Thurmond family feels defeat after defendant’s sentencing

A man was sentenced for criminally negligent homicide, but the family questions if justice was served.
Published: Dec. 21, 2022 at 9:16 AM AKST
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - On Dec. 14, Erik Demoski was sentenced to 10 years of prison, 7 suspended and 10 years of probation. The family of the victim, however, does not feel justice was served.

On May 15, 2020, Demoski assaulted his sister’s fiancé, Wesley Thurmond.

According to an interview with Demoski’s sister, Felicia Kayotuk, the two men had been arguing. After cutting his hair in the bathroom, Demoski then threatened to have Thurmond killed saying “I could get someone over here right now to kill you.” Demoski then went to his room to pack, as he had testified in his sentencing hearing. The record shows he ran over to Thurmond and kicked him into the couch. Demoski then strangled Thurmond and punched him in the head.

Upon investigation, first responders took Thurmond to Fairbanks Memorial Hospital and he was later medevacked to the Alaska Native Medical Center. On May 17, 2020, Thurmond was pronounced deceased, according to court records.

On Sept. 11, that same year, Demoski was indicted with one count of manslaughter.

In June of 2022, Demoski pleaded guilty to to criminally negligent homicide a class B felony.

Prior to sentencing, the family of Wesley Thurmond spoke with KTVF about their experience and what they wanted to see Demoski receive for a sentence. “It’s been over two years, just waiting for the sentencing and we’re hoping and praying that justice will be served and they’ll give him the maximum sentence,” said Wesley’s mother, Sylvia Thurmond.

After considering the arguments of Demoski’s public defender and the prosecutor, Judge Patricia Haines sentenced Demoski to 10 years, with 7 suspended. “The sentence should be imposed above the presumptive range...because of the age of...prior convictions. The time served should be at the maximum end of that presumptive range,” said Haines. The prior convictions referencing multiple DUI’s and older assault convictions that Demoski had on his record. The presumptive range for Demoski as this was his first felony was one to three years, as set by the legislature.

“This has been a tough two and a half years since Wes’ was taken from us,” said Holly Evans, Wesley’s aunt. Feelings continue after the sentencing, as the family does not feel justice was served.

The Thurmond family sent a statement after the hearing which said they are “concerned that violent crime among native people will become more prevalent with minimal consequences from the state judicial system. The state also said they wished the legislature would reevaluate sentencing requirements, providing for harsher options. The statement ended by saying “the judicial system failed us this court session.”