50 shades of death in an Anchorage homeless camp



Fifty Shades of Grey, the 2011 sensational novel, titillated millions of readers and prompted some to experiment with sadomasochistic eroticism. For those who practice it regularly, it’s known as the BDSM (bondage domination sadomasochism) lifestyle.

Since it’s Valentine’s Day week, the 50 Shades industry is not going to let the opportunity pass by without milking it for some revenue.

Novelist E. L. James found success with her first novel, and she turned it into a trilogy, with Fifty Shades Darker, and Fifty Shades Freed. Anastasia Steele is the female protagonist and business magnate, Christian Grey, is the male who introduces her to erotic dominance and torture.

The 50 Shades enterprise has since hit the big screen as hard or soft porn, depending on your tastes. For some, it’s a Valentine’s Day date night “must see.”

Author James could not have envisioned the BDSM she glamorizes leading to allegations and the resignation of an Alaska legislator.

Nor might she imagine that choking sex play would result in deaths on a high school prom night in Texas, or in a homeless camp in Alaska’s biggest city. The risqué world she writes about is at once salacious, sanitized, and successful.


Artist’s rendering of Jeffrey McCracken.

May 11, 2016 was a typical Anchorage morning, about 50 degrees with clouds burning off and the promise of warm weather to come.

Students were at their desks nearby and runners and bikers were on the trails of the city; meanwhile, down in Juneau, the Legislature was in session, having extended past 90 days.

The House Rules Committee was meeting at the Bill Ray Center. Taxes on oil explorers was the topic. Everything was normal.

But in a homeless camp near a Mountain View elementary school in Anchorage, Jeffrey McCracken, then 37, had been doing drugs and had strangled his lover, a mother of six, as an aspect of sexual gratification. He was now trying to figure out how to cover his tracks.

Later, his court-appointed attorney would attempt to explain it as BDSM sex that went awry. He said McCracken wasn’t thinking about killing the woman he was with; he was “just f**ing.”

Hers was a drug-fueled death, and perhaps she was too high to know the candle of her life was being extinguished. One of her last acts in her 48 years was to release her bladder while McCracken got off.


McCracken and his victim had been using meth and having “rough sex.”

For 45 minutes, according to his story, he used one hand to squeeze her throat, and when that hand tired, he’d switch to his other hand. By the time he was done, she was bleeding from her ears and was unresponsive.

Well, that was his second story. His first one is that he woke up and went to a gas station and she was unresponsive when he returned, so he called 911.

But that account was never going to hold up. The forensics were against him, and four months later he changed his plea.

A grand jury indicted McCracken for manslaughter, although the prosecutor had also wanted second-degree murder — extreme indifference.

McCracken pleaded guilty in September before going to trial, and last week was sentenced to serve nine years, with three suspended. He is no longer homeless, and possibly no longer on drugs in his cell at Goose Creek Correctional Institution.

With time already served, he could be released on parole as soon as the summer of 2020.


The week before McCracken squeezed the life out of his homeless tent-mate, a 20-year-old Texas man was sentenced to 25 years for choking to death his 17-year-old prom date in a Houston hotel room. The charge for her death was aggravated assault but the sentence much more severe than McCracken’s.

The death had taken place two years earlier, when the two teens were overnighting at the Hyatt Regency Hotel, where the prom had taken place.

Eddie Herrera’s mom had booked the room in advance and provided the drugs and booze. A cool mom, she wanted Eddie and his date, Jackie Gomez, to have a good time.

Herrera said Gomez’ death was due to rough sex, and that she had asked for him to squeeze her neck.

After he woke up, he “discovered” her dead, called his mother, and the two waited for two hours before finally calling the police, the prosecutor said. The mother came over to the hotel room. She put Gomez’s corpse back into her sparkly prom dress.

And then mom and son tried to figure out a story that would make sense.

There was just too much explaining to do, what with the mom’s involvement in buying the whiskey and the 15 opioid pills. Later, during the interrogation phase, Herrera admitted he had choked her and that due to the drugs, he couldn’t get an erection.

“I put my hands on her neck and squeezed,” Eddie Herrera told investigators, but only after they showed him the autopsy results. Gomez had deep hemorrhaging on her throat. Pathologists found she had hydrocodone and alcohol in her system.

Herrera is now serving 20 years of hard time, with 18 years to go.


Social media has been unkind to Zach Fansler, shown on the right on Facebook.

The law on consensual bondage and rough sex is 50 shades of ambiguous. Some people, like the kid in Texas, will spend more of his life behind bars than he did as a free man. Others, like McCracken, could be counted in the 2020 census as living in some Anchorage halfway house and wearing an ankle monitor.

And still others are lucky the rough sex didn’t get out of hand. Take Zach Fansler, the representative for District 38. He’s now just fighting to keep his licensure as a lawyer after what happened in January.

Fansler, who today is serving his last day as a legislator, was accused by a Juneau woman of slapping her so hard that her eardrum burst.

It all went down at Fanser’s hotel room on Jan. 13, after a night of drinking at the Alaskan Bar in downtown Juneau in mid-January. Texts between the two of them afterward make it unclear as to whether the rough sex play was consensual. He asked her out to dinner. She said no, her face still hurt.

Fansler’s text to her later said,

“I will keep my distance and be respectful tonight and whenever. You’re right about my drinking and the kink. I’m embarrassed and ashamed of myself. Please please please let me know if there is anything I can do. I’m sorry.”

Whether Fansler can or will be actually be charged with battery or domestic violence is in question because of the text the woman sent back to him, saying it wasn’t the slapping was the problem:

“I want to make it clear that being slapped was not the problem. I like that. You were too drunk and you weren’t listening to me. That’s why it was upsetting.”

“I certainly at no point in that evening was asked for my consent or gave my consent,” she told Juneau Empire reporter James Brooks later.

Fansler, who first stood his ground to keep his seat that he had won from Democrat Bob Herron (with the indispensable help of Anchorage Democrats, Gov. Walker’s surrogate Robin Brena, and AFL-CIO boss Vince Beltrami) had to resign his office. He had lost all credibility, even amongst his Democrat peers who had lauded him last year as a fresh new face for the party.

Today, he’s still Rep. Fansler. His resignation takes effect on Monday, a month after the alleged incident took place in a worn-out hotel room in Juneau.

His is yet another cautionary tale of how things can go wrong, very wrong, while practicing “the lifestyle,” especially when combined with alcohol and drugs.

In his case, the broken eardrum of his partner might have been Fansler’s wake-up call.