Update: A grief circle for Anesha “Duffy” Murnane is 5-6:30 p.m. Wednesday, May 18, at WKFL Park.
Warning: This story contains details that may be disturbing to some readers.
Two-and-a-half years after Anesha “Duffy” Murnane went missing on Oct. 17, 2019, while walking to a doctor’s appointment, Homer Police have caught the man they say killed her.
Police issued a press release on Monday announcing the latest development in the case.
In charging documents filed in Homer Court on Saturday, May 7, police allege that Kirby F. Calderwood, 32, of Ogden, Utah, picked up Murnane on Oct. 17, 2019, while she walked to an appointment at SVT Health & Wellness Center. Police wrote that Calderwood took Murnane to an unoccupied Homer home, pushed her down into a crawlspace, and sexually assaulted and hurt Murnane before killing her. Calderwood knew Murnane from when he worked as a service provider at MainTree Housing, the supported housing apartment complex where Murnane lived.
“We are appalled to learn the apparent circumstances of the death of our daughter Anesha ‘Duffy’ Murnane at the hands of a violent predator,” Murnane’s parents, Ed and Sara Berg, wrote in statement. “It is especially distressing that the charged suspect was employed by the mental health care system to which we entrusted the care of our daughter. If this suspect is found guilty and incarcerated, we will be profoundly relieved that he is off the street and cannot strike again. We pray that further investigation does not reveal additional victims. … The upcoming trial process will be a difficult time for all of us. We hope that the trial will be straightforward and just, and that we and our community can reach some sense of closure to this horrific event.”
Calderwood has been charged with first-degree murder, second-degree murder, kidnapping and tampering with physical evidence. Murder and kidnapping are unclassified felonies and tampering with evidence is a class C felony.
On May 9, Ogden police served Calderwood with a warrant for the charges in Utah, where he is being held on $1 million bail. Calderwood moved to Homer in 2016 and lived in Homer at the time Murnane disappeared, moving back to Utah in the spring of 2021. On May 6, police also served a warrant to collect a DNA sample from Calderwood. According to KSL-TV in Salt Lake City, Utah, neighbors who lived near Calderwood’s Ogden home reported seeing police arrest him last Friday.
“We would like to thank everyone who cooperated in this investigation. There were dozens of folks that helped out with initial searches,” Homer Police Chief Mark Robl said in a press release. “Many others called in with tips and information and stood by ready to assist us. We would also like to thank the FBI and the Ogden Utah Police Department for all of the help they have provided. Our thoughts and prayers go out to Duffy’s family and all who are touched by this horrible event.”
The charges against Calderwood came about when on April 14, 2022, a person called Kenai Peninsula Crimestoppers with detailed information about Murnane’s disappearance and murder. Police later found out the tip came from a person who knows Calderwood, and that Calderwood had told them about Murnane’s abduction, assault and killing. Calderwood talked about the abduction with the tipster after Homer Police Special Investigator Matt Haney interviewed him in May 2021. The caller provided details such as that Calderwood had a ladies Timex watch he took from Murnane. When Ogden police served a search warrant on Calderwood’s home, they found a ladies Timex watch that matched the description given by her parents. Ogden police also found a missing person’s flyer for Murnane in Calderwood’s home.
On Calderwood’s Facebook page, he also shared a Homer Police Facebook post seeking information about Murnane’s disappearance. That Facebook page has since been heavily edited, with all posts removed.
Murnane, then 38, disappeared on Oct. 17, 2019, after leaving her Main Street apartment for an appointment at the SVT Health & Wellness clinic on East End Road. The last confirmed sighting is a security camera photo showing her leaving MainTree Housing, a supported housing complex, about 12:15 p.m. that day. Murnane had a 1 p.m. appointment at SVT Health and Wellness Center, about a 1-mile walk along Pioneer Avenue and East End Road from her home. She did not show up for that appointment.
Search dogs tracked Murnane’s scent to the area on Pioneer Avenue in front of Kachemak Bay Campus, where the scent stopped — an indication she had been picked up in car there. Cell phone records showed her phone was either turned off or the battery quit working at 12:23 p.m.
An employee at MainTree Housing, the apartment complex where Murnane lived, reported her missing on Oct. 19, and said she had not been seen since Oct. 17. Homer Police issued a Silver Alert — an alert for a vulnerable adult — and an air search was done that day, with no sightings. Volunteers started searches on Oct. 19, and continued them throughout that fall. Family and friends have held periodic vigils and remembrances for Murnane since her disappearance. Homer artist Brad Hughes has been building a memorial bench for Murnane and other missing and murdered people.
Murnane was declared dead June 17, 2021, in a presumptive death jury hearing. The jury determined that she most likely died by homicide.
According to an affidavit by Haney, Calderwood knew Murnane from when he had worked at MainTree. Through his investigation, Haney identified Calderwood as a person of interest about May 20, 2021. Haney interviewed Calderwood on May 25, 2021, and Calderwood said he began working for South Peninsula Behavioral Health Services in 2017 as a direct servicer provider. For four or five months in the fall of 2019 he also worked at MainTree Housing, where he met Murnane. Calderwood also knew Murnane from eating with her at meals in a program at South Peninsula Behavioral Services, the mental health agency that runs MainTree Apartments.
In an email statement, South Peninsula Behavioral Services CEO Jay Bechtol confirmed that Calderwood worked as a direct service provider from September 2017 until August 2019. The mental health center has been cooperating with Homer Police during its search for Murnane, Bechtol wrote.
“Like everyone in our community, we were shocked and saddened today to see that a long time Homer resident was arrested for the crime,” Bechtol wrote. “… Our staff, like many in the community, are relieved for the Murnane family that this could lead to closure while also trying to reconcile the anger and confusion this has elicited. SPBHS will continue to cooperate with the authorities until this case is resolved.”
After the initial anonymous tip in April, on May 6, the tipster called Haney and said they were ready to make a statement. According to the affidavit based on that statement, Haney wrote that while Calderwood’s then-girlfriend was out of town, Calderwood prepared the girlfriend’s parents’ crawlspace to assault someone. Calderwood had stayed at the home in 2018 with the former girlfriend while searching for other housing. The home was unoccupied from Oct. 12 to December 2019. Calderwood went driving around in his blue Subaru Forester looking for a victim when he saw Murnane, according to the affidavit and the tipster’s information.
Murnane agreed to get into the car with Calderwood. Murnane’s parents and friends had said that she would not get into a car with someone she did not know. Murnane was very shy, her family said.
Calderwood then took Murnane to the house, saying he had to get a phone charger. He told her she could wait in the car or come in, and she went into the house with him. Inside, Calderwood told Murnane she should look down into the crawlspace, and when she did, he pushed her down into the crawlspace so hard it hurt her badly, according to the complaint. Police alleged he restrained her and raped her. He took her cellphone to Beluga Lake and threw it in. Calderwood then continued hurting Murnane and killed her, according to the complaint.
Based on interviews with people who had known Calderwood, Haney’s affidavit said Calderwood had a history of being physically violent in relationships. One woman who knew him said Calderwood told her he intentionally harmed animals as far back as when he was in fourth grade.
Two women alleged to U.S. Army investigators that Calderwood had sexually assaulted them while Calderwood had been in the Army. A request for information to Army officials regarding Calderwood’s service record and the outcome of those reports had not been replied to by press time.
Bechtol said that prior to Calderwood’s employment with South Peninsula Behavioral Services, Calderwood was fingerprinted and a criminal background check was done. Bechtol said background checks are done for anyone working at South Peninsula Behavioral Health Services, including volunteers and board members. Any social service agency receiving state funding also is required to do background checks, Bechtol said. Nothing showed up in the background check done for Calderwood, Bechtol said.
The Bergs thanked Homer Police for their work in solving the disappearance of their daughter.
“Homer Police Department never gave up on this case,” they wrote. “They interviewed dozens of people, and painstakingly tracked down hundreds of tips and leads. We thank everyone who provided information and helped put the picture together. The case, however, is by no means closed, and we ask that anyone who has information that might be relevant about the suspect Kirby Calderwood to contact the Homer Police Department.”
In the press release and in a phone call, Robl said he could not provide further information about the case at this time. The case remains an ongoing investigation. Police ask that anyone with information about Calderwood and his interactions with Murnane contact them at 907-235-3150. Robl said he could not comment at this time on the whereabouts of Murnane’s body.
A grief circle for Murnane is 5-6:30 p.m. Wednesday, May 18, at WKFL Park, according to Christina Whiting, a friend of the Bergs who has been monitoring the Bring Duffy Home Facebook page. The event will be “an opportunity to be with others as we collectively grieve for Duffy, her family and friends and our community,” Whiting wrote.
The Homer United Methodist Church sanctuary will be open 4-8 p.m. Thursday for people to have time for candle lighting and contemplation, Pastor Lisa Talbott wrote in an email.
The Bergs also expressed their appreciation to the many volunteers who helped them through their ordeal.
“We are incredibly grateful for the support of the ‘Bring Duffy Home’ community — these are friends from Homer and far beyond, numbering more than two thousand folks on Facebook,” they wrote. “We also thank the MealTrain.com friends that brought us meals for many months after Duffy was taken, and thank so many other people for the outpouring of help and support we’ve received since our precious daughter was taken in October 2019.”
A memorial installation of the Loved and Lost Bench, the sculpture in memory of Murnane and missing and murdered persons, is June 12 at the Homer Public Library. The Bergs thanked Whiting for her work on the bench project.
“Christina Whiting has been our frontline assistant from early on and has managed the Memorial Bench project which will be dedicated on June 12th at the Homer Public Library. Ongoing contributions to this project now total close to $40,000, but more is needed for completion. We thank the 300+ individuals, businesses and organizations who have contributed to this effort. The bench recognizes all the missing and murdered who like Duffy were stolen from their lives and communities. Our thoughts — now more than ever — are with all the families like our own, across Alaska and the world, who long for a missing family member.”
Community members experiencing trauma related to Murnane’s disappearance and death and who want to talk to a clinician can call South Peninsula Behavioral Health Services at 907-235-7701. The mental health center has on-call clinicians 24-hours, seven days a week, Bechtol said. People also can drop in during regular business hours at its offices at 3948 Ben Walters Lane. Bechtol also offered assistance to other agencies providing services or support for people dealing with impacts from the tragedy.