Body found; man faces murder charge: Alleged victim lay near busy street for about 12 hours

PUBLISHED KDN: 10/7/17

By ZACHARY HALASCHAK
Daily News Staff Writer

Richard Branda’s body lay in clear public view from the Water Street sidewalk for more than 12 hours before someone called police late Friday morning to request a welfare check on a man who they thought was passed out.

But the 55-year-old Ketchikan man wasn’t asleep or unconscious — he was dead.

And by Friday evening, another Ketchikan man, 42-year-old Joshua K. Bliss, was in custody and facing charges of first-degree murder for allegedly killing Branda in an altercation early Thursday evening.

Ketchikan Police Department Chief Joe White said the call came in a little before noon on Friday. He said the original report was for a male thought to be passed out or sleeping.

The body was lying about five yards from the Water Street sidewalk between a group of shipping containers and a building located at 1059 Water St. near Berth 4. By Friday afternoon, police had canvased the scene and put up blue tarp to obscure the view of the deceased.

Deputy Police Chief Dossett said that he thinks those who saw the body laying near the sidewalk Thursday night and Friday morning might have just thought he was sleeping.

“I think most people thought he was sleeping,” Dossett said. “The way he was laying he appeared he’d been sleeping and so I don’t think most people gave it much thought if they — those, if anybody saw him, I’m sure a few people did — but I don’t think anybody gave him … much thought.”

After processing the scene Friday afternoon, police were describing Branda’s death as “suspicious” and had begun to contact possible witnesses.

At about 5 p.m. Bliss called the police department and said that he had killed Branda. Police contacted him in the 100 block of Austin Street, and charged him with murder.

On Friday evening, Dossett said officers were still working to pin down the exact timeline and details of what occurred. He also did not release any cause of death, noting that police would wait for the autopsy results.

“At this point we’re not releasing (how he died) because we’re still early on,” Dossett said. “Even though (Bliss) turned himself in, we’re trying to find all the evidence that’s out there. … We’ll probably release that in the next couple days.”

Dossett did say there was some sort of altercation, and confirmed to the Daily News that alcohol was involved in the incident that allegedly occurred at some point on Thursday evening.

“It was kind of early evening is what we’re looking at,” Dossett said. “We’re looking at early evening (Thursday) night, yes.”

Dossett said that there was a physical altercation between the two. He added that “prior to that night there was no animosity between them.”

Dossett declined to go into any further details surrounding that altercation or Branda’s death.

Branda’s body was shipped to Anchorage on the last flight out of Ketchikan on Friday night, en route to the medical examiner’s office.

“We should have an autopsy done (Saturday),” Dossett said, “and shortly after that we’ll have at least an initial finding.”

Bliss also was charged with tampering with evidence.

Dossett said, “that basically comes out of cleaning up the crime scene,” explaining that Bliss was charged with tampering for “cleaning” or removing evidence from the scene of the alleged murder.

Dossett said that both Bliss and Branda are residents of Ketchikan. Dossett said he believes that Bliss has an apartment, but said KPD is still “trying to determine” if the victim has a physical residence in town. He also elaborated a bit on the two’s relationship.

“I guess they knew each other pretty well,” Dossett said. “He’s given us a motive but we’re just kind of following that up first and seeing if the evidence matches what (Bliss) says.”

Dossett is urging the public to call KPD if they might know anything about the case or saw anything occur, as police are still trying to nail down an exact time of death.

“We got the call at 11:21 a.m. (Friday),” Dossett said, “so if anybody saw (Bliss) during the night, or early in the morning … this morning, please contact us so we can at least get a statement so we have a better timeframe.”

Bliss was transported to the Ketchikan Correctional Center, where he was being held without bail.

PUBLISHED KDN: 10/7/17

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