Double-murder trial is at least 11 months out

Suspect Laron Graham scheduled to go to trial in February 2019 for double murder

Laron Carlton Graham appears in Juneau Superior Court on Monday, Feb. 26, 2018, for an arraignment on two counts of first-degree murder for the Nov. 15, 2015 shooting deaths of 36-year-old Robert H. Meireis and 34-year-old Elizabeth K. Tonsmeire. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Those hoping and waiting for answers regarding a 2015 double murder will have to wait a while longer.

 

In February, a Juneau grand jury indicted Laron Carlton Graham for two counts of first-degree murder for the Nov. 15, 2015 shooting deaths of 36-year-old Robert H. Meireis and 34-year-old Elizabeth Tonsmeire. On Monday, Juneau Superior Court Judge Philip Pallenberg scheduled Graham’s murder trial for Feb. 19, 2019.

Graham’s new attorney, the Office of Public Advocacy’s Natasha Norris, said Monday that even that far-off date might be subject to change. Norris, calling into the hearing over the phone, said she hasn’t had a great deal of time to delve into the case and that this is a very complex case.

“We’re setting a date, judge, without me having eyes on all of the discovery,” Norris said. “I don’t know what issues await me. I’m sure there are a few.”

Norris is not the first to point out the complexity of this case, as Juneau District Attorney Angie Kemp said in late February that she expects the case to last seven weeks due to how complicated the case is. When Graham was indicted in February, there were 50 search warrants (both in Anchorage and in Juneau) and 17 witnesses listed.

Assistant Attorney General John Darnall, who will be handling the prosecution of the case for the Alaska Department of Law’s Office of Special Prosecutions, said Monday that he concurs with Kemp’s prediction of seven weeks. Darnall also phoned into the hearing Monday. At a February hearing, Kemp said the Office of Special Prosecutions is handling the case because she expects this trial to be too expansive for her office can handle.

Graham was attendance Monday, wearing an orange jumpsuit. He often looked toward a couple in the back right corner of the courtroom. Midway through the hearing, Pallenberg identified the couple as Tonsmeire’s parents. After the hearing, they declined to comment on the proposed court date.

Graham, 40, pleaded not guilty to the two counts of first-degree murder at a hearing in February. He is currently being held at Lemon Creek Correctional Center on an unrelated conviction. He was transferred to Juneau from Spring Creek Correctional Center in Seward in February after he was indicted on the new charges.

In a 2016 trial, Graham was found guilty of felony vehicle theft, robbery, assault and witness tampering. He was also found guilty on nine misdemeanors, including violating a domestic violence protective order and for trespassing at a Gruening Park apartment where he threatened to throw his then-girlfriend out a window while she was holding her 1-year-old child.

It remains unclear what prompted the indictment in February for the 2015 murders, and representatives from the Juneau Police Department and the District Attorney’s Office have still declined to comment.

Pallenberg set the next court hearing in the case for 3 p.m. May 15, after Norris and Darnall have had more of a chance to familiarize themselves with the case.


• Contact reporter Alex McCarthy at 523-2271 or amccarthy@juneauempire.com. Follow him on Twitter at @akmccarthy.


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