20 May 1984 -- Sunday
Manley Hot Springs, Alaska, USA
Silka went on a three-hour rampage at Manley Hot Springs on the Tanana River boat ramp before dumping the bodies in the swift current.
Shot to death by state police after he killed a trooper in a helicopter pursuing him.
I lived in Alaska for almost 20 years, much of that time working in social services, often with tribal governments, This is a Native Alaska tribal entity (almost all villages are tribes in Alaska) applying customary tribal law to a tribal member.
Tribes in Alaska expel dangerous people now and again. Historically, if you were public enemy number one you were banished and probably died. These days they just go to Anchorage, end up on 4th Avenue and probably in jail - or end up in Fairbanks in similar circumstances.
Perryville is not like Smallville, U.S.A. I remember when they first got an electrical generator for city power and it wasn't all that many years ago. I'm not sure they have sewers yet, but hopefully so. Most Alaskan villages have a VPSO (Village Public Safety Officer) - generally unarmed - and the troopers are hours away by plane. They often don't have holding facilities and the options are - if family and friends can't deal with the guy - either kill him or banish him. Banishing seems like a better option as it is not necessarily a final act. It's sort of like the wild, wild west - only a lot colder in the winter and a lot more isolated all the time.
Either the guy will straighten up and fly right after a bit of time away from home or he will end up in deep doo elsewhere in Alaska, but he is highly unlikely to cause nearly the problems that folks from Outside (anywhere in the world not Alaska is Outside) do when they go ballistic at the end of the world. Serial killer Robert Hansen comes to mind as does Michael Silka, a drifter from the lower 48 who killed 9 people in Manley Hot Springs, Alaska.
Anyway, banishment sometimes works quite well, sometimes not. It is a cultural tradition among the Native people and not something the courts are likely to get involved with - at least not in Alaska.
Michael A. Silka was born 20 August 1958 and died 19 May 1984. His last residence was the VA and his SS # was issued in Illinois.
From the Chicago Daily Herald, Monday, 21 May 1984
Hoffman Man Dies in Firefight
Manley Hot Springs, Alaska
A ?scraggly? drifter from Hoffman Estates apparently killed nine people, including a state trooper, before being gunned down in a shootout near this tiny fishing village.
Troopers armed with automatic rifles used two helicopters to close in Saturday afternoon on 25 year old Michael C. Silka. The heavily armed man shot and killed a trooper in one of the aircraft before he was gunned down, investigators said.
Silka, a 1976 graduate of Hoffman Estates high school, is suspected of murdering a total of nine people, including a pregnant woman and a 2 year old child. Seven of the victims were believed to have been killed on a boat landing near Manley Hot Springs, a town of only 80 people and their bodies dumped into the Tanana River.
An unemployed transient, Silka had been in Alaska only a month when a neighbor, Roger Culp of Fairbanks, disappeared and was presumed murdered. Police were seeking Silka for questioning when they learned that he had turned up in Manley Hot Springs in the Tanana Valley 90 miles west of Fairbanks.
Troopers speculated that Silka killed the six townspeople with his shotgun Thursday and tossed their bodies in the swirling, mud-choked Tanana River before fleeing upstream. The only sign of the slaughter was a blood-spattered boat landing three miles from town.
?Whoever drove up to that boat landing between 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. Thursday, he killed, I don?t know why.? said Sam Barnard, a homicide investigator.
Sika fled upriver in a boat that police believe he got from one of the victims of the slaughter on the boat landing and was spotted by aircraft early Saturday. Two helicopters, each carrying three troopers, converged on him, and he fired on one with a 30.06 caliber rifle, killing Trooper Troy L. Duncan, 34, of Fairbanks, Myers said.
Silka was killed by return fire from a state trooper?s M-16 automatic rifle.
?Silka opened fire from a hidden position and we returned the fire,? said Captain Donald Lawrence, a commander who was hit by bullet fragments and was treated for minor wounds to his face.
Police said Silka was armed with several rifles and pistols and was in a motorboat belonging to trapper Fred Burk who was believed to be headed for Manley Hot Springs when he was murdered at the boat landing.
Local residents identified the other victims as a family of three who went for a pleasure ride Thursday to the boat ramp - Lyman Klein, his pregnant wife Joyce, and their 2 year old son, Marshall. Also reported missing were Joe McVey and Dale Madjski, who had gone to the landing to take a boat to their fish camp and Albert Hagen, who was hauling brush to the landing.
For more than a day, most of the villagers had no idea their friends were missing. ?This is a small town. It took them a while to put two and two together,? said Lieutenant John Myers, of the troopers? Fairbanks-based special weapons team.
Residents called for help late Friday after determining that many of their friends were missing, and troopers arrived about 2 a.m. Saturday. They nestled among logs and debris near the landing, hoping Silka would return for his car.
?We just sat there and I tried to imagine what it was like ... a 2 year old kid. We knew he was ours if he came back,? Investigator Jim McCann said.
Police used diving gear and grappling hooks to search for bodies in the silt-laden and icy river Sunday, but there was little hope the victims would be recovered. ?That river doesn?t give up its dead very often,? Bernard said.
Residents said that Silka arrived about a week ago in a brown sedan with a canoe lashed to its roof and camped by the river.
?He was scraggly and he acted really weird. He aced real crazy,? said Patricia Lee, who with her husband, Bob, operates the Manley Roadhouse. ?He talked about how he could smell clams through the dirt. When I met him, I felt uneasy, but I kept telling myself that was silly.?
?He seemed okay,? said resident Teresa Conger, who said she ran into Silka a few days before the rampage, ?but then he couldn?t stop messing around with that knife. He had a huge knife he just kept sharpening and sharpening. He was just obsessed with that.?
Sabrenia Gurtler, 18, said the town often draws drifters, mostly because it is at the end of the farthest west road from Fairbanks. ?Its just the end of the road,? she said. ?They?ve gone as far as it takes them.?
Past Showed Signs of ?something bad?
Michael Alan Silka left behind a string of arrests and a troubled past in the Northwest suburbs before going on an alleged killing spree in Alaska that ended with his own death at the hands of police.
According to police, Silka was picked up for a series of arrests for unlawful use of a weapon, burglary, shoplifting and resisting police over the past nine years.
A former classmate said Silka was ?always a troubled kid? and a teacher said the Hoffman Estates man had ?disciplinary problems? during high school.
?It?s a surprise when you hear about it,? said Mike Ostes, who graduated from Hoffman Estates high school in 1977, a year after Silka. ?But after you think about how he was, it?s no big surprise. You could just picture this guy growing up to do something bad.?
?He was a non-conformist and had disciplinary problems,? said Bill Spaletto, a Hoffman Estates physical education teacher, who said he remembers sending Silka to the principal?s office. ?He patterned his life to find himself in this kind of trouble,? Spaletto said.
But according to one former neighbor, Silka always ?meant well? and his previous ?scrapes? with the law might have happened to any teenager.
?This came as a shock to us, I can?t believe what happened,? said Ferman Hurst, who lives near the Silka house at 1339 Hassell Drive, Hoffman Estates.
Hurst said he wrote a letter of recommendation when Silka enlisted in the Air Force helicopter services.
?I understand he did very, very well,? he said. ?He was always very nice to us.?
Hurst said he and his wife informed Silka?s father, Frank, of the death of his son.
?It was like the Sears Tower falling over on him,? Hurst said.
Silka?s police record starts in October 1975, after he was arrested for a break-in at a Des Plaines sporting goods store. Then 17, he was sentence to 30 days in a correcional institution and two years probation after the charges were reduced from burglary to criminal damage to property.
In February, 1977, he was arrested by Hoffman Estates police for carrying a loaded black powder rifle through a park in town. Just over a month later, Silka was arrested again for carrying the muzzle-loading rifle through a field in town. In both cases, he was charged with unlawful use of (continued on page 3 and not found.)
From the Chicago Daily Herald, 22 May 1984
Cops Trace Murder Trail North To Alaska
(Continued from page 1)
..shoplifting and in 1982 for unlawful use of a weapon. Police said they spotted a gun in his car when they stopped him for a traffic offense. He was arrested for a similar offense by South Barrington police in July 1983.
He showed up for two court appearances, South Barrington Police Chief Peter Swistowicz said. Then he disappeared sometime in the fall. Police issued a warrant for his arrest, but it received alow priority because the weapons charge was only a misdemeanor.
Silka apparently headed for Alaska to live the life of a woodsman.
?He was always dressed like a hunter, dressed like a woodsman,? said Mike Ostos, a high school classmate of Silka, who discribed him as ?basically a loner.?
Paul Edscorn, information officer for Alaska state troopers, said Silka rented a cabin in a remote part of Fairbanks in April.
?We received a report of a disturbance down there about April 28, and we actually talked to Silka,? Escorn said. ?We saw some blood on the ground. He said he had butchered a moose.?
Two weeks later, authorities received a missing persons report on Roger Culp, 34, who lived next door to Silka. They returned to Silka?s cabin, but he had left. They retested the blood on the ground and determined it was human.
Meanwhile Silka traveled west by car. He ended up in Manley Hot Springs on May 14, parking his car at the boat landing just outside of town.
Silka tried to leave in his canoe on Tuesday, but an ice floe in the river stopped him, Lee said.
Silka chatted with many of the townspeople during his stay there, he said. But he didn?t respond when Lee tried to talke to him Wednesday at the landing.
?He just looked the other way,? he said.
On Thursday at about 2 p.m., Joe McVey and Dale Madski went to the landing to take a fishing boat to their fish camp. A little later, Lyman Klein, his pregnant wife Joyce, and their 2 year old son, drove there for a family outing. Fred Burk was travelling to the landing in his boat. None of them ever returned.
It is not unusual for residents to be gone as much as a day longer than they planned in a hunting and fishing community, Lee said. So residents didn?t become alarmed until Friday. One family member checked the boat landing and found blood. Authorities said drag marks on the shore indicate Silka dumped the bodies in the river.
Using helicopters and planes, they found Silka hiding on the shore upstream Saturday. He shot at one helicopter with a high-powered rifle, slaying Trooper Troy Duncan of Fairbanks, Enseron said. Police shot back and killed him.
Father: William Burk b: 1 JAN 1921 in Alaska
Mother: Lina May ALLEN b: in Kokrine, Alaska
Marriage 1 Spouse Unknown
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