Stephen “Greg” Fisk was what people tended to describe as “a young 70.” Outgoing and athletic, he ran a successful fisheries consulting service and had just been elected mayor of Alaska’s state capital by a sweeping margin.
And yet, on Monday evening he was discovered in his Juneau home, bloodied and bruised and dead seemingly without explanation.
Fisk’s death, less than two months after he took office, sparked a wave of rumors in Alaska’s remote capital. But after a preliminary autopsy, police say they believe Fisk died of natural causes.
It’s thought that Fisk suffered from some sort of heart problem and fell, Juneau Police Chief Bryce Johnson told reporters Wednesday, according to the Associated Press. The 70-year-old’s injuries were consistent with a fall, he said.
Fisk’s deputy mayor Mary Becker has been named acting mayor, according to the AP.
Officials say they found no signs of foul play: no evidence that someone forced their way into Fisk’s hillside home, where he lived alone, and no traces of a violent struggle. Suicide and drug overdose had been ruled out.
On Tuesday, police had confirmed that Fisk hadn’t died of a gunshot wound, but could not offer more clarity.
“Could be natural. Could be an accident. Could be a lot of things,” Johnson said in an interview with KTUU. Asked about the possibility it was an assault, he said, “That’s part of what we need to find out with cause of death.”
The strange circumstances — and the lingering absence of clarity — brought national interest to the small city on the Alaskan panhandle, a place of glittering glaciers and fog-shrouded mountains only reachable by boat and plane.
Though Fisk had lived in Juneau for decades, his rise to political prominence there was a relatively recent one. He declared his candidacy for mayor in August, running against a one-term incumbent who until then had been unopposed.
His campaign site promised “active and innovative leadership for Juneau,” and was adorned with pictures of Fisk in various typical Alaskan settings — gutting a fish, posing on skis, grinning from the top of a windswept mountain. Everything about him advertised good health.
Bruce Botelho, who served as Juneau mayor for 12 years, told the Los Angeles Times that he persuaded Fisk to run for the office. He used to swim with Fisk on a daily basis, he said, and though he knew about his friend’s health problems, he described Fisk as vigorous for his age.
“He had had some heart issues,” Botelho said. “We discussed those. We felt those issues were behind him.”
After what the Alaska Dispatch News described as an “unusually cordial” campaign, Fisk roundly bested the incumbent mayor, winning every precinct in the city.
That was on Oct. 6. Two weeks later, he was sworn in. And a month and a half after that, his adult son found him dead in his home.
Onlookers wondered about the initial lack of clarity from officials about the circumstances of Fisk’s death. But speaking at the press conference Wednesday, Johnson said that police had an obligation to rule out every possibility, a process that took time.
“And people being people, they run with the unknown for that couple of days, and it’s Juneau, Alaska, it’s an exotic location. It’s a newly elected mayor. And so it was an intriguing story,” he said.
Ultimately, the story was just a tragic one, he added.