The Unsolved Murder Will Wait; First, Crawfish Bisque

Who killed John Sturgus?

Sturgus was the first police chief in Anchorage. He worked as a policeman in Montana and Washington before coming to Alaska in 1913 to search for gold. Like so many others before him, he didn’t find it.

In 1916, Anchorage already showed promise of becoming the city it now is when it was selected as the headquarters for construction of the Alaska Railroad. Sturgus made his way to what was then a tent city to find a job.

Thanks to his previous background in law enforcement, he was appointed a deputy U.S. marshal. On January 1, 1921, Anchorage became a home rule city and Sturgus became its first police chief. His tenure in office would last less than two months.

Anchorage had a sizable lawless element in those days. Organized crime controlled a section of what is now downtown. Though the city had voted to outlaw alcohol, bars operated openly. There was no attempt to hide the prostitution and gambling. Young girls who wandered through the area were often harassed and threatened.

Around nine o’clock on the evening of February 20th, Anchorage resident Oscar Anderson met Sturgus on the street. They exchanged greetings and each went his own way. Anderson was the last person to see Sturgus alive.

At 9:15 a shot was heard. Those arriving on the scene found Sturgus lying in a stairwell next to a drug store. He had been shot once. Though he was still breathing when he was found and was taken to a hospital, he died shortly before eleven o’clock. He died without speaking.

And that’s when the mystery began.

He was shot with his own gun. Though only one shot had been heard, there were two expended bullets in the gun.

While Sturgus was known to carry two hand guns, only one was found on him.

Most curious of all was the lack of any sign that anyone else had been on the scene. That was mysterious as the area was covered with snow.

It had been impossible to solve the murder in 1921. It was more so a hundred years later. It was even difficult to get to know exactly who Sturgus was. While he and his family were accepted by the young community’s socially elite, there was some evidence that he had a darker side.

He had recently been heard making light of the criminal elements in the town. He joked about being “…hot on the trail of the despised thief who steals milk from babies, groceries from the storeroom and laundry from the hallways.” There were also rumors that Sturgus frequented the gambling halls himself and had a fondness for faro, known in those days as “bucking the tiger.”

Sabine Parish Sheriff Jack Blake laid the story aside and sat thinking. As an experienced lawman himself, an unsolved crime was frustrating. Especially when it involved the killing of a fellow cop even if it occurred a century earlier.

He wasn’t going to solve the mystery this evening. Perhaps it was one he should pass on to his friend Trent Marshall. It was just the sort of adventure that would interest Trent.

But for now, he detected the deliciously delicate aroma of his wife’s crawfish bisque. The mystery of John Sturgus’ murder had remained unsolved for a century. It would wait until Blake had his fill of Jennifer’s crawfish bisque.

Sheriff Jack Blake’s Favorite Crawfish Bisque

1 cup peanut oil

1 cup flour

1/2 onion, chopped

1 rib celery, chopped

1 roasted red pepper, chopped

1/4 cup white wine

1 pound crawfish tails

Sheriff Jack Blake’s Favorite Crawfish Bisque

2 green onions, chopped

salt & pepper to taste

water sufficient to cover

1 bay leaf

1/4 cup parsley, chopped

First, in a large stock pot, make a dark roux with the oil and flour.

Saute the onions, celery, and roasted red pepper in the roux until the vegetables have softened.

Deglaze the pot with the white wine.

Add the crawfish, green onions, and bay leaf. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Pour in enough water to cover. Simmer for an hour.

Sprinkle chopped parsley over the bisque as garnish.

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