Public Radio for the Central Kenai Peninsula
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations
Support public radio — donate today!

Seward man acquitted in 2019 double homicide

The Kenai
Riley Board
The Kenai Courthouse in November 2023.

A jury has acquitted a Seward man charged with murder in a double homicide from 2019. The trial wrapped up on Monday in Kenai.

Thirty-five-year-old Joseph Chandler had faced counts of first- and second-degree murder in the deaths of Dustin Marx and Michael White. According to court documents, Alaska State Troopers responded to a call from Chandler at his home in April 2019, where he claimed to have shot the two men after they drove a van onto his property. Chandler told the troopers the two men made verbal and physical threats on his life, although no weapons were found in the van.

A jury was unable to come to a consensus after seven days of deliberation during a trial last spring. The hung jury caused a judge to declare a mistrial, and a new trial was eventually scheduled for this winter. A jury heard the case last Thursday, Dec. 7.

Chandler’s public defender, Nathan Lockwood, said his strategy in this trial was the same as the last.

“We ran two theories of self defense in this case: traditional use of deadly force in defense of self, which requires the accused to reasonably believe that they were facing imminent risk of serious physical injury or death,” he said. “And we also ran: use of deadly force to terminate a robbery in any degree. Alaska has a pretty broad definition of what robbery is.”

Lockwood argued that the situation became a robbery when Marx and White began to make threats to Chandler’s life while entering the property to commit a theft.

Lockwood doesn’t know which theory the jury believed, but he said they deliberated for about a day and a half before returning a verdict Monday morning.

This was actually the third attempt at trying Chandler. He was originally set for trial in Seward last January, but the court was unable to find an unbiased jury in the small town.

Lockwood has spoken with Chandler since the acquittal. He said even though what Chandler did didn’t constitute murder, he will still carry the weight of it for the rest of his life.

“My client was a good man who made a reasonable mistake about these two men on his property,” Lockwood said. “He testified in both of the trials, and both times he expressed a lot of remorse for that mistake. The law in Alaska does not prohibit someone from using deadly force if they were wrong about the circumstances.”

Lockwood said after preparing for three trials and spending four years incarcerated, Chandler is just grateful to be free.

Riley Board is a Report For America participant and senior reporter at KDLL covering rural communities on the central Kenai Peninsula.
Related Content