Defendant Reuben Yerkes (l.) sits by public defender Jude Pate in Sitka Superior Court on Monday (5-15-17). Although Judge David George advised Yerkes that he had the right to a speedy trial (within 120 days), Yerkes waived that right in order to examine the state’s evidence against him. (KCAW photo/Robert Woolsey)

A Sitka defendant has pleaded not guilty to three counts of murder. A trial has been scheduled for January of next year.

Downloadable audio.

As usual, the Sitka Superior Courtroom was standing-room only, packed with friends of 28-year old Ali Clayton, who was killed early in the morning of May 6 in her apartment.

Her city hall co-worker and boyfriend of just two months, Reuben Yerkes, turned himself into the Sitka Police Department later the same morning, admitting to the crime.

Nevertheless, Yerkes wants to proceed to trial.

“We enter not-guilty pleas to all three counts, and ask you to set dates for a jury trial.”

That’s the voice of Sitka public defender Jude Pate, who represents Yerkes. Last week, a Juneau grand jury indicted Yerkes on one count of first degree murder, and two counts of second degree murder.

Ordinarily, the state has 120 days to try a defendant; Pate, however, asked for more time. The state is testing DNA and ballistics evidence collected at the crime scene, and the defense wants to obtain its own analysis after the state is finished. Juneau assistant district attorney Angie Kemp believed it would be a while.

“I would say realistically, including DNA testing in the timeframe that we’re on, those items (would be available to the defense) in the early fall, late August.”

Consequently, Pate asked for a trial date in October or November, but Superior Court Judge David George considered October to be “unreliable,” and he would be absent in November. In order to avoid running into the holidays, George set a trial date for Wednesday, January 3.

Pate advised the court to set aside at least two full weeks to try the case.