On the afternoon of September 28, 1994, a University of Alaska Anchorage student was taking pictures from a hiking trail in a public park just off of the Seward Highway. She soon discovered another Alaska-Anchorage student was also there. The second student, however, was not enjoying the scenery. At the bottom of a 33-foot cliff, 18-year-old Bonnie Craig lay face down in the shallow waters of McHugh Creek.
Police initially believed Bonnie had died after falling from the cliff. The medical examiner determined she had drowned after sustaining severe head injuries, likely resulting from such a fall. However, Bonnie also had bruises on her knuckles and other defensive wounds indicative of a struggle.
A blood-soaked leaf found above the cliff area also suggested Bonnie was already injured before she fell. After her autopsy was completed, the medical examiner ruled Bonnie’s head injuries were not inflicted by a fall. Instead, she had been struck on the head by a blunt object.
Bonnie Craig’s death was ruled a murder, and two theories surfaced as to who had killed her. One held she was killed by a classmate, while the other offered that her death was ordered by a drug dealer.
After 13 years, however, it was proven that neither theory was correct and that Bonnie was killed in an all-too-common random crime.
Bonnie Craig was a freshman at the University of Alaska Anchorage. Her mother, Karen Campbell, and her father, Gordon Craig, divorced when Bonnie was three. For most of her life, Bonnie lived with Karen and her husband Gary, but in the fall of 1994, she was living with her dad.
Because Bonnie did not drive, she walked from her father’s home to a bus stop to take public transportation to campus. She did this twice a week; the walk generally took approximately 45 minutes. As Bonnie’s classes began early in the morning, it was always dark when she was on her school trek.
Bonnie had a 7:00 a.m. English class on the morning of September 28, 1994. A neighbor delivering papers saw her walking along the street at 5:20. An hour later, another neighbor saw her at the bus stop.
The next time Bonnie was seen, she was floating in the creek.
McHugh Creek, where Bonnie’s body was found, was ten miles from the bus stop where she caught her ride to campus. It was not a likely locale where one would normally hike along the stream. Bonnie had no reason to be there, particularly on a school day. Since she did not drive, it was theorized she had been kidnapped at the bus stop and transported to the park where she was killed.
The autopsy showed Bonnie had had recent sexual relations, but police said it could not be determined if the intercourse was consensual or if she had been raped. She and her boyfriend had not been together recently, and Karen was certain Bonnie would not have willingly engaged in such activities with another man.
Karen was a reserve officer with the Anchorage Police Department. She had partaken in multiple undercover sting operations resulting in the arrests of several small-time drug dealers. One such bust occurred on September 27, 1994, the day before Bonnie’s murder.
Several months afterward, Karen says an undercover acquaintance told her that Bonnie was killed by the head of an Anchorage drug ring. The fellow lawman said one of Karen’s stings resulted in the arrest of several members of the gang whose leader murdered Bonnie in retaliation.
Alaska State Troopers say no evidence was found to support the informant’s claim.
In 1995, nearly one year after Bonnie’s murder, a second suspect emerged when Karen received a phone call from one of her daughter’s college instructors.
The professor told Karen she believed a student who had been a classmate of Bonnie’s might have been responsible, or at the least, had some involvement in the crime. Her suspicions resulted from her reading the student’s class journal and the references he had made to the date of Bonnie’s murder.
Homework papers were supposed to be handed in on that day, but the student in question was absent without explanation. Later that afternoon, he brought his paper to the teacher’s office. He was in a state of disarray, dripping wet and out of breath. He told the professor he had just gotten out of the shower. He smelled, in the words of the professor, like he had “bathed in cologne.” The student apologized for not being in the morning class, saying he had overslept.
In his journal, the student made several references to the day of the murder, claiming it would be a “very tough day” and that he would be “put to the test.” The instructor said many of his writings before Bonnie’s murder were violent but that subsequent writings were peaceful.
Anchorage police investigated the student but ruled him out as a suspect when DNA on Bonnie’s body was not a match to his.
Though investigators had two promising suspects, they had no evidence connecting either one to Bonnie’s murder. For the next decade, the crime remained as cold an Alaskan winter.
In November 2006, however, police got their break when the FBI’s Combined DNA Index System (CODIS) matched semen found on Bonnie’s body to former Army soldier Kenneth Dion. At the time of the match, Dion was imprisoned in his native New Hampshire for a string of armed robberies.
After joining the Army, Dion was stationed at Fort Richardson in Anchorage. He stayed in Anchorage for a couple of years after leaving the Army, during which time he was consistently in trouble. Over those two years, he was in and out of jail on robbery and assault charges.
Dion was behind bars in Alaska until the end of July 1994, two months before Bonnie’s murder, and was returned to jail on a probation violation in November, two months after the murder.
Dion left Alaska sometime in 1996 and returned home to New Hampshire and to his old ways. In February 2003, after committing five robberies the previous year, he was sentenced to 15 years in prison.
Three-and-a-half years later, DNA linked Dion to Bonnie’s murder.
None of Bonnie’s family or friends knew Dion, and, likely, she had never met him either. Her murder appeared to have been a crime of opportunity.
Dion probably abducted Bonnie at the bus stop. Karen does not believe her daughter would have accepted a ride from a stranger, particularly from a man. He likely killed Bonnie by striking her with martial arts weapons he often had in his car.
When first questioned by authorities about Bonnie’s murder, Dion claimed he had never met her. However, at his trial, when confronted with the DNA evidence, Dion changed his tune, saying he had had consensual sex with her.
Dion was also a wanderer as his wife said he was not at home during the last week of September 1994, and he could not produce an alibi for the day Bonnie’s murder.
In June 2011, Kenneth Dion was convicted of the rape and murder of Bonnie Craig. In October, he was sentenced to 124 years in prison.
Some lingering questions, however, still remain regarding the murder of Bonnie Craig.
Shortly after her murder, an anonymous caller to the Crimestoppers hotline claimed to have seen Bonnie, on the morning of September 28, at the bus stop talking to two men inside a vehicle. The caller did not pay much attention and could not recall any details of the men or the car.
Some have speculated one of the men was Dion, and the other was the student who was investigated in Bonnie’s murder. He had recently been accused of assault, and his bail was paid by a man who had been involved in a fatal shooting in Anchorage several years before. I could not find what became of the student’s assault charge.
Investigators, however, found no evidence that Dion and the student knew each other. They believe Dion was the only person involved in the murder of Bonnie Craig.
• Anchorage Daily News
• Fairbanks Daily News
• KTTU TV NBC Affiliate Anchorage Channel 2
• Sitka Daily Sentinel
• Unsolved Mysteries
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