Juneau mayor died of natural causes, authorities say

Juneau mayor died of natural causes, authorities say
D.J. Thomson, right, and Joyce Levine light candles on Kennedy Street in downtown Juneau for Mayor Greg Fisk, who was found dead in his home this week. (Michael Penn / Associated Press)

For days the death of Juneau's newly elected mayor had spawned a deepening mystery: what killed the outgoing and athletic leader of Alaska's capital?

Greg Fisk, who took office in late October, was found dead Monday in his hillside home, where he lived alone.


Fisk, 70, was youthful for his age, but in the absence of clear facts, rumors swept Juneau, a city of Subarus, bear-proof garbage bins and public trails that overlook a glacier. The city, which sprawls across an area nearly the size of Delaware, is home to about 33,000 hardy residents.

Police in Juneau said they had eliminated the possibility of suicide, a drug overdose or illegal drug use. And the mayor was definitely not shot, they said.

Investigators acknowledged that they were "aware of rumors that an assault occurred in connection with Fisk's death," but quickly added that those theories were no more than "speculation".

Police Chief Bryce Johnson told Anchorage-based KTUU-Channel 2 that the mayor had suffered injuries, but declined to elaborate.

"Could be natural. Could be an accident. Could be a lot of things," Johnson had said. Asked whether police have ruled out assault, Johnson said, "That's part of what we need to find out with cause of death."

Then late Wednesday afternoon came the answer: Preliminary results from an autopsy indicated that Fisk died of natural causes.

Bruce Botelho, who served as Juneau mayor for 12 years, said he persuaded Fisk to run for office this year. The two men swam together daily, he said, and Fisk was vigorous for his age, although they had discussed previous health problems before the campaign.

"He had had some heart issues," Botelho said. "We discussed those. We felt those issues were behind him."

Greg Fisk during his first week as mayor.
Greg Fisk during his first week as mayor. (Juneau Empire)

Residents on the downtown street where Fisk lived, just blocks from the state Capitol, placed votive candles this week beside a wooden sculpture of people and bears holding hands, said neighbor Claire Richardson.

A fisheries consultant who won election over the incumbent mayor by a margin of 2 to 1, Fisk lived in one of the smaller houses on the hill. His red cabin "was like a little ship," Richardson said. "Very small, but everything was in place."

Police said he was found dead, alone, by his adult son.

A neighbor brought coffee to a police officer investigating the death, Richardson said. Another placed memorial lanterns on a fence post by Fisk's house.

A police vehicle idles outside the home of Mayor Greg Fisk.
A police vehicle idles outside the home of Mayor Greg Fisk. (Becky Bohrer / Associated Press)

Botelho, who said he has known Fisk for more than 20 years, last heard from him the day before Thanksgiving. They talked about Fisk hosting a meeting of other coastal Alaska mayors to advocate for the state-run ferry system that delivers people and goods to cities that cannot be reached by road.


Botelho said he had not heard specific rumors of an assault but suggested the intense interest in the case outside of Juneau probably stems from the Police Department's inability, at first, to rule out foul play and Fisk's apparent good health.

Kyle Hopkins is a Los Angeles Times correspondent.