A man found passed out next to the body of a 73-year-old man in Minto the morning of Sept. 1 was arrested Thursday and charged with criminally negligent homicide.
Knowland Silas, of Minto, was found deceased on his living room floor after his next-door neighbor asked village health aides to check on him. Silas had possible injuries to his face and a pool of blood had formed under his body, according to a criminal complaint filed in Fairbanks court Friday.
Zachary Andrew Charlie, 27, of Minto, was asleep on the couch next to Silas’ body. Charlie had blood on his clothes and hands and seemed “out of it” when a health aide woke him and told him to leave.
Alaska State Troopers responded to Minto on Sept. 1 after the tribal administrator notified them of a suspicious death at 11:47 a.m. Charlie was detained at his uncle’s home and troopers searched Silas’ home.
Silas’ body was on the living room floor and almost touching the couch where Charlie had been found passed out. Troopers discovered a partial shoeprint in a small pool of blood near Silas’ bed and a blood stained sweatshirt in his washing machine, according to the complaint.
Charlie told troopers he’d been drinking the night before at a home next door to Silas and was extremely intoxicated when he left at 3 a.m. Charlie said he went to Silas’ house and Silas talked about his past hunting and fishing experiences. Charlie didn’t remember any arguments or disturbances of any kind when he was with Silas, according to the complaint.
Charlie had dried blood plainly visible on his hands and deep blood stains on his shirt. The tread of Charlie’s shoes appeared to match the pattern of the impression left in the blood on Silas’ floor.
Silas’ body was sent to the state medical examiner’s office in Anchorage for autopsy. On Sept. 4, the medical examiner notified troopers that Silas sustained two blunt impact injuries that would result in death and were likely the result of an assault. One injury was a brain bleed that was likely the result of being punched or hit with an open hand. Silas also had a crushed rib and lung injury that could have been the result of being kicked or stomped. The medical examiner did not find any wounds that suggested a weapon had been used, according to the complaint.
Troopers returned to Minto and spoke to the three health aides that found Silas’ body. The aids said Charlie’s uncle knocked on the door of the village clinic between 11 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. and said they needed to check on Silas. The aids said they later learned that one of the man’s nephews had checked on Silas that morning and told him that Silas needed help.
Silas’ family confirmed that the nephew often checked on Silas and it was normal for him to do so.
Charlie gave troopers a slightly different account of that morning when interviewed a second time. According to the complaint, Charlie said he left the house next door to Silas’ home sometime between 5 a.m. and 6 a.m. and didn’t remember going to Silas’ house.
The Minto public safety officer told troopers he was aware of at least two incidents in which Charlie had entered the house of an older villager, helped himself to food and drink and was forced to leave. The VPSO said Charlie had also been accused of burglarizing Silas’ home in the past.
Minto has a population of approximately 210 and is located 126 miles northwest of Fairbanks off the Elliott Highway.
Contact staff writer Dorothy Chomicz at 459-7582. Follow her on Twitter: @FDNMcrime.