, social and financial reasons. She stood to benefit from the proceeds of a $1,000 life insurance policy, which she would not have received if his death had been ruled a suicide.

'Our city would rather have people thinking a murderer was running loose than admitting our first police chief took his own life,' said Rick Goodfellow, owner of Ghost Tours of Anchorage. 'This is not the solution that I hoped for, since it casts such a pessimistic view of what Anchorage was like 100 years ago.'

When Goodfellow started his Ghost Tours 13 years ago, one of his goals was to solve the murder of Chief Sturgus. Jack was only on the job as the city's Police Chief for eight weeks when he was found shot in a downtown alley on Feb. 20, 1921. He died at the hospital a couple of hours later. The ghost tour ends at that spot, which is now behind the Historic Anchorage Hotel.

Two years ago, Anchorage resident Laura Koenig went on the ghost tour and was fascinated with the case. She devoted nearly two years researching archives, traveling across the country and digging into every resource she could find to solve the mystery.

'Once I started looking, I found that Jack's story was completely different than the way it was explained 100 years ago,' said Laura Koenig. 'His life was filled with travel, adventure and unexpected twists and turns.

John Johnson 'JJ' Sturgus was born into a family of considerable prosperity and influence in Ohio. For whatever reason, (rebellion or rejection from his family) he headed west and worked in a variety of jobs as a ranch hand, milkman, bartender, laborer, and night watchman. Eventually, he became a police officer in Everett, WA.

Until this week, it was thought that there was only one surviving photo of Jack, but Koenig found another one (revealed yesterday at a Cook Inlet Historical Society lecture when Goodfellow and Koenig shared their new findings).

Jack married Anna, who was 20 years younger, in 1913, and they moved to Anchorage in 1917. Jack had big ideas and somehow always seemed to have money to invest in Alaska ventures. He met a U.S. Marshal Hoffmann while chasing gold in the Chisana Gold Rush and they became friends. He was hired as a Deputy in Anchorage. Later, Jack landed the job of Police Chief.

Understanding Jack's story requires one to understand what Anchorage was like 100 years ago. There was a real question as to whether the frontier city would survive. The railroad that the federal government funded was supposed to bring wealth, but it didn't happen. Anchorage was the subject of jealousy and criticism from other parts of Alaska (Valdez, Seward and Cordova) where some thought the railroad was better suited. Anchorage was vilified by other communities as not being true Alaskan. That sentiment continues today - the city is different than any other part of Alaska.

Jack's career also had its controversies. He shot and killed a man in Everett and shot another in Anchorage. He was also accused of stealing gold coins from a man he arrested. But most importantly, according to Koenig, he had a history of family depression and had tried to kill himself as a young man in Wyoming.

Goodfellow will amend his Ghost Tours of Anchorage script to tell the new, confirmed story of Jack Sturgus, which it turns out is not a cold case murder but a story of despair that resonates even today. Koenig has vowed to continue to pursue loose ends in her research to paint a complete picture of what happened on that fateful day 100 years ago.


Kathy Day

SOURCE: Ghost Tours of Anchorage

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