An Elim elder who went missing in September of last year, received a presumption of death and a Nome Court jury found that his death was caused by exposure to elements.

A Nome jury met electronically last month October 27th, 2020 ahead of the jury trial suspension issued by the Alaska Supreme Court, to discuss the case of Thomas Saccheus Sr. An elder of Elim, Saccheus, went whaling with a hunting party in September 2019 and was grounded in Golovin due to inclement weather. 

It was then believed that the 70-year-old man attempted to walk from Golovin to Elim, a 38-mile trek through difficult terrain, which involves crossing the Chinook Creek and McKinley Creek. Although there were many search efforts for the Elim elder, his body was never recovered.

The district court in Nome held a trial to determine Saccheus’ presumed cause of death. Judge Pamela Smith presided over the case, while throughout the day the jury heard from a total four witnesses. The witnesses detailed the information about accounts of what was believed to have led to Saccheus’ disappearance in Golovin, climate conditions, and the search efforts made to find Saccheus. The search took place over two months following Sacceus’ disappearance, but nothing in relation to Saccheus was ever recovered. He was last seen in Golovin and was believed to be attempting to walk to the community of Elim. His son, Thomas Saccheus Jr., gave testimony about his father having shown signs of early on-set dementia.

The Nome Court jury gave their verdict in late October and determined that Saccheus was presumed to have died as a result of exposure to the elements. There is no foul play suspected and the case is considered closed.

Image at top: Trees along the shoreline in Elim in February 2020. Photo by Joe Coleman, KNOM (2020).