Alaska State Troopers said today that not all of the four people who were found dead Tuesday inside a burned-out trailer home in Caswell died from the fire, but are releasing no further details except their suspected identities. Troopers believe the four are two parents who were going through a divorce and their two young children.
Alaska State Court of Appeals records indicate that a man with the same unique name as the father was convicted of kidnapping and torturing a different woman, his common law wife, in the presence of that couple’s two children. He also threatened to shoot and burn the children and himself if she ever left him.
The Alaska Bureau of Investigation (BIA) “is investigating the cause and manner of their deaths,” said Trooper Spokesperson Megan Peters in a prepared release.
“The deceased are tentatively identified as 43-year-old Vannaphone Soundara, 23-year-old Azrealle C.D. Stewart, 4-year-old Akson S.T. Soundara and 1-year-old Kayson J.L. Soundara,” Peters said. “The State Medical Examiner’s office is working to positively ID the remains of the individuals. Not all of the individuals died as a result of the fire.”
“No further information regarding the investigation is being released at this time,” Peters said in the prepared press release. An investigator told the Alaska Pioneer Press on Friday, Nov. 12, that it may be a week or more before more information can be released.
BIA investigators visited the Talkeetna home where the mother and children lived to gather DNA evidence from personal possessions, items that troopers hope may help with positive identifications. Troopers are also seeking photos that show the husband’s tattoos. Call 733-2256 to give troopers additional information about the case.
Azrealle Stewart, one of the managers at the Tesoro gas station in Sunshine, moved to Talkeetna in September with her two children after separating from Vannaphone Soundara. Court documents indicate that a divorce was in process. The couple sometimes shared child care duties.
The trailer in which they were found, on the property where the husband lived, was reported ablaze at 6 a.m. Tuesday morning by a passing motorist. It was fully-involved when the first emergency responder arrived. Stewart was seen in the company of a man who matches her husband’s basic description at her home in Talkeetna on Sunday evening and neighbors did not see evidence of her return to her Talkeetna home on Monday evening. Her car was in the shop, and the light-colored vehicle parked in her driveway Sunday night appeared to be the same as the one that was in front of the Caswell trailer after the fire.
A man named Vannaphone Soundara was convicted in Anchorage of torturing and threatening to kill another woman, who was his common-law wife, in 2000. The woman said she was leaving him to move to California, according to documents filed with the Alaska Court of Appeals. He was convicted of kidnapping, assault and other offenses, according to court records. He lost an appeal in 2006.
Below is a graphic recounting of the 2000 attack found in the appellate court case filing for Soundara vs. State. (The Pioneer Press has redacted the initials of the victim and cautions that the events described may be upsetting, particularly to those who knew the victims.)
“… On the night of May 6th, Soundara bound –s hands and feet with speaker wire. For the next six or seven hours, Soundara beat — intermittently while the couples two small children cried in a nearby bedroom. According to the States evidence, Soundara whipped — with speaker wire, hitting her more than 30 times and leaving cuts and bruises over half of her body. During the course of the hours-long assault, Soundara strangled – (again, with the speaker wire), he struck her with a knife handle and with the dull edge of the knife blade, and he struck her with the butt of a gun. At one point, Soundara pointed the gun between –s eyes and threatened to shoot her. He also threatened to slice –s thigh with the knife and to rub salt into the wound. And Soundara told — that if she left him after this, he would shoot their children, set fire to them, and then kill himself. Finally, around five oclock in the morning on May 7th, Soundara released –.”