Gilbert Olanna sentenced to 75 years for murder of Esther Lincoln
On Tuesday, Superior Court Judge Paul Roetman imposed a flat 75-year sentence jail time on Gilbert Olanna, 33, for committing the crime of killing his girlfriend Esther Lincoln in White Mountain on New Year’s Day 2015. Judge Roetman explained the severe sentence in a two-hour long argument that boiled down to the facts that Olanna has a long record of violent crimes, a propensity to abuse alcohol and that despite many probation periods and counseling programs he showed no success to rehabilitate.
Esther Lincoln was 40 years old when she was murdered. According to court documents, Olanna strangled Lincoln in her residence in White Mountain in the early morning hours of January 1, 2015.
Court papers say that Olanna spent the night out drinking. When he returned to the home he shared with Lincoln and their young son, they got into an argument. “In course of this, Olanna explained, his arm slipped below Lincoln’s chin and around her neck,” the court document reads. “Olanna stated that he had held Lincoln around the neck for several minutes until she went limp.”
Around 9:30 a.m. Olanna went to a neighbor to summon a health aide. The health aide responded and found Lincoln dead on a mattress. The health aide noticed bruising on Lincoln’s neck.
Olanna told troopers that he had cleaned Lincoln’s body and put clothing on her. He said he deleted photos and videos of her from his cell phone.
When troopers confronted him with evidence that Lincoln showed signs of head injuries, Olanna said he had also struck her in the face.
Olanna was originally charged with one count of murder in the first degree, three counts of tampering with evidence and one count of assault in the fourth degree. In a plea agreement, he pleaded guilty to one count of murder in the second degree.
The sentencing hearing, held in the Nome courthouse, was attended by Esther Lincoln’s family members and friends, several Alaska State Troopers and only one member of Olanna’s family. After hearing comments from Esther Lincoln’s mother Enid Lincoln, her sister Beverly Horton and her brother Paul Lincoln, Olanna’s younger brother Darin testified and holding back tears spoke of the abuse he and his brother experienced at the hands of their alcoholic father.
Paul Lincoln spoke first and expressed his hope for a long sentence to be imposed. He said that Gilbert Olanna, given his prior history of alcohol abuse had this one chance of straightening out in the supportive and strong community of White Mountain. “He blew it,” Lincoln said. “Because of his actions, we lost a mother of two sons, a daughter, a sister, an aunt, a niece, a co-worker.”
During the entire time, Olanna sat slumped over next to his lawyer Hatton Greer, avoiding all eye contact with the people in the gallery behind him. Enid Lincoln then addressed the judge, characterizing Olanna as a brutal person who abused her family’s welcoming arms. “I was welcomed into our family,” she said. As an example for his character, she said, “He boasted of killing birds and animals that we don’t use for food,” she said. “That’s not part of our tradition.”
“He made an orphan out of one child and took away our daughter in a way that is unspeakable. And then he had the audacity to come to us after what he’d done and say that she drowned in her own vomit.”
This sparked the interest of District Attorney John Earthman. He asked when exactly Olanna made this statement. When he came that morning to say that Esther is dead, Enid Lincoln replied. Lincoln was sworn in and had to make that statement again on the record.
Enid Lincoln ended her testimony with the plea to put Olanna away for a long time. “I plead for the maximum sentence for this evil-doer,” she said. “He is not fit to live among us.”
Beverly Horton, sister to Esther Lincoln, also gave a statement. She said she has known the defendant for more than 20 years and has witnessed his alcohol and rage, his violent episodes. “I wondered why my sister fell in love with him,” she said. She took in the young son of her sister and Gilbert Olanna. Overwhelmed with tears, she spoke of him as the real victim, being motherless. “He has to live with his father being a murderer. He lost his mother and his father at the same time. We will never be enough. We will always be his reminders that he is without his mother and the love that only a mother can give,” she said.
For the defense Kelly Strass, an outpatient substance abuse counselor testified and described Olanna as “withdrawn, grief-stricken, mortified and very remorseful.” She said that he was one of the most sincere persons who has ever completed the program and pointed to his influence on the group as he made an example of himself, saying “Hey, wake up, if you don’t straighten up, you’ll end up like me.”
Finally, Darin Olanna, Gilbert’s younger brother testified. He said they would go to grandma’s every day and to camp every summer. As brothers they had their “ups and downs,” he said. He also spoke very briefly of the physical abuse they experienced from their father when he was drunk.
When the attorneys made their case, District Attorney John Earthman refrained from asking for a specific amount of jail time, but recommended a sentencing that would permanently remove Olanna from society. Defense attorney Hatton Greer pointed to substance abuse counselor Kelly Strass’ testimony of Olanna’s remorsefulness and for the successful completion of this one program. He asked for a sentence of 40 years with two years suspended.
Judge Roetman very carefully laid out the facts of the case, named the aggravating factors in this case and found Olanna to be a so-called worst offender. Roetman pointed to Olanna’s long criminal history of violent offenses, of domestic abuse and of not being able to learn from many a period of probation and program participation. The judge went down the list of 15 prior convictions of felonies and assaults. The first offense Olanna committed was at age 15 when he sexually assaulted the mother of his friend.
The range of sentencing for murder in the second degree is between 10 and 99 years. Judge Roetman said that in this case probation makes no sense and addressed Olanna, saying, “You are a continued danger to your community because you haven’t figured things out.” Citing the need to protect the public, the need for community condemnation of his behavior and to serve as a deterrent, Roetman sentenced Olanna to 75 years in prison. After 25 of those years served, Olanna can begin asking for parole.