The Hunt For The 'Midnight Sun Killer' James Dale Ritchie

James Dale Ritchie sketch and photo
youtube | Rob Gavagan

News & Politics
Tara Sigler

He always killed at midnight, or close to it. The media dubbed him the "Anchorage Serial Killer"; he's also been called the "Midnight Sun Killer". In the summer of 2016, James Ritchie stalked the late-night streets of Anchorage, Alaska, leaving bodies in his wake.

Murder Amidst Rugged Beauty

Alaska landscape
Shutterstock | 747151

The Investigation Discovery show Cold Blooded Alaska chronicles the efforts of investigators to stop a brutal serial killer who killed once every thirty days, leaving behind no evidence and no witnesses.

A place of stunning beauty, from snow-capped mountains to miles of icy tundra, Alaska is a place of natural wonder. But the snow is often drenched with blood, as the state has a high rate of violent crime compared to the rest of the US. Contributing factors include the long distance from law enforcement in places, injustice in sentencing, and a marginalized Native community.

But in the case of James Dale Ritchie, the motive for his crimes is unclear and may have simply been an unquenchable thirst for violence.

From Promising To Troubled

Young James Dale Ritchie
youtube | Rob Gavagan

Born November 4, 1976, Ritchie started life as an intelligent, athletic young man who played on his high school's championship basketball and football teams with future stars Trajan Langdon and Mao Tosi. Just before he left for college, his close friend Quincy Thompson was shot and killed, an event that would traumatize Ritchie.

After just one semester at the University of West Virginia, Ritchie dropped out and returned home to Alaska. He began to get into a life of crime, including drug charges and animal fighting, but the charges were dropped. Ritchie enrolled in one class at the University of Alaska Anchorage and began working at a local grocer.

Fighting Addiction To Cocaine

One of the victims
youtube | Rob Gavagan

In 1997, 21-year-old Ritchie was charged with possession of cocaine, though charges were later dropped. Later his mother would say that Ritchie had hit rock bottom and was battling an addiction problem. The next year, Ritchie was again charged with felony drug possession. But this time, he was also caught with a .45-caliber Colt handgun.

The owner of the apartment where Ritchie was caught claimed that Ritchie had been selling drugs out of the apartment. At his August hearing, Ritchie pled no content to third-degree drug charges. His mother took the stand and claimed that since Ritchie had been incarcerated at the Wildwood Pretrial facility in Kenai, he had been clean and had demonstrated real change.

"I never meant to hurt anybody," Ritchie said at the hearing.

That would soon change.

Ritchie's First Murder

Victim Treyveon-Kindell Thompson
youtube | Rob Gavagan

Ritchie was released but continued to abuse drugs and alcohol. He kept racking up small charges, violating his probation, and selling drugs. From 2002 to 2005, Ritchie was arrested several times and served sentences in halfway houses. In September 2005, he was convicted of burglary and sent to prison until November 2007.

From 2013 to 2015, he moved to Broadway, Virginia, to live with his parents. It seemed as though he was getting his life back on track. But in 2016, he returned to Alaska, and on July 3 of that year, a bicyclist reported two bodies on a bike path in Anchorage. The victims were Brianna Foisy and Jason Netters, local homeless squatters killed by a .357-caliber Colt Python revolver.

On July 29, Treyveon-Kindell Thompson was found dead in a street in East Anchorage. He happened to be the nephew of Ritchie's old friend Quincy Thompson, but no one knows if Ritchie was aware of the fact.

The city was tense with fear. Would more murders occur? That fear was realized on August 28, when Brie DeHusson and Kevin Turner were found dead along a popular local trail at Moon Park. Again, the murder weapon was determined to be a .357 Colt Python.

Shot Down In The Street

Dashcam video right before the deadly shootout
youtube | Rob Gavagan

On November 12, 2016, police officer Arn Salao spotted Ritchie on foot in downtown Anchorage. Officer Salao, who was responding to an unrelated complaint, pulled alongside Ritchie and asked him to stop. It's assumed that Officer Salao wanted to see if Ritchie was a witness to the complaint. Ritchie ignored the officer, who then repeated the question over his megaphone.

Without warning, Ritchie turned toward the police car and opened fire with his Colt Python. He hit Salao six times, severely injuring the officer, who managed to exit the car and confront Ritchie. Sergeant Patzke, a nearby K9 unit, spotted the confrontation. He immediately fired upon Ritchie, shooting him multiple times, until finally, the murderer fell.

Officer Salao survived after being treated at a nearby hospital and enduring seven hours of surgery to repair damaged organs.

After his death, Ritchie's gun was analyzed and found to be the murder weapon used in the killings of Brianna Foisy, Jason Netter Sr., Treyveonkindell Thompson, Kevin Turner, and Brie DeHusson. Ritchie had never even been considered a suspect.