Albright murder house gutted by suspicious fire

Wednesday, December 5, 2012 - 19:00
Almost simultaneous fire strikes nearby RV
This log home on Juanita Loop burned Nov. 27 under suspicious circumstances. The abandoned structure was the scene of a notorious 2010 murder.

An early-morning fire Nov. 27 gutted the North Juanita Loop home where three men beat to death Harvey “Charlie” Albright in 2010.

Another fire consumed a nearby motor home just 30 minutes later.

Anchorage Fire Department officials investigating the house fire are calling it suspicious: the power was off and nobody was living there since the previous tenants got evicted a few weeks ago.

Investigators say they have no suspects yet. They can’t say whether the two fires are related, but they’re looking into that too.

No one was hurt in either fire.

Albright’s friend, 25-year-old Kennith Upton, had lived in the North Juanita Loop house once owned by Upton’s late grandmother but was not living there at the time of the fire.

Upton helped two other men — Carl Leedom and Phillip Floor — beat the 23-year-old Albright as payback for a stolen backpack, prosecutors in the murder case said. Leedom thought Albright stole the pack containing a firearm, drugs — cocaine, methamphetamine, a handful of prescription pills — and several thousand dollars in cash.

The North Juanita fire is “certainly suspicious,” said Brian Dean, the AFD fire inspector examining the two incidents.

The house was locked up and without power at the time of the fire, Dean said. Previous tenants — relatives of the deceased owner but reportedly not Upton — had been evicted by a court-appointed estate representative a couple weeks earlier, he said.

The fact that the house was the scene of the Albright murder is factoring into the investigation, Dean said. Fire inspectors are getting assistance from Anchorage police detectives on the investigation.

Anchorage police spokesman Lt. David Parker referred all questions about the fires to AFD officials.

Investigators are “certainly looking into what happened” during the time of the murder, as well as any people who may have lived at the house since, fire inspector Dean said.

“At this point we don’t have any particular suspects,” he said. “We’re trying to drum up any leads we can. It’s pretty early in the investigation.”

The call on a fire at 17349 North Juanita came in at 12:01 a.m. on Nov. 27, according to the Anchorage Fire Department. Someone reported “heavy fire showing” at the house at 12:01 a.m. Nov. 27 and then hung up, AFD spokesman Al Tamagni said. Another person from a street over also called.

First units arrived at 12:06 a.m. and reported a fully-involved structure fire, with heavy fire in the top half of the house, he said.

At 12:34 a.m., a passer-by reported a motor home fully engulfed in flames just across the Old Glenn Highway on Eleonora Street, Tamagni said. No information was available as to the owner of the vehicle.

The fire on North Juanita Loop all but destroyed the three-story log and concrete-block structure, though it’s still standing. The home sustained $203,000 in damage, Tamagni said. Municipal tax officials assessed the 36-year-old home at exactly that amount this year.

Still visible: the lower concrete block unit and upper log cabin first floor and loft, as well as the roof, though all sustained major damage.

Albright spent the night of Aug. 23 2010 at the house, located at 17349 North Juanita Loop. He and Upton had known each other since the third grade at Fire Lake Elementary.

Early the next morning, the men beat and then pistol-whipped Albright after binding his hands and feet, according to court documents. Albright’s family members said he screamed for help from Upton, who pinned him down during the attack. The men dumped Albright’s body in the Butte, along the Matanuska River.

A grand jury indicted all three on various murder counts.

A jury later convicted Floor of manslaughter during his April 2012 trial, but acquitted him on second-degree murder charges. He’s serving five years and scheduled for release in 2017.

Upton got his murder charge knocked down to criminally negligent homicide in a plea deal. He was released from jail in July but remanded after violating parole. He’s currently out on probation.

Leedom is awaiting trial in January. Upton is expected to testify.

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