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Palmer Machete Murder Suspect Arraigned

By Rebecca Palsha, Late Edition Anchor/Senior Reporter (Parenting and Food), rpalsha@ktuu.com
Published On: Jun 02 2014 11:58:59 PM AKDT

A suspect accused of killing an 81-year-old man with a machete last month was arraigned in a Palmer court Monday.

PALMER -

A suspect accused of killing an 81-year-old man with a machete last month was arraigned in a Palmer court Monday.

The family of Steven Garcia came to see grainy jail-camera images of 23-year-old Thomas Cottam, the man accused of killing their father, during the video arraignment. Cottam stands accused of first-degree murder in the case.

Garcia, a longtime farmer near Goat Creek, was known for his fields of raspberries. Alaska State Troopers say he was killed with a machete after picking up Cottam as a hitchhiker, then offering him a place to stay and work.

“It was really common for him to help folks out, pick up hitchhikers and give places people a place to stay while they got up on their feet,” said Kevin Sweeney, a friend of Garcia’s.

But Cottam says he was acting in self-defense when he killed Garcia. In court documents, he told investigators after confessing at the Anchorage Jail to killing Garcia May 18 that he blacked out when the older man came at him with the machete. Troopers conducted an examination of Cottam and found no recent cuts consistent with knife wounds on his body.

For now, Cottam will remain behind bars, with a trial at the end of the summer. His bail has been set at $1 million, with a court-approved third-party custodian required for release.