Sterling woman attacked, believes she was targeted for her sexuality

Published: Dec. 26, 2019 at 6:51 PM AKST
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Soldotna Police and the Alaska State Troopers are currently investigating a string of events that led to a Sterling woman reportedly being attacked in her home on the Kenai Peninsula. As of now, law enforcement says the investigation is ongoing and has few reportable details, but the victim, Tammie Willis, believes she was targeted for her sexual orientation.

Willis said she came out in the ’90s when it was more common for people in the LGBTQ community to be the target of violence. She’s been living in Sterling for the past seven years and married to her wife since 2014. She said she’s never been the victim of violence or felt unsafe in the Kenai Peninsula community until recently.

Willis said she takes part in helping plan Soldotna Pride in the Park, a summer pride event that follows a march with activities at Soldotna Creek Park. She said it’s a newer addition to the celebration that had high turnout last year.

“It had grown and kind of taken on a mind of its own, so when we were thinking about doing it for this coming June we realized we needed to get more community members involved,” she said.

So she said and other organizers put out a social media post as a community event to get a pride planning meeting together.

“A few days after we posted, this note showed up on my truck,” Willis said.

It was a note Willis said she didn’t see at first, so she’s not sure just how long it was there. In it, someone used homophobic slurs and essentially told her to get out of town.

“I actually didn’t take it that serious at first,” she said, “who does that these days? When people post threats, it’s usually on social media nowadays, and here I am getting a handwritten note on my truck.”

Looking back, Willis said she should have thought more of the note.

That was on November 14th, and a week later on the 21st, she said there was a Pride in the Park meeting and the next morning she woke up to find that the windshield in her truck had been smashed in. According to her, it was only going to get worse from there.

About two weeks later, on December 9th, Willis said she was attacked in her home.

She said she woke up to get ready for work when the power in her home cut out around seven in the morning.

“I had opened up the garage door to look out to see if my neighbors had lost their power too, and was pushed backward into the garage,” she said, “as I was getting up, I felt a burning sensation in my arm and I felt something sharp in my chest.”

From there, Willis said she tried as hard as she could to fight off the attacker with little success. She said she tried to get up again and was punched and hit her head on the concrete when she fell again. Then apparently the attacker continued to punch her left side repeatedly, badly bruising her hip and leg.

“Then he just stopped and he left, and that was the end of it,” she said.

As of right now, Soldotna Police are handling the note and the smashed windshield incidents. The Alaska State Troopers are investigating the assault.

As of Thursday at 6:30 p.m., a records request has been sent to Soldotna PD but hasn’t been filled yet. Alaska State Troopers have little information they can disclose as the investigation continues.

The one piece of evidence the State Troopers have to work with that they told Channel 2 about is the knife used in the attack left at the scene. They said it has been sent to the lab for testing.

Due to the circumstances, Willis admits she’s not giving them a lot to work with.

“I don’t know who did this,” she said, “it happened in the dark, so I got a general description of somebody who’s on the tall side, maybe over six foot, kind of thick, really bad body odor.”

Willis also said her glasses broke and due to a previous unrelated injury, her hearing isn’t so good, so she doesn’t know what the attacker said if anything.

Since the attack, Willis has been staying in her Anchorage home that she and her wife recently bought. She said she has been having a lot of trouble sleeping, is having frequent problems with anxiety, and hasn’t left her home by herself.

According to the Alaska Legal Services Corporation and the State Troopers, this would not be considered a hate crime under Alaska State Law. However, it would be under federal law.

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