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Local Manhunt Points Back to Statewide Issue

Courtesy of the city of Homer

The state legislature is looking for ways to close the revolving door called recidivism that carries former criminals back into jail cells. Small police departments across the state struggle to find the resources to handle repeat offenders. Right now, Homer police are looking for a man who they have had trouble with for more than 20 years.

Between 2010 and 2011 nearly two-thirds of Alaskans released from prison ended up back in jail. The state legislature wants to fix that problem with SB91 - the Omnibus Crime Bill, which they’re in the last stages of passing. Their goal is to give released criminals a plan to get on the right path.

William Oscar Daugherty, AKA Billy Daugherty, is a Homer man who police think is hiding somewhere outside of city limits. He has earned the nickname The Rabbit because of the number of times he has eluded police, at least, that’s what Lieutenant Will Hutt with the Homer Police Department says. Hutt says he’s been dealing with Daugherty for more than 20 years.

Credit Courtesy of the Homer Police Department
William Oscar Daugherty

“I think everybody knows Billy Daugherty, at least all the officers and a lot of the people in the community know Billy Daugherty. There’s some local folklore that he’s the Rabbit. That’s his nickname because he always runs – run rabbit, run,” said Hutt.

Hutt says Daugherty has a history of getting arrested and released on bail and then not coming back to court.

“And the last time we had contact with him, I think that was Sergeant Browning and the troopers, and he ran and we haven’t seen him since. I believe that was in the latter part of February,” said Hutt.

Daugherty is 51 years old and he has been in trouble with the law since his late teens. According to a police report he has two misdemeanor convictions for assault and he has one felony conviction for criminal mischief. Hutt says Daugherty and other people running from the law know they can hide outside Homer city limits. That’s because police don’t have jurisdiction there and state troopers don’t have the manpower to cover those areas well.

Court records show Daugherty was recently indicted on 14 charges. They include attacking a man with a flashlight and threatening to stab him, drug possession with the intent to sell and felony weapons possession. That’s on top of breaking the conditions of his release. Because most of those charges are felonies, Daugherty’s case was transferred to the Kenai Court. In April, Kenai issued a warrant for his arrest for not coming to court.

“He needs to get with his lawyer and walk himself back in and prove to them that they’re wrong about this just like they were wrong the last couple of times,” said Daugherty.

Daugherty’s sister, Shari (SHARE – eee), who lives near Homer, admits her brother’s own choices have gotten him into trouble over the years but she says the Homer police are also responsible.

“He always felt like they had messed with him at a young age and honestly the rest of the family did too. That doesn’t excuse anything else that’s gone on. I’m just trying to give you a mindset for how authority in any given area can make or break a young man,” said Daugherty.

She says she feels her brother has been persecuted and she’s not surprised that he would be tempted to run away. 

Homer Police Chief Mark Robl says his department has never excessively targeted anyone and they’re only doing their job.

The Anchorage District Attorney’s office has warrant files for hundreds of people who are released on bail and don’t come back to court. That’s according to DA Clint Campion who says when someone does this a lot, like Daugherty, the court can’t just deny bail.

“The more serious offenses, there’s basically an assumption or presumption that they need to be in jail in order to ensure their appearance, and to protect the victim, and to protect the community. But, for most of the offenses [the] court has to look at a lot of factors and weigh them all and then determine what is the appropriate amount of bail. Under the Alaska constitution people are entitled to bail,” said Campion.

Capital offenses with a lot of evidence pointing towards a guilty verdict are an example of when the court might be able to deny bail. But usually raising the bail amount, issuing ankle monitors, or scheduling breath and urine tests is all a court can do.

“That does two things. One it monitors people’s drug or alcohol use, which may be a concern for public safety, and secondly it ensures that they’re in the jurisdiction because they’re appearing for those tests,” said Campion.

Court records show William Daugherty’s past bail amounts have ranged between $500 and $5,000. He’ll have a choice to post either $10,000 or $20,000 when he is arrested next, depending on what conditions he is willing to agree to.

The Homer police are still looking for Daugherty and they ask anyone with information on his whereabouts to come forward.

State lawmakers hope passing the Omnibus Crime Bill will help people like Daugherty before they have so many run-ins with police.

The Omnibus Crime Bill also requires judges to do their best to make sure the conditions defendants are released under ensure they return to court and do not pose a danger to the public. 

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