Police say the mother of four had dozens of stab wounds to her neck, head, torso and back, with her hands torn up during an effort in vain to defend herself from two attackers. Her throat was slit, her remains stuffed into a sleeping bag and left there.
Police focused attention in the early stages of the investigation on Tetpon's boyfriend, who was innocent, and they overlooked important clues that could have revealed the identity of the real attackers.
The case went cold.
Investigators finally caught a break in 2009, when DNA under Tetpon's fingernails was linked by Anchorage police Detective David Cordie to Torian, a 17-year-old student at East High School at the time of the attack. In 2011, Torian was charged with first and second degree murder and was put under house arrest at his father's house after making bail. Torian, now 28, eventually pleaded guilty to felony aggravated manslaughter in relation to the killing.
Paul Miovas, the state prosecutor assigned to the case, says he agreed to a plea deal even though more severe charges may have been fitting. The reason for the decision not to take the case to trial is that Torian is the only known living witness to the crime, with the victim deceased and the other suspect in the crime also dead from gunfire outside a bar.
"There's no scenario where you look at this evidence and say (Tetpon) is a victim of manslaughter," Miovas said. "There's absolutely no scenario that would ever support that that's the case."
In the courtroom Friday, Tetpon's family was distraught. It was the first time they heard exactly how she died.
"I thought I dealt with it," said Flora Olrun, Tetpon's aunt. "I thought I was OK until I heard today, until I heard the facts."
Tetpon was born in Oregon and lived much of her life in Anchorage, but her family ties reach to Bethel, and her roots were Yu'pik and Athabaskan. Olrun says the family deals with the death of loved ones by coming together and supporting everyone -- but Tetpon’s death was different, worse, more trying than others.
"This was where it didn't have to happen, because Jenny was such a beautiful person," said Olrun.
Prosecutors say Torian may become eligible for parole as early as 2021.
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