Staci Gillilan dominated the April news, this time for her writing skills. She has provided two documents for consideration. The first is her letter of apology, which was required as a condition of her felony probation. It has been posted on the K300 website and Facebook site, and all but one person who has commented found it to be insufficient as an apology. One of the posters on Facebook, Arlee Taylor, had the following to say. "The truth of the tens of thousands taken will probably never be known and this is some sort of apology from a thief that has robbed any and everyone ever known at any turn? Was it written on toilet paper too?." Arlee's connection to this case will be discussed more fully below. If the probation officer agrees that this is not really an apology, it will be up to the judge to decide if she is in violation of her probation.
Staci's other attempt at writing isn't an apology either. This is her petition against Arlee Taylor, filed in Bethel court as a public document. It is a further example of her inability to admit her errors. A bit of background is needed to fully appreciate this situation. Arlee Taylor was at one time the web designer for the Kuskokwim 300, identified as a friend of Staci from California who actually flew to Bethel to help with the 2008 race, just before Staci was fired. The race committee learned of serious issues with race finances in late February, the same week Staci flew to Anchorage for a school meeting over a long weekend. While she was there, her husband provided copies of the race financial records to the K300, and it was quickly learned that Staci had paid herself three extra paychecks during 2007, among numerous other suspicious entries. Arlee flew to Anchorage from California that weekend, and stated that he helped Staci put together another set of books that made an effort to conceal the extra payments. They also visited some K300 suppliers, paying overdue bills with cash, bills that Staci told the committee had already been paid. Apparently Arlee provided cash to pay those bills.
The weekend's activities were not limited to financial issues. Arlee filmed Staci in a bathtub, a video that he eventually placed on the Internet, seen by countless folks in Bethel and beyond when news of it hit town. Two later, less racy postings of Staci also made YouTube and other sites. The petition above is Staci's response to the videos. She claims she was unconscious from the use of prescription drugs. Those who have seen the video and heard the audio can decide whether her words in this petition, signed under oath, are truthful. One astute observer questioned how an unconscious person could survive and escape a tub full of water. Denying the obvious is a skill Staci has perfected.
The Bethel crime scene provides lots of colorful stories like Staci's of a search and rescue operation caused readers to wonder why the wilderness traveler didn't hide his cargo in a nearby snow bank. Maybe he had watched the movie Fargo and was worried about finding his treasure later on the barren tundra.
ALO tried major case before a jury in April. A family from Crooked Creek, the first of many to contact ALO through its website a few years back, finally had its day in court against Hageland, a local air carrier. It was alleged that a Hageland pilot tried to start a Cessna 207 while a teenage girl was still loading bags on a four wheeler near the front of the plane. The jury found that the prop struck her on the top of the head, causing a wound about 3 ½ inches long and deep enough so that witnesses could see her skull. The pilot at first admitted he struck her with the prop as he was starting the engine, but later wrote a second statement questioning whether that happened. He did so at the suggestion of Ron Burkevich, Hageland's safety director who suggested they keep the first statement in the company because it didn't sound too good for the pilot or the company. Based on that, the jury found that punitive damages should be awarded for the attempt to cover up the incident. After the verdict and before a second trial to determine punitive damages, the parties reached a confidential settlement. This case represented the most heavily defended case that ALO has ever experienced. Spending money to scare off folks with a valid claim is a tactic often used, but it doesn't always work. This time the defense spent a ton of money defending and still lost.
Steve Bush, who helped build the cabin which now houses ALO, passed away in April. Steve took part in the first Kuskokwim 300 and later ran the Iditarod. He and his family lived in Aniak for many years before moving to Montana. You can read more about that first K300 on the race website, where Manager Casie Stockdale has scanned in a batch of articles. Old timers in Bethel will remember the strong staff of local writers we had in Bethel back then, and the difference in news coverage between then and now is astounding.