A spike in homicides in Anchorage's great outdoors has residents on edge — and questioning whether Alaska's largest city has a serial killer on the loose.
Altogether, there have been nine unsolved homicides on trails, in parks, or along desolate streets since January. Three of the cases were double homicides, in which two victims were found in close proximity.
At a town hall-style meeting organized by the mayor Thursday, officials said they couldn't confirm whether a serial killer was responsible for the killings.
"The worst thing we can do is speculate and cause rumors to go about and so on," Chief of Police Christopher Tolley said.
In three of the unsolved cases, victims were shot and found by themselves. Police won't say how the others died and have released few details, other than to say all were discovered outside in the early hours of the morning in isolated locations.
The most recent victims were spotted on a bike trail in Valley of the Moon Park on Aug. 28. Police have not said how Bryant "Brie" DeHusson, 25, and Kevin Turner, 34, were killed, according to NBC affiliate KTUU.
Following the discovery of their bodies, police took the unusual step of issuing a public advisory urging residents to be "extra" aware of their surroundings, reported The Associated Press.
"APD wants to remind our citizens to be cautious when they are out during these hours, especially if they are in isolated areas like our parks, bike trails or unoccupied streets," the police department wrote. "If you plan to be out late at night, make sure you travel with several friends and not alone."
But Tolley told residents at the town hall they shouldn't be afraid to leave their homes.
"I think the advice I was trying to give is, it's tough out there, it really is, and you've got took after yourself and you've got to look out for each other. That's the real message," he said.
Altogether, Anchorage has had 25 homicides so far this year — the same number that occurred in all of 2015, according to the AP. Fifteen of the homicides have happened since late June.
Anchorage Mayor Ethan Berkowitz said the Anchorage Police Department, with 386 sworn officers, needs more help.
"Ideally, according to professional standards, there should be almost 450 officers," he told the town hall.
But, he added: "We're not going to roll over and surrender any part of this town to people that want to make it unsafe for anybody."