ANCHORAGE (KTUU) - Nearly two years after the death of Susan Ragan, 48, who had been strangled at an Anchorage homeless camp, 39-year-old Jeffrey McCracken learned his fate from an Anchorage judge: A sentence of nine years, with three suspended.
"That's six years, six years for a life, Your Honor," said one family member upon hearing the verdict.
Court documents show that McCracken, who was 37 at the time of the killing in May of 2016, was the one who'd placed the initial 911 call to emergency responders, claiming he had found Ragan at a homeless camp. She was not breathing, and bleeding from her ears.
He also said he and Ragan, whom he'd referred to as his girlfriend, had consumed meth and had consensual sex before he left to go to a nearby gas station.
But McCracken later changed his story, telling an investigator that he and Ragan had actually engaged in rough sex, in which - for 45 minutes - he "used one hand to squeeze her throat, and when his hand would get tired, he would switch hands."
When McCracken was done, Ragan was unresponsive.
A preliminary investigation found that McCracken "used physical force to kill Ragan," according to police. He was initially held on one count each of murder and manslaughter, and taken to the Anchorage jail, with initial bail set at $250,000 cash and $10,000 cash-performance, plus a third-party custodian.
Though prosecutors presented both charges, the Anchorage Grand Jury later voted to only charge McCracken with manslaughter and not murder.
A sister of Ragan said that Ragan had chosen to live in Anchorage so that she could be near her fiance, Charles Blair, who was incarcerated at the time.
"She was perfect in my eyes," Blair said. "She didn't care who you were. She would stop and want to pray for you. I used to get mad at that.
"We'd go to the grocery store, and she'd see someone on the street and start giving away the groceries we just bought," he said. "She'd give you the shirt off her back."
Diana Westphal, Ragan's sister, said in court Thursday that she'd begun another journey along with the healing process:
"I laid down there where my sister was," she said. "And I prayed. And I said, 'What're your last words?' And I heard her say, 'I pray for you, Jeff.'
"That's why it's so hard that I have to forgive you," Diana Westphal continued. "You know how bad I want to hate you, Jeff? But I can't hate you. I have to forgive you. Because that's what my sister would do."
A previous version of this story stated a charge against McCracken had been 'dropped.' This is inaccurate: The Grand Jury neither dismissed nor dropped the charge of Murder in the Second Degree, but instead chose not to pursue it.