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Family of Marshall woman who was found dead on the Yukon River this summer keep her story alive at AFN

From left to right: Bradley Fitka, Cy Charlie, Traci Fitka, Christian Charlie, Kaelyn Fitka. All showed up to the 2023 Alaska Federation of Natives Convention in Anchorage to tell the story of Kimberly Fitka O'Domin, who was reported missing on June 15 and later found dead on June 27 in the Yukon River about 30 miles upriver from Emmonak.
Rhonda McBride
From left to right: Bradley Fitka, Cy Charlie, Traci Fitka, Christian Charlie, Kaelyn Fitka. All showed up to the 2023 Alaska Federation of Natives Convention in Anchorage to tell the story of Kimberly Fitka O'Domin, who was reported missing on June 15 and later found dead on June 27 in the Yukon River about 30 miles upriver from Emmonak.

A red handprint painted over the mouth has become the symbol for the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women (MMIW)'s movement. It stands for all the missing persons whose voices are not heard. One missing voice from this year's Alaska Federation of Natives (AFN) convention was tribal administrator for the Native Village of Marshall, Kimberly Fitka O’Domin.

Kaelyn Fitka in her custom hoodie with the MMIW Red Handprint and a picture of Kimberly Fitka O'Domin who went missing on June 15, and later found dead on June 27.
Rhonda McBride
Kaelyn Fitka in her custom hoodie with the MMIW Red Handprint and a picture of Kimberly Fitka O'Domin, who went missing on June 15 and was later found dead on June 27.

The 40-year-old mother of seven was last seen alive on June 15 near her home in Marshall. Her body was found 12 days later, about 30 miles from Emmonak on the Yukon River.

Fitka O’Domin’s family, and community members from Marshall, traveled to AFN to tell Fitka O’Domin’s story.

The Fitka family wore custom hoodies with the MMIW red handprint logo centered with Fitka O’Domin’s picture and the message “Justice For Kim.” The family was not initially scheduled to speak, nor did they coordinate with AFN organizers beforehand. Instead, they networked at the start of convention and connected with AFN Co-Chair Ana Hoffman and the CEO of the Association of Village Council Presidents, Vivian Korthuis.

Then, on Oct. 19, Korthuis took center stage and introduced them to the crowd. “These are the children of one of the ladies who was murdered recently this summer. I just want to take the time this afternoon to show the support that we want to share with all of Alaska in supporting our families who are really hurting.”

Traci Fitka wants justice for her cousin, Kimberly Fitka O'Domin.
Traci Fitka wants justice for her cousin, Kimberly Fitka O'Domin.

After a round of applause, Traci Fitka told their story. “I'm the cousin of Kimberly Fitka O'Domin, who was murdered on June 15, 2023. The family called the Alaska State Troopers and reported that an incident happened and she disappeared. And we didn't get a response for five days.”

Alaska State Trooper spokesperson Austin McDaniel disputes this timeline and said the that organization took steps once they were told Fitka O’Domin was missing.

“While troopers did not physically travel to Marshall for three days, troopers were actively working with local search teams, village police officers, and other troopers to search for Kimberly and begin an investigation into the circumstances surrounding her disappearance,” McDaniel wrote in an email.

Officially, Fitka O’Domin’s death occurred on June 27 and was ruled a drowning. It’s on her Aug. 12 death certificate.

McDaniel said that toopers have been unable to identify anything suspicious at this point in the investigation, but the family believes otherwise. They haven’t been able to confirm what the troopers are saying because they still don’t have the autopsy report.

“And by the time the Alaska State Troopers and even ABI, Alaska Bureau of Investigations, came, evidence was gone," Fitka said.

Fitka isn’t the only one who believes her cousin was murdered.

The Alaska Department of Public Safety isn’t the only state agency the Fitka family wants more accountability from. They believe the State Medical Examiner’s Office is at fault too.

Christian Charlie, eldest son of Kimberly Fitka O'Domin, spoke about losing his mother and his frustration with the state response at the 2023 Alaska Federation of Natives Convention in Anchorage.
Rhonda McBride
Christian Charlie, eldest son of Kimberly Fitka O'Domin, spoke about losing his mother and his frustration with the state response at the 2023 Alaska Federation of Natives Convention in Anchorage.

Fitka O’Domin’s son, Christian Charlie, said that his mother’s body was sent to Anchorage and was held there for an extended period of time.

“She sat in the funeral home for a while. The investigators, the medical examiner's, excuse me, and they couldn't identify her properly,” Charlie said.

Charlie questioned the delay and said that his mother’s body was found with her ID and credit card.

Charlie also said that his mother’s case isn’t an anomaly, and that there are other families dealing with the loss and a lack of accountability. He said that Alaska Native people should not have to be investigating these cases on their own.

Francisco Martínezcuello was the KYUK News Reporting Fellow from November 2022 through January 2024. He is a graduate of UC Berkeley School of Journalism. He is also a veteran of the United States Marine Corps.