Case Snapshot
Case ID: 2970
Classification: Stabbing
Animal: dog (non pit-bull)
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Tuesday, Oct 26, 2004

County: Nome

Charges: Misdemeanor
Disposition: Alleged

Abuser names unreleased

Alaska State Troopers and school officials are investigating the slaying of a Teller teacher's dog by some of her students, officials said Tuesday. Five kids -- three girls and two boys -- between the ages of 13 and 15 have been linked to the stabbing death of the sled dog Willow, a member of the teacher's mushing team.

Trooper spokesman Greg Wilkinson said two of the girls were present when the dog was killed but didn't participate in the stabbing. The third girl held the dog's head and comforted it while the two boys stabbed it with knives, troopers said.

"From what we can tell this was school-related, although not related to any particular incident," Wilkinson said.

Willow belonged to Teller middle- and high-school science teacher Eleanor Wirts, 40, who moved to Alaska and began teaching here about two years ago, according to school officials.

Troopers said Wirts reported to them on Oct. 24 that she had received threatening phone calls and that someone had also thrown stones and eggs at her house. The next day, Wirts left town on business, leaving friends to watch over her home and dog team.

Iditarod musher Joe Garnie of Teller was watching over Wirts' dogs, troopers said. On Oct. 26, he found Willow dead on a beach and notified Wirts and authorities. Wilkinson said the dog was stabbed at least five times.

It was unclear Tuesday how the teenagers came into possession of Willow. 

Troopers responded to the village, which has about 250 people. It is about 72 miles northwest of Nome and connected to the hub community by road. School officials also launched an investigation.

Troopers said Wirts, Garnie, school officials and the Teller community were very helpful in the investigation.

Bering Strait School District Superintendent John Davis said Tuesday that while his investigation was not finished, it appears the kids might have been retaliating for some type of disciplinary action by Wirts taken against one or more of them while she was filling in as acting principal. "That's probably a good guess," he said. "We don't think they reacted in her capacity as a teacher." 

Charges of cruelty to animals, criminal trespass, criminal mischief and harassment against the five kids have been forwarded to juvenile authorities for possible prosecution, troopers said. The teens have not been taken into custody.

Davis said he plans to release the findings of the school's investigation to the parents of the kids involved for review and comment before any further disciplinary action is taken.

To contact the prosecutor to politely encourage him to prosecute to the fullest extent of the law, and to request mandatory counseling for these children if they are convicted, write to:

The Honorable John Vacek
District Attorney, 2nd Judicial District
P.O. Box 160
Nome, AK 99762
(907) 443-2296 phone
(907) 443-5923 fax


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