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Man arrested in brutal death of Aniak woman

Elyssa Loughlin

The horrific details of the death of Maria White, a 45-year-old Aniak woman, emerged in a Bethel courtroom on Wednesday.

Alaska State Troopers say they found White’s body on Monday. They arrested 43-year-old John Parka for her murder.

Parka was at White’s home consuming alcohol despite a court order prohibiting him from having any contact with her or being at the home after he was arrested in April for assaulting her, according to testimony during a hearing in Bethel on Wednesday.

Her body on Monday was found violently beaten and bruised, possibly burned, with severe damage to her skull and spine, a prosecutor said during the arraignment hearing.

“The factual information of these injuries indicate a brutal, painful and torturous death for the victim in this case,” assistant district attorney Josh Bither said.

Parka was charged in April with domestic-violence assault against White. He refused to let her leave his home after they drank together and then punched her, leaving her body covered in bruises, Bither said.

The conditions of release in the April case were “specifically put in place to keep something like this from happening,” he said.

The prosecutor requested Parka be held on $1 million bail, noting that the nature of the crime he’s now accused of show there’s “nothing the court can order and nothing the court can do” to keep the community safe.

Parka participated remotely from Yukon Kuskokwim Correctional Center. He said he was looking for work but didn’t have a job and listed his assets as two snowmachines.

Bethel Magistrate Judge Paul Korchin set Parka’s bail at $500,000 cash. The judge said that was far more than Parka could afford given his financial situation, and it met the standard to be not punitive but restrictive enough to ensure community safety.

Korchin spoke for several minutes, at times angrily, about a case he called “fundamentally disturbing and shocking” — especially given the specific orders Parka was under when a judge released him on his own recognizance in April.

“The court is frankly grasping for words to try to convey to you as well as others on the phone today how profoundly concerned and disturbed it is by the allegations against you,” he told Parka.

White’s parents participated in the hearing by phone. Her father said they both were shocked by the details they were hearing for the first time about their daughter’s death.

“We didn’t know she was going to leave us this way,” he said.

White and Parka moved together to Aniak in 2015 after she inherited a house and land from her grandmother there, they told a reporter in 2017. The status of their current relationship wasn’t immediately clear.

Parka on Wednesday remained jailed at Yukon Kuskokwim Correctional Center. His next hearing is on July 25.