Man convicted of murder in infamous New Mexico cabin deaths surfaces, homeless, in Alaska

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ANCHORAGE (KTUU) - A man convicted of murder for his role in infamous New Mexico cabin deaths was arrested last week in Anchorage, where police say he has been living on the streets.

Police arrested Shawn “Popcorn” Popeleski, 40, on a felony warrant. Court records show he has lived in Alaska for at least two years following his release from prison as an accomplice in the 1995 deaths of two young boys who were left to die of thirst and hunger in a locked Manzano Mountain cabin.

In that case, a young mother and her boyfriend were shot to death in what prosecutors called a gang-related slaying. Popeleski, an alleged member of the 18th Street Gang, was present and, by some accounts, a potential target of other gang members, at the time of the central New Mexico shootings.

He was acquitted of killing the adults but convicted of second-degree murder for fleeing the locked cabin with two boys, Matthew Garcia and Johnny Ray Garcia, ages 3 and 4, left to die inside, according to news reports at the time.

Released from prison in 2008, according to the New Mexico Corrections Department, Popeleski later served time in Nevada for attempted assault with a deadly weapon. Nevada Corrections records show he was released in 2012.

Popeleski has lived in Alaska at least part-time since 2015, according to a series of minor criminal charges filed here.

In November 2015, Popeleski was accused of trespassing at Bean’s Café. An employee at the neighboring Brother Francis shelter had told police that Popeleski was a “known spice user who has acted violently towards Brother Francis employees in the past,” the charges say.

Lisa Sauder, executive director for Bean’s Café, said Popeleski once attacked an off-duty employee there.

“He (Popeleski) generally caused problems and wouldn’t abide by the rules,” Sauder said.

In May 2016, Alaska State Troopers arrested Popeleski while investigating a cabin break-in along the Sterling Highway. Popeleski pleaded guilty to burglary. A petition to revoke his probation was filed last month. It’s unclear if that probation violation or another, unrelated violation, was the basis for his felony arrest on Thursday at Bean’s Café.

A spokesman for the Anchorage Police Department confirmed that the man arrested in Anchorage was the same man convicted in the New Mexico murder case.

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