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Fairbanks murder suspect captured after fleeing to Canada

Fairbanks Police Department
Judson Sherrell is charged with first degree murder in connection to the killing of 75-year-old Carole Jo Romberg, of Fairbanks. He's being held at the Lemon Creek Correctional Center in Juneau on a $5.1 million bond.

A 21-year-old Fairbanks man was arraigned Tuesday on a charge of first-degree murder in the death of an elderly woman last weekend at her apartment on the city’s south side. Judson Sherrell also is charged with stealing the victim’s car and fleeing into Canada before being arrested while trying to cross back into Alaska.

Fairbanks Police spokesperson Teal Soden says officers found 75-year-old Carole Jo Romberg’s body in her apartment on 28th Avenue just past midnight Saturday morning, after responding to a report of a vehicle crashing into a garage door in the area and then driving away.

“It appeared to responding officers that she had been stabbed,” Soden said in an interview Tuesday.

Later Saturday, investigators identified Sherrell as the suspect and launched a statewide manhunt. They say Sherrell stole Romberg’s car and headed south to the Canadian border, where he slipped past an Alcan Beaver Creek Border Crossing checkpoint in the Yukon Territory.

“He essentially was able to just drive through – getting on the side of the road and drive through the Canadian border patrol checkpoint,” she said.

Investigators believe Sherrell turned off the Alaska Highway at Haines Junction in the Yukon and headed south on the Haines Highway. Soden says he got to within four miles of the Alaska-Yukon border crossing at Haines before the car broke down.

“He ditched the car and tried to walk across the United States border, where he was apprehended by U.S. Border Patrol,” Soden said.

She says Customs and Border Protection officers handed Sherrell over to Haines Police, who held him until Fairbanks police arrived and arrested him and took him to the Lemon Creek Correctional Center in Juneau. That’s where he appeared, telephonically, for Tuesday’s arraignment before Fairbanks Superior Court Judge Paul Lyle on charges of first-degree murder and vehicle theft.

“FPD would like to thank the U.S. Border Patrol and the Haines Police Department for detaining him until FPD detectives could make it down there,” she said.

Soden says Lyle granted a request by the Fairbanks district attorney’s office to set bail at $5.1 million, because they considered Sherrell to be a flight risk. His next court appearance is scheduled for Tuesday, when he may enter a plea on the charges.

Tim Ellis has been working as a KUAC reporter/producer since 2010. He has more than 30 years experience in broadcast, print and online journalism.