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Bethel man found dead in town after weeks-long search

The Brown's Slough Bridge in Bethel at sunset. October 18, 2022. (Claire Stremple/KYUK)
Claire Stremple
The Brown's Slough Bridge in Bethel at sunset. October 18, 2022.

Valdamire Kinegak was found dead in Bethel last Saturday. That’s nearly three weeks after his wife Allison reported him missing to Bethel City Police.

Allison Kinegak says she last saw her husband September 16, 2022. She reported him missing about a week later.

Police say they located Kinegak’s body near Brown Slough Bridge in the center of town. Chief Leonard “Pete” Hicks says officers at the scene found identification on his body. BPD sent his remains to a coroner in Anchorage. The department is waiting on autopsy results.

Allison Kinegak says police didn’t do enough to find her husband before it was too late. Community members posted to social media claiming discrimination—the Kinegak’s are Alaska Native.

Hicks says he’s heard that people say the Bethel Police Department discriminates against Alaska Native people and people of color.

“People need to understand that I am an African American male from the Deep South. I understand discrimination; I have faced discrimination. I myself have been discriminated against,” he said. “That’s not something I would tolerate.”

Hicks arrived in Bethel about a month ago. He’s originally from Alabama.

“If someone feels they are being dealt with inappropriately by one of my officers, I want them to let me know. And I will personally look into it. And if there is an issue, it will be addressed,” he said.

Hicks says the department doesn’t usually put out fliers or press releases for missing adults. There are a few exceptions: if they think the adult is in danger, they suspect the adult was kidnapped, if there’s a medical concern, or if the person is elderly. But, he says they did follow up on the missing person report.

Police dispatch records show that officers went to look for Kinegak four times over the course of two days in the week after his wife reported him missing.

Now, Hicks says, the department is waiting for more information about Kinegak’s death.

“Right now, there's not a whole lot we can do,” Hicks said.

“Once we get something back from the medical examiner's that tells us one way or the other, they will be able to proceed. But as of right now, there's not a whole lot we can do until we know, more concretely, how he passed away.”

Anyone with information about the case can reach the station at 907-543-3781.