An Anchorage man has been charged in a Palmer man’s death, after Alaska State Troopers say he confessed Sunday evening to killing him with a machete.
According to a Monday AST dispatch, 23-year-old Thomas Cottam Jr. is charged with first-degree murder in 81-year-old Steven Garcia’s death.
In a criminal complaint, written before Garcia was positively identified and naming him as “S.G.,” troopers say Cottam walked into the Anchorage Jail at about 5 p.m. Sunday to make his startling confession. Palmer troopers responded to Garcia's home and saw his body, making a welfare check and confirming his death at about 5:45 p.m.
“Cottam appeared upset and he told (an officer) that he had just killed someone and hacked them up with a machete,” officials wrote.
Cottam told investigators the events leading up to the incident began when the men met less than a week ago.
“Cottam stated approximately six days ago he was hitchhiking and was picked up by S.G.,” officials wrote.
After dropping Cottam off, Garcia said he had a farm, with work and possibly a place to stay -- an offer Cottam took him up on.
“Cottam said he stayed on the property in a tent at first and then moved into the house with S.G.,” officials wrote. “Cottam apparently stayed the night on (Garcia’s) property for a couple days.”
According to Cottam, he was attacked by Garcia and acted in self-defense.
“Cottam said on (Sunday) he was inside S.G.’s house,” officials wrote. “S.G. came into the house with a machete and attacked Cottam. Cottam said he ‘blacked out,’ and when he ‘came to’ S.G. was on the ground dead and Cottam was holding the machete.”
Cottam told investigators that he had taken Garcia’s wallet, containing $32 that he thought he was owed, as well as Garcia’s car and his dog. He had planned to run away to Kodiak, but when he told a friend what he had done, the friend recommended Cottam turn himself in.
The two drove to the Anchorage Jail in Garcia’s car Sunday night, where Anchorage police reported that Cottam didn't have any obvious signs of blood on him. Troopers obtained a warrant to search Cottam's body and verify that observation.
“Cottam did not appear to have any injuries consistent with recent knife wounds,” officials wrote. “Cottam (had) multiple scratches that appeared to be healing which he said were from working on the farm.”
When police interviewed Cottam’s friend, he said Cottam had told him much the same account of the incident.
“(The friend) said Cottam told him that at S.G.’s house, S.G. came at Cottam holding a machete in the air,” officials wrote. “Cottam stated that he told (the friend) that Cottam got behind S.G. and cut his throat and stabbed him multiple times.”
When troopers obtained a search warrant for Garcia’s home, in "the Old Glenn Highway/Knik River area," they found both his body and a pair of bloodied weapons – a machete and a butterfly knife.
“(An investigator) went into S.G.’s house and observed S.G. to be lying face-down with his hands under his body near his chin,” officials wrote.
AST spokesperson Beth Ipsen says investigators have worked overnight Sunday and all through Monday on the case. Garcia’s body has been scheduled for an autopsy at the state medical examiner’s office.
"We do have enough evidence, definitely, to charge (Cottam) with murder, but then we have to back that up," Ipsen said. "We still have to gather evidence."
According to the AST dispatch, Cottam was formally arrested Monday morning in Garcia’s death.
This is a developing story. Please check KTUU.com and the Channel 2 newscasts for updates.