Updated: 12:10 p.m.
Alaska State Troopers are investigating the death of a 13-year-old girl in Kake as a homicide and awaiting the results of an autopsy.
Family members identified the girl as Mackenzie H. Howard. Troopers say she was found by a member of the community just after 11:30 Tuesday night inside an entryway to the Memorial Presbyterian Church.
Trooper spokesperson Beth Ipsen says investigators are continuing to work in Kake today.
“We’re taking the necessary investigative steps, collecting evidence, talking to people,” Ipsen said. “And we’re treating it like it is a homicide. It’s a matter of getting the confirmation of the state medical examiner’s office. They’ll be conducting an autopsy, and determining the cause of death.”
Howard’s body is being sent to Anchorage for that autopsy. Ipsen could not say when the autopsy would happen. No arrests have been made in the case but Ipsen says investigators were working hard to follow up leads.
“Pretty much any community is going to be shaken up by the death of a 13-year-old girl, and then when it’s determined it appears to be a homicide, it causes even more ripples,” she said. “And we do have a lot of information coming in, but there’s a lot of information that — I hate to call them rumors, but there’s a lot of information that gets twisted around and we have to track down these leads, so if there’s something that is really just kind of far out, we have to look at the information coming in and determine it to be truthful or factual or see where it goes. So, for us, it’s kind of weeding the rumors from the facts, too, on top of it.”
About 600 people live in Kake, which is on the northwest coast of Kupreanof Island. A number of visitors were in the city this week for a memorial service for Tlingit elder Clarence Jackson. Anyone with information in the case is encouraged to call state troopers at 907-225-5118.
Meanwhile, a Facebook group has formed to organize a candlelight vigil for Howard. It’s planned for Friday evening 6 p.m. at the old grade school in Kake.
This story will be updated as new information becomes available.