A Wife Dead, a Daughter Accused
Doc Waterman still heads for the garage when he wants a smoke.
It’s been nine months since his wife Lauri’s death, but it’s one of the little rules he abides by. Sort of a tribute to her as he tamps down his grief and stands by their teenage daughter -- who is accused of plotting to kill her.
Carl “Doc” Waterman has done his best to get on with life since 16-year-old Rachelle Waterman was arrested last November with Brian Radel and Jason Arrant, both 25. He closely tracks his daughter’s case as it moves to trial.
He has buried himself in his real estate business, and continues serving as president of the school board and on the local Girl Scout council. Sometimes he goes fishing to take his mind off things. Other times he just sits in silence.
“I tell myself I’m doing well and sometimes I’m just, you know ... ,” he said in a recent interview in his office, speaking with an easygoing, friendly drawl.
Waterman, 61, describes himself as pragmatic, with little use for emotional displays. But he acknowledged that inside, the memories and feelings were roiling. He said he tried to amplify the emotions that would benefit his life, and suppress the others.
“One of the things you do is you try to remember and dwell on and focus on the good parts,” he said. “I’ve lost something, but I had 25 or 30 years that were fantastic.”
In the early morning of Nov. 14, 48-year-old Lauri Waterman was abducted from her home in Craig, a tiny lumber and fishing village of 1,100 in the rain forest of southeast Alaska. Her husband was in Juneau attending a Girl Scout leadership meeting. Rachelle was competing in a volleyball tournament in Anchorage. Son Geoffrey was at college in Washington state.
Lauri Waterman had gone to bed after an evening of volunteering for the Chamber of Commerce’s annual dinner. Police say Radel broke in, bound her and drove her in the Watermans’ minivan to a remote stretch of road north of town, where he met with Arrant. One or both beat her with a flashlight, suffocated her, then doused the van and body with five gallons of gasoline and set them afire, police say.
Police questioned Arrant, Rachelle Waterman’s boyfriend, and he broke quickly, telling police on Nov. 18 that Radel had killed Lauri Waterman. He agreed to wear a wire and talk to Radel about the killing. Police arrested both men. They confessed and told investigators that Rachelle was in on the plot.
Rachelle had been dating Arrant, despite her mother’s disapproval, and had a brief relationship with his friend Radel, according to prosecutors. She told Arrant that her mother abused and threatened her and that she feared for her life, and from there, police say, the scheme was hatched.
Police questioned Rachelle three times, the last on Nov. 19, when she admitted knowing about the plot and not telling anyone. Defense attorney Steven Wells is trying to get that statement thrown out; the judge is to hear arguments on that motion Aug. 22.
In the Nov. 19 statement, she told police she had said she wanted her mother killed but was not serious when she said it. She had told Arrant in passing that she and her father would be out of town that weekend and was “pretty sure” that they would go ahead with the killing then, she told investigators. She phoned Arrant from Anchorage and thought she had called it off, but when she called him again after returning to Craig, he told her they had gone through with it.
Radel and Arrant have pleaded guilty to murder and agreed to testify in Rachelle’s trial, which is scheduled for Jan. 17. Along with their testimony, the 16-year-old’s confession is a key piece of evidence.
Doc Waterman calls the confession “empty,” bullied out of her in an interview that happened without his permission and without an attorney present. However, what came out in that interrogation sticks with him.
“She may have known something was happening and not done enough to stop it,” he said. “If that were the case I don’t think she was really aware -- a 16-year-old kid doesn’t really recognize the impact of everything that is happening.”
The Watermans, Craig residents for nearly 20 years, were well liked and active in the town. Lauri and Doc sat on community boards, volunteered for Little League and participated in just about every fundraiser or potluck dinner in town, friends say.
Their children were also active. Besides volleyball and softball, Rachelle was on the academic decathlon team, in the pep band and in the choir.
Rachelle had a rebellious streak, wearing clothes intended to shock, and she was often at odds with her mother. She told Arrant, and later police, that her mother had threatened or abused her on three separate occasions. She kept an Internet blog titled “My Crappy Life” that talked about problems with her mother.
That blog is infamous among Internet users for the last entry, now deleted, that read: “Just to let everyone know, my mother was murdered.”
Jed Smith, a friend from Whale Pass on northern Prince of Wales Island, said Rachelle, or “Rocky” as her friends call her, is caring, sensitive and self-deprecating. In an e-mailed response to a query from the Associated Press about whether Rachelle accurately depicted her life and relationships in her blog, Smith said no.
“It was a journal, nothing more, nothing less,” Smith wrote. “It was a place to vent and ramble and spew, not an austere logical glimpse into her life.
“I don’t believe she would have intentionally instigated the death of her mother; she would not have been capable.”
Don Pierce, the Watermans’ neighbor and Rachelle’s godfather, described Rachelle as a good kid in typical teenage rebellion. He said her life resembled nothing of the misery she depicted in her blog.
He, his wife, Lorraine, and Doc Waterman strongly deny that Rachelle suffered any abuse at the hands of her mother. Lorraine Pierce, Lauri Waterman’s best friend, bristles at the idea.
“I want it on record that Lauri was a wonderful parent,” she said. “She was doing her job; she was parenting.”
Doc Waterman is still parenting while his daughter -- who turns 17 this month -- remains in jail in lieu of $150,000 bail 200 miles away in Juneau. Besides following the court proceedings and poring over legal filings, he helped Rachelle pass her high school equivalency exam and apply for college. He knows that even if she is released from prison, she may find it difficult to return to Craig, where many people presume her guilt.
That especially grates at Doc Waterman, who believes Radel was behind the whole thing. Waterman shows his fury at Radel when he talks about what happened that morning.
“This is not a man,” he said with a fresh edge to his voice. “He’s got no reason to do any of this. He just did it for a lark, or did it because he thought he could. That’s not the kind of person you want back on the street. In my mind, he’s the poster child for reinstating capital punishment.”
Radel and Arrant will be sentenced to between 20 and 99 years in prison at their September sentencing hearings.
Doc Waterman is sure to be on hand for the Aug. 22 hearing, and will continue to come to his daughter’s defense. Don and Lorraine Pierce will keep doing their part to help him get through it, but they know things will never be the same for the family.
“They aren’t going to bounce back,” said Lorraine Pierce. “I don’t think anybody’s going to bounce back. They’re going to cope.”
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