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Juneau Police Sorry for Telling Wrong Family of Son's Death

An Alaskan couple were mistakenly told by Juneau police that their son been killed in a car accident. But he hadn't.
Justin Priest
Justin Priest holds his 9-week-old yellow lab Lily in Anchorage on Oct. 9, 2014. Justin's family was mistakenly told by police that he'd been killed in a car crash.Bill Roth / The Alaska Dispatch News via AP

An Alaska couple knocked on the door of their son's long-time girlfriend Thursday, intending to inform her that he'd been killed in a car accident. Karen and Jay Priest instead were stunned when the son, 29-year-old Justin Priest, answered the door. They had mistakenly been told by Juneau police that he'd been killed in the crash. Karen Priest said her husband started sobbing, and she was in shock. "We just kept staring at him," she said on Friday, still wrung out from what she called an emotional roller coaster. Juneau police have apologized for the anguish the mistake caused and are reviewing audio tapes and other records to find out what went wrong.

At 3 a.m. Thursday, Karen and Jay Priest were awakened by their barking dogs and a knock on the door. Through a window, Jay saw a man with the drill sergeant hat of an Alaska State Trooper. "He knew right away," Karen Priest said. "It's not good when a trooper knocks on your door at three o'clock in the morning." The trooper informed them that Justin, a private fisheries biologist in Anchorage, had died in Juneau. The trooper gave them a Juneau police phone number. When the couple called there, an officer said Justin's car had crashed into a tree at high speed.

- The Associated Press
Justin Priest
Justin Priest holds his 9-week-old yellow lab Lily in Anchorage on Oct. 9, 2014. Justin's family was mistakenly told by police that he'd been killed in a car crash.Bill Roth / The Alaska Dispatch News via AP