From Kyle Hopkins in Anchorage --
A jury found a man from tiny Port Protection guilty of manslaughter Friday in a case that began when troopers came upon the 39-year-old towing a body in a boat.
Ronald O'Neil was originally indicted Aug. 18 on charges of second-degree murder and tampering with evidence in the death of Tracy G. Simpson, 54.
The pair had been drinking brandy at O'Neil's float house before the killing, Ketchikan District Attorney Stephen West said today. A clear motive for the attack was never determined, West said.
The cause of death: Blunt force trauma to the head.
“We think he may have used, at least, his right hand because his right hand was badly swollen," West said.
O'Neil was found not guilty of the murder and tampering charges, West said.
The jury convicted O'Neil of the lesser manslaughter charge following a 10-day trial in Craig, according to troopers. The judge dismissed an additional charge of drunken driving.
The investigation began Aug. 7 when troopers learned of a possible death at Port Protection. The community of fewer than 100 people sits at the northern tip of Prince of Wales Island in Southeast Alaska.
Troopers arrived to find O'Neil operating a skiff, towing a second skiff that carried Simpson's body.
"O'Neil was subsequently detained and made a statement similar to 'he must have killed' Simpson," Trooper Grant Miller wrote in court papers.
It was not immediately clear why the jury convicted O'Neil, who is now 40, of manslaughter rather than the more severe murder charge. His lawyers could not be reached for comment this morning.
O'Neil is being held at the Craig jail, West said. Sentencing is planned for July.
-- Murder trial of Port Protection man begins with jury selection (Associated Press).
Read the latest trooper report on the case, posted late last night, here:
Port Protection - Prince of Wales Island
On 4-20-12, a Craig jury found Ronald L. O'Neil, age 39, of Port Protection, guilty of Manslaughter for the death of Tracy G. Simpson, age 54, of Port Protection, after a 10 day long trial in Craig, Alaska. On 8/18/11 a Grand Jury in Ketchikan indicted Ronald L. O'Neil for Murder in the Second Degree, Tampering with Physical Evidence, and DUI; however, he was found not guilty in those charges. Sentencing is scheduled for 7-24-12.
This conviction stems from the investigation of the Alaska State Troopers back in 8/7/11 when they traveled to Port Protection after receiving a report of a possible death on a float house near Port Protection at the North end of Prince of Wales Island. During the early morning hours of 8/8/11, Alaska State Troopers and Alaska Wildlife Troopers from Klawock Post arrived in Port Protection and contacted
Ronald L. O'Neil as he was operating a skiff, which was towing a second skiff. Found in the second skiff was the body of an adult male who was later identified as Tracy G. Simpson. Investigation revealed that O'Neil was under the influence and was taken into custody for DUI, Murder in the 2nd Degree, and Tampering with Physical Evidence.
Investigators from the Alaska Bureau of Investigation-Major Crimes Unit in Anchorage responded to conduct an investigation. O'Neil was incarcerated at the Ketchikan Correctional Center. Simpson's body was transported to the State Medical Examiner's for an autopsy. Next of Kin