Frank Lee arraigned in Superior Court on Teller murder
William Johnson, 31, died in Teller shortly after Frank Lee stabbed him in the chest during an argument early July 14, according to Alaska State Troopers’ investigation.
Lee has pleaded innocent of the charge: Murder First Degree with Intent To Cause Death and Murder Two—Extreme Indifference [to the value of human life], both unclassified felonies.
The court has appointed Lee a lawyer to help prepare his defense.
Witnesses in Teller told Alaska State Trooper Timothy Smith that there had been an argument outside the home of Frank David “Punchy” Lee, 43, between Lee and Johnson. As the altercation progressed, Lee went into his house and returned with a knife in each hand, according to the AST report document filed by Smith. Lee stabbed Johnson with one knife and then turned the other knife on himself.
An emergency flight took Lee to Anchorage with a self-inflicted injury to his abdomen, according to court documents. Law enforcement arrested Lee in Anchorage on a $100,000 warrant.
Lee had been arraigned in Anchorage Jail Courtroom on July 17 and his file was sent to Nome.
The arraignment in Nome on July 27 occurred after Lee’s murder charges transferred to Superior Court, which handles felonies. Lee, in custody at Anvil Mountain Correctional Center, sat with four other people also transported to town from AMCC for hearings in their cases.
Gus and Francine Johnson, William Johnson’s parents, attended the arraignment hearing with Johnson’s two sisters and two brothers. The family sat in stair-steps, filling one wooden bench, with two friends sitting behind to give support.
As the hearing ended, William’s mother broke into sobs, crying “Why? Why? Why?” over and over again. She sat on the bench outside the main courtroom afterwards, as Johnson’s dad and siblings acted to console her in their loss.
Judge Romano D. DiBenedetto continued Lee’s bail at $100,000 cash performance bond. The court scheduled Lee’s next hearing for Aug. 24 at 9 a.m.
Lee, at the time of the homicide, was out of prison on parole under sentence concerning a 2010 negligent homicide conviction in the death of his seven-month-old son Harley Dickson in 2008, according to court criminal records. Medical professionals found that the infant’s death resulted from “Shaken Baby Syndrome.” Shaken Baby Syndrome is a form of child abuse where the abuser violently shakes a baby or small child creating a whiplash motion causing acceleration-deceleration injuries that can lead to death or severe brain injuries.
Under Alaska’s laws, an unclassified felony pertains to the most serious crimes, which are punishable by long prison terms and large fines. Unclassified felonies include murder, attempted murder and sexual assault. A defendant convicted of Murder in the First Degree can receive a sentence of 20 to 99 years in prison and a fine of up to $500,000.