Between 1912 and 1915, a number of single, unattached men mysteriously disappeared in Southeast Alaska. The few law enforcement officials in the territory were baffled, but a suspect finally emerged in the fall of 1915.
A Petersburg man named Edward Krause, who’d run for the Territorial Legislature as a Socialist Party candidate in 1912, represented himself as a U.S. Marshall to officials at the Treadwell Mine in Douglas in mid-September. Krause told the bosses that he had a court summons for a mine worker named James Christie, according to Alaska State Troopers’ 50 Years of History.
Christie departed with the bogus lawman and was never seen again.
The managers at the mine started an investigation of their own into Christie’s disappearance. When it was learned that Krause also was identified as the last person to see a missing charter boat operator out of Juneau, a warrant for his arrest was issued on charges of impersonating a federal officer.
Krause escaped the clutches of the law in Ketchikan and jumped on board a steamer heading for Seattle. But a savvy passenger, who had seen posters plastered by the Treadwell Mining Company, recognized him as the man with a bounty on his head. When the steamer docked in Puget Sound, police detectives were waiting.
A search of Krause’s possessions turned up incriminating evidence including forged documents, bank accounts and real estate transactions, which tied him to not only the recent disappearances in Juneau, but to the disappearances of at least eight other men, too.
After Krause was returned to Alaska, his true identity surfaced. Krause was really Edward Slompke, who’d served with the U. S. Army at Wrangell in 1897. By using forged documents, and stealing a military payroll, he deserted from the 12th U.S. Infantry in 1902 when his regiment was sent to China to participate in the Boxer Rebellion.
A yearlong investigation, which used the services of the newly formed Federal Bureau of Investigation, as well as the U.S. State Department, revealed a series of disappearances and an intricate pattern of forged property transactions.
Authorities found that over the years Krause recovered the assets of the murdered men. They also learned that a “murder gang,” run by Krause at Petersburg, was involved in additional mysterious disappearances. However, none of Krause’s victims were found, so authorities had to rely on strong circumstantial evidence to try him.
His first murder trial, of Juneau charter boat operator James O. Plunkett, began in July 1917. Based on the overwhelming circumstantial evidence, the jury found Krause guilty of first-degree murder. His conviction was affirmed by the U.S. Court of Appeals in San Francisco, and Krause was sentenced to die by hanging at Juneau.
After sawing through the bars of his cell, Krause escaped from the Juneau Federal Jail two days before his slated execution. That launched the most widespread manhunt in the territory’s history.
Fishing fleets in every community in Southeast mobilized to block Krause’s escape out of Alaska. The mines on both sides of Gastineau Channel closed down, and 1,000 miners joined in the hunt. While house-to-house searches were conducted, Governor Strong announced his $1,000 reward, “dead or alive.”
A few days later, a homesteader claimed the reward. He’d killed Krause after the fugitive stepped out of a stolen skiff onto the beach at Admiralty Island.