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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (AP) — An Alaska tribal leader has been killed, and a suspect is in custody, authorities said.

Melissa Erickson, 43, president of the Healy Lake Traditional Council, was found dead Friday night outside the suspect’s home with an ax near her, the Daily News-Miner reported . Erickson suffered a blow or blows to the head, according to court records.

Sidney Randolph Huntington, 35, was charged Saturday with first-degree murder and is being held at the Fairbanks Correctional Center on $600,000 bail.

Witnesses told troopers they heard gunshots after Huntington and Erickson left a party in Healy Lake, a community of about 13 people east of Delta Junction.

“A resident went to check out the noise and observed Huntington walking towards him with an ax in his hand,” Alaska State Trooper Investigator Joseph Harris wrote in court records.

The resident said they warned Huntington to stop and fired a warning shot in his direction.

When troopers contacted Huntington, who was reportedly shirtless, he said he owned an ax matching the description of the ax found beside Erickson. The ax had blood and hair on it, Harris wrote.

Troopers reported finding blood-soaked clothing in Huntington’s residence.

Huntington told authorities, “All he remembered was drinking and blacking out,” according to court records.

A trooper online dispatch described Erickson as Huntington’s girlfriend. But her brother, Brian Erickson, said they were friends and that Huntington did some work for her.

Huntington has a criminal background that includes multiple convictions of drunken driving, a burglary conviction and pending cases on charges of trespassing, indecent exposure and driving without a valid license, according to court records.


Information from: Fairbanks (Alaska) Daily News-Miner,