Nicholas Alan Hill, 08-14-05

Patrol car escapee found dead in water, still cuffed

HORNETS INVOLVED? Man fled a failure-to-appear warrant near Nancy Lake.

By JOE DITZLER Anchorage Daily News

Published: August 16th, 2005 Last Modified: August 16th, 2005 at 02:04 AM

WASILLA -- Alaska State Troopers identified a body pulled Sunday from Nancy Lake in handcuffs as that of Nicholas Alan Hill, 20, of Wasilla.

Five days earlier, Hill fled from trooper Skip Chadwell's patrol car, parked along the Parks Highway near Willow while Chadwell assisted at a traffic accident, troopers spokesman Greg Wilkinson said.

Hill came into custody of his own doing, Wilkinson explained Monday. He had stopped late Tuesday at a Tesoro station at Mile 99 Parks Highway with car trouble and flagged down Chadwell for assistance, Wilkinson said.

The trooper ran Hill's record as a matter of routine and discovered an outstanding arrest warrant for having missed a court date in Valdez, where he was charged as a minor consuming alcohol, according to a troopers' media report.

Chadwell arrested Hill, handcuffed him, placed him in the patrol car's back seat and belted him in, according to troopers.

Next, Chadwell responded around midnight to a motor-vehicle collision at Mile 65 of the Parks, in which two victims were entrapped. Chadwell, 51, a trooper since March 1999, was the officer closest to the wreck scene, Wilkinson said.

A GMC sport utility vehicle with a family of four from California inside had rolled twice after the driver lost control. The parents were injured. Chadwell, the only officer present, took charge of the scene while paramedics treated the injured parents, Wilkinson explained. He said Chadwell was away from his patrol car 17 minutes.

While Chadwell was away, Hill kicked out a side, rear window and fled, according to the troopers. Hill's prior record shows he'd been charged with minor offenses -- petty theft, underage drinking, driving without a license.

A daylong search, including use of a handheld, infrared device that sees heat signatures at night, failed to locate Hill, troopers state. His description was posted online, and another warrant obtained charging him with escape.

Sometime close to 4:30 p.m. Sunday, someone at the Nancy Lake marina, near Willow, reported a body, handcuffed, in the lake. It was Hill's, Wilkinson said.

The body will be autopsied to determine the precise cause of death, he added.

Wilkinson said Chadwell, who's been assigned to Talkeetna since February 2001, remains on duty. Trooper policy states that officers are responsible for protecting any prisoner from harm and delivering the prisoner to jail safely, Wilkinson said.

"Our feeling, based on common practice, is that handcuffed and seat-belted in the locked rear compartment of a patrol car, there is no way out of custody except using extreme or extraordinary measures, which is what Mr. Hill did," Wilkinson said.

The place where Hill entered the lake is about three-quarters of a mile from the spot on the highway where Chadwell had parked near the accident scene, according to troopers.

"Troopers on the body recovery stepped into a hornet's nest and were stung," Wilkinson said. "Whether he (Hill) encountered that same hornet's nest and headed for the water, we don't know yet. We don't know if he went in accidentally or intentionally."

He said the shoreline near the spot where Hill probably went into the lake slopes about 30 degrees into the water.

Daily News Mat-Su editor Joe Ditzler can be reached at