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Yakutat Man Sentenced to Twenty Years for Murder

February 7, 2023

(Yakutat, AK) – John Stapleton was sentenced to 20 years to serve yesterday for the October, 2018 murder of John Fergerson. Stapleton was convicted of Murder in the Second Degree following a three-week jury trial that concluded on January 28, 2022.

The charges arose from an incident in Yakutat, Alaska after the two traveled from Seattle to Yakutat for a fishing trip. During the early morning hours of October 15, 2018, Yakutat Police responded to multiple 911 calls from a female caller who requested assistance at the National Weather Service’s transient living quarters. Upon arrival, officers saw a male, later identified as John Fergerson, unresponsive on the floor of the housing unit. Officers learned Fergerson had suffered multiple stab wounds to his chest. Stapleton was also contacted and observed to be visibly intoxicated. Stapleton initially claimed he did not know what happened to Fergerson and denied a physical altercation. The Alaska State Troopers responded to investigate the matter and interviewed Stapleton several hours later where he then claimed he pushed Fergerson, not realizing he had a knife in his hand.

At sentencing the State requested the court impose a sentence of 30 years to serve with an additional 30 years suspended. Several members of the victim’s family were also in attendance, including Fergerson’s twin brother, his granddaughter, and his wife. Together the family described the pain and hurt Stapleton caused. His granddaughter noted that among Fergerson’s greatest hopes was that he would one day watch her walk across the stage for her high-school graduation, but due to the actions of Stapleton he never got that chance. She asked the court to impose the maximum sentence. For the sentencing, the family wore shirts in remembrance of John with a quote that read, in part, “The hardest goodbyes are the ones you don’t see coming.”

In imposing sentence, Judge Amy Mead’s found Stapleton’s prospects for rehabilitation to be guarded because his criminal history includes instances where he drinks to excess and has anger management issues. She described that he was “on notice” of those issues. Ultimately, she imposed a sentence of 20 years to serve, with an additional 25 years of suspended time and placed Stapleton on probation for a period of 10 years following his release.

The State is grateful that the family finally has the closure they deserve, noting the incident in this case occurred roughly four years ago, and the family has patiently stood by as the jury trial and sentencing were repeatedly continued.

CONTACT:  Criminal Division Director Angie Kemp at

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Department Media Contacts: Communications Director Patty Sullivan at or (907) 269-6368. Information Officer Sam Curtis at or (907) 269-6379.