On Dec. 10, 1972, Jody Stambaugh was strangled and raped in her University of Alaska Fairbanks dorm room, where she had been sleeping. The attacked occurred just before 7 am on a Sunday.
The killer, Allen Walunga, had a history of sexual attacks, and had gained secret entrance into her room, where he watched her sleep for 10-30 minutes before destroying her life and those of the many who loved her.
Jody’s roommate, an Alaskan woman living in Southcentral (who must remain anonymous because she fears the murderer to this day), was also injured, after she entered the tiny dorm room and surprised Walunga, who lunged at her and began choking her.
The roommate’s screams brought resident assistant Cindy Hutchins running. The assailant fought her off and then ran. Another resident assistant, Michael Hoge, called the State Troopers to Moore Hall.
Walunga was located in his second-floor room, covered in scratches from the women who attempted to stop his attacks. Meanwhile, up on the 7th floor, medics began providing CPR to Jody, until they determined she was, in fact, dead. Her parents, well-known 6th Street Juneau residents Wayne and Barbara Stambaugh, now deceased, were flown to Fairbanks to take their daughter’s battered body home, where she is buried in Evergreen Cemetery.
Judge Gerald Van Hoomissen would later say that this was “probably the most vicious crime that I have had contact with.”
In June, 1973, Walunga was found guilty of rape, murder in the first degree and assault, and attempted murder.
Judge Van Hoomissen found that Walunga “was an extremely dangerous offender who presented a clear and present danger of killing another person if ever released from prison.”
Jody had been all of 18, a graduate of Juneau-Douglas High School who was musically and artistically inclined and who had been an exchange student in Norway. She was well-liked by her classmates in Juneau, and she and her brothers loved to ski at the rope tow on Douglas Island’s Dan Moller trail. She was studying home economics.
Her brothers, Gary and Irl, have spent the past 46 years vigilant in their quest to prevent the State of Alaska from granting the repeated pleas by Walunga that he be released. This honors what their parents asked them to do. The Stambaughs had sued the university for allowing a known sexual predator to be placed in a co-ed dorm, but the court ruled against them.
In 1980, he challenged his conviction, saying he had been incapable of effectively waiving his constitutional right to a jury trial on that count because of mental illness, and that the Superior Court erred in failing to inquire into Walunga’s capacity at the time it accepted his written waiver of jury trial, which he had provided with counsel.
As soon as he could, Walunga applied for numerous others hearings and parole, starting in 1987. He wanted his sentence commuted in 1989. He wanted a parole hearing in 1991, then withdrew it after testing the waters. He applied for parole in 1992, then asked for a parole hearing in 1997, and again in 2008.
HE’S BACK AND HE WANTS OUT
In the summer of 2018, Walunga is asking again for parole, and the public has a chance to weigh in with the Alaska Parole Board.
Jody’s brother, Irl Stambaugh, already has written to the Alaska Parole Board and asked them to decline the murderer’s request for freedom. But so many people who were in Alaska during the murder and subsequent trial are gone. Will anyone remember?
This Alaskan is not gone, however. This Alaskan remembers.
Jody’s was the first funeral I ever attended. I was barely out of high school myself; Jody was a classmate of mine, and her brother Gary and I sang in high school choir and the Northern Lights Presbyterian Church choir.
A third-generation Alaskan, raised in Ketchikan and Juneau, Jody was kind, calm, and considerate of others. She would likely be a grandmother today, if not for a savage predator who should never have been allowed access to the dorms at the University of Fairbanks.
WALUNGA HAD A HISTORY OF PREDATION
Allen Walunga was described in the 1970s as an antisocial person. From a well-known family in the St. Lawrence Island village of Gambell, he reportedly made people ill at ease.
Later, he was determined to be possibly mentally ill, possibly possessed by demons, possibly schizophrenic, and possibly sociopathic.
Walunga was already a known sexual predator and had already sexually assaulted several underage girls. Later, he admitted assaulting young boys, as well.
His family shipped him off to Mount Edgecumbe High School in Sitka, where he took a gasoline-soaked rag and held it to the mouth and nose of a female student until she passed out. He thought he had killed her.
After that incident, his family moved him to Fairbanks, where he continued in high school.
There, he was charged with pedophilia and child molestation, and he was given probation. His juvenile records were sealed, however, and he enrolled at the University of Alaska, where he was housed on the second floor of Moore Hall.
Jody lived on the seventh floor. Jody’s brother Gary was also attending the university; the two were close. Gary later became a fireman/EMT. Her older brother Irl was a police officer in Anchorage when his sister was murdered.
Then came the horrific attack that made headlines across the state: A beautiful UA coed was strangled and raped in her sleep on a Sunday morning.
The trial came and went and a judge imposed a life sentence on the murder with a concurrent 15 years for the assault on the roommate, with intent to kill count.
“At that time our family felt that justice had been done and Walunga would remain in jail for the remainder of his life. We continued with our lives and through time minimized our grief. Our father had a serious heart attack that I will always partially attribute to the grief and sorrow he lived with after our sister’s death,” the victim’s family wrote several years ago.
“Our father and mother have passed away, and our children have grown but we continue to attend hearings. As we promised our mother, we will continue to attend hearings. The other victim has raised a family, but continues to attend hearings fearing that Walunga will be released.”
During Walunga’s 1998 parole hearing, the board decided that letting him free was out of the question and that it would not ever again consider his application. But in 2005 a new parole board decided his case could again be heard and he applied for parole in 2008.
During that hearing, Walunga entered into the record a psychiatric report, but at the time the victim’s family was not allowed to see that report.
As a result of the 2008 hearing, an earlier evaluation came to light. It has been done by Dr. Martin Astrops of Tongass Community Counseling Center, who said Walunga had a high risk of again perpetrating sexual assaults on women and is a “sexually violent predator.”
Walunga, however, said he found God and said he would be no harm to others unless confronted with “his temptation to form adulterous friendships with abnormally large breasted women.”
It was an emotionally trying time for the Stambaugh brothers, but Walunga was successfully kept behind bars in 2008.
Walunga’s next parole hearing is schedule for the week of July 16, 2018 at Goose Creek Correctional Institution. At least one member of the Stambaugh family will attend.
On May 15, Walunga wrote to the parole board that “I am no longer the emotionally immature person I was, approximately 45 years ago. When I became a Christian, pastors and Christian volunteers to prison have helped me down through the years, to heal what led to my heinous crime. I will never commit murder again. I value human life and, throughout my imprisonment, have attempted to better the lives of fellow men.”
However, in 2015, he was evaluated to be a “high medium” risk on an assessment known as the Level of Service Inventory, with the risks identified as alcohol and drug problems, education, employment, emotional, and personal.
The Parole Board also takes comments from the public.
Now is the time for the community to speak. If you agree that Mr. Walunga should remain in prison, write to the parole board today.
Sample wording for your letter to the Parole Board — use your own words:
RE: 1972 Stambaugh rape and murder
Dear Alaska Parole Board;
I urge you to not release a murderer coming up for parole who is a danger to society. Please do not release Allen Walunga.
It only takes a minute, but your voice matters to the safety of our entire community.
(Editor’s note: Thanks to the Stambaugh family for their help with this story.)