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ARRESTED: Brian V. Clark charged with murder of Ella Olsen

Alaska State Troopers

Long suspected as the culprit, the state says it has enough evidence to charge Brian V. Clark, 36, with the February 2015 murder of Ella Olsen in Dillingham.

KDLG:  Dillingham police say they know who murdered Ella Olsen, 55, in February 2015, and have enough evidence to prove it. U.S. Marshalls had been monitoring the whereabouts of 36-year-old Brian V. Clark in Anchorage, and on Tuesday he was picked up on charges of first degree murder and robbery.

Clark had long been the suspect of Olsen's murder, but police kept a quiet but aggressive investigation ongoing to gather the evidence to prove it. The crucial testimony was provided by a witness who told police in September that a few months earlier, when he bought heroin from Clark in Anchorage, Clark confessed to the murder. "I didn't mean to hurt her, I was just dope sick," the witness claims Clark told him.

U.S. Marshalls began keeping an eye on Clark's whereabouts, and after an arrest warrant was issued, placed him in custody on Tuesday. He is scheduled to be arraigned in Anchorage Wednesday.

Ella Olsen was beaten to death at her home on Cessna Drive on February 7, 2015. Her body was discovered by an Aleknagik man who called 9-1-1 to report it to authorities.

Credit KDLG
Police investigated Ella Olsen's death on February 7, 2015 on Cessna Drive.

Through their investigation, police determined that Olsen had been selling heroin, and had been around Brian and his wife Darcie Clark the day before, buying alcohol and selling heroin. Brian Clark spent that night getting drunk and playing cards at a Waskey Road home, and lost all his money. One witness said Clark lost $500 playing cards that night.

Police and the prosecution allege Clark then decided he would rob Olsen, who he had seen collecting money from heroin sales for several days. That robbery, which happened sometime on February 7, went bad, and Olsen ended up dead.

At the scene, police and state crime scene investigators collected evidence, but the amounts of various samples needed to verify DNA was low. So low, that the case held for months while the state weighed whether or not to use the small samples for testing, perhaps leaving no additional amounts for further verification or defense challenge. In the summer of 2015, one piece of DNA from a whiskey bottle was sampled but no genetic profile was obtained.

Meanwhile, police continued their efforts, mainly leaning on witnesses, all of whom were involved in buying or selling heroin at one time or another. A few were arrested for selling heroin to police confidential informants. Clark, his wife, and another man were themselves arrested in Anchorage with substantial amounts of heroin, but those cases were only lightly prosecuted. The murder case slowly tightened, but still lacked the testimony of a credible witness that would help prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Clark murdered Olsen.

Ella Olsen was murdered on February 7, 2015. Police allege Brian V. Clark killed her after going to her house on Cessna to rob her of money from heroin sales.

That came in September, when police crossed paths with a man who had crossed paths with Clark months before in Anchorage. According to this witness, he bought heroin from Clark, who told him he knew authorities were closing in. "I just know they're gonna come get me," was what Clark supposedly told the witness. Clark, the witness told police, began to cry as he talked about Ella, saying he didn't mean to do it and had just needed some money.

While police never publicly named Clark as their prime suspect, through their interviews of dozens of potential witnesses, many in town were aware that he was at least a person of interest. Dillingham police have so far not said if Clark had an accomplice, nor have they said how Olsen was killed other than "beaten to death." An autopsy showed Olsen died of "blunt impacts of her head, trunk, and extremities."

KDLG News is choosing not to identify the witnesses who spoke with police during their investigation.

If convicted, Clark faces a sentence of up to 99 years in prison. Brian Vane Clark has been charged with first degree murder, two counts of second degree murder, and one count of robbery in the first degree. He is expected to be arraigned in Anchorage on Wednesday.

Reach the author at dave@kdlg.org or 907.842.5281.

Brian Vane Clark, 36, allegedly killed Ella Olsen during a robbery at her Cessna Drive home in February 2015.