UPDATE, November 26, 2019: Albert Peter Macasaet is serving an 80-year sentence at the Ketchikan Correctional Center.
UPDATE, 6:45 p.m. Friday: after extending deliberation into the evening hours, a Sitka jury found Albert Peter Macasaet III guilty of murder in the first degree.
The jury trial of a Prince of Wales man accused of killing his girlfriend is one step closer reaching a verdict. Jurors have heard all the evidence in the case, and prosecutors and the defense gave their closing arguments Thursday..
30-year-old Albert Peter Macasaet III is accused of strangling 27-year-old Judylee Guthrie to death in July of 2016. A week after her body was found in a puddle near the Sunnahae trail in Klawock, Macasaet was arrested and charged with murder following a 10-hour stand-off with Alaska State Troopers.
Macasaet claims that he and Guthrie drove to the trailhead together after drinking at a bar and in Macasaet’ mother’s home. When they parked at the trailhead, Guthrie walked away from Macasaet into the woods. He claims he did not follow her down the trail.
However, state prosecutor Paul Miovas said that’s not true. That night, Macasaet told a state trooper that Guthrie was angry and had left him at the bar. Since that statement, Macasaet changed his story, Miovas argued.
“But the problem with a lie is this: you gotta keep it straight,” Miovas said in his closing argument Thursday. “You gotta keep that lie straight in order for it to make sense down the road.”
Macasaet maintains he saw Guthrie for the last time at the trailhead. Once she walked away from him and into the woods, Macasaet says he called his mother to pick him up. Miovas argued that was a significant lie, as it gives Macasaet a false alibi.
“Mr. Macasaet wants to make sure this is the story he sticks to from now on because if he’s with his mother who picks him up at the trailhead then he can’t be murdering her sometime after 4 a.m.,” Miovas said.
State prosecutors also pointed to two instances in which Macasaet strangled Guthrie – once in 2009, for which he served time in jail, and then in 2014 on Guthrie’s birthday, which Macasaet denies.
But public defender Jay Hochberg argued prosecutors were attempting to sully the character of his client.
“These are two bad days, no question about that,” he said. “But to reduce this man to two bad days ignores the thousands of every days that he and his family have together.”
Hochberg said the evidence against Macasaet is “very thin,” pointing to DNA evidence found under Guthries’ fingernails that does not match Macasaet’s own DNA.
“So where is that DNA from?,” Hochberg argued to the jury. “That DNA that hung on is from her killer. That right there is reasonable doubt. It’s scientific evidence that makes sense and fits into what happened. It was someone else.”
Hochberg said inconsistencies in police reports point to a “confirmation bias” against suspects like Macasaet that are close to murder victims. Prosecutors deny that bias and point to cell phone records that show Macasaet was inactive in the hours when they believe he killed Guthrie.
The case is now in the hands of the jury for deliberation.