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Cold case: Montana man charged in 15-year-old Alaska murder

Sandra Perry was shot and killed by Robert Kowalski in 1996 in Yakutat. The shooting was ruled as an accident at the time. But detectives reopened the case after Kowalski shot a second woman years later under similar circumstances. He has now been charged with murder in the Alaska death, troopers said today.Sandra Perry was shot and killed by Robert Kowalski in 1996 in Yakutat. The shooting was ruled as an accident at the time. But detectives reopened the case after Kowalski shot a second woman years later under similar circumstances. He has now been charged with murder in the Alaska death, troopers said today.

From Casey Grove and Kyle Hopkins in Anchorage --

A man doing time in Montana for murdering his girlfriend has now been indicted in a similar killing 15 years ago in Alaska.

The first shooting came in the summer of 1996. Robert D. Kowalski, then 34, was vacationing at the Glacier Bear Lodge in Yakutat with girlfriend Sandra Perry, Alaska State Troopers said.

Kowalski told authorities he grabbed a shotgun after hearing a bear outside the window, troopers said. The gun accidentally went off, striking and killing Perry, he told authorities.

Although a man staying in the next room said he heard the pair arguing before the gunshot, Kowalski was never charged with the death, court records show.

That changed when -- 12 years later and more than 1,200 miles away -- Kowalski shot a second woman. The killing came in 2008 in Montana, when Kowalski fired on girlfriend Lorraine Kay Morin following an argument.

Once again, the victim was shot in the head. Once again, Kowalski claimed the killing was an accident. This time, however, he was charged with murder. He pleaded guilty to the homicide in July 2009, according to the Daily Inter Lake News in Northwest Montana.

The eerie similarities between the two shootings prompted investigators in Alaska to reopen the old Yakutat cold case.

It’s unclear what new information they discovered, but a Juneau grand jury handed up an indictment for murder on Friday, troopers said.

Kowalski, now 50, remains behind bars in Montana pending extradition to Alaska, troopers said. A Juneau judge set his bail at $1 million, troopers said.

Read much more about the two shootings here:

-- Woman's death in Montana has eerie echoes of Yakutat killing (Anchorage Daily News, 2009)

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

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