The pretrial hearing to investigate whether an American service member charged with the murder of a fellow service member should be court-martialed closed yesterday in Keflavik, Iceland. <?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office” />
Air Force Airman Calvin Eugene Hill, 20, faces five charges, including murder and obstructing justice by allegedly murdering Airman 1st Class Ashley Turner to prevent her from testifying against him.
Prosecution brought several witnesses forward to testify in the hearing, including the lead agent in the naval investigation into the case and the service member who called 911 after finding Turner’s body.
Staff Sgt Jerrod Sunderland testified yesterday that on August 14, 2005, he had been working out in the fitness room in a dormitory on base when he saw a body lying in the middle of the floor in an unlit adjoining room.
“Once the lights were on,” said Sunderland, “I could notice there was a female laying face down on the floor in a pool of blood.” He estimated the pool had about the same diameter as a basketball.
Turner, a 20-year-old airman with the 56th Rescue Squadron, had suffered trauma to the head and neck and died shortly before 11PM on August 14 at the hospital on base.
Hill was taken into military custody the night of Turner’s death and has remained in custody since. Hill was charged with the aforementioned five counts in February, about six months after her death. American military law states that a person should be charged or brought to trial within 120 days unless there is good case as to why this period should be extended. The Air Force would not comment at this time what that was in this case.
Naval Criminal Investigative Service agent Fred Ewell, Jr., who was heading the case’s investigation, testified that Hill’s alleged motive, along with forensic reports he read that a drop of blood found on Hill’s shoelace matched Turner’s DNA profile, led him to believe that the accused had committed the crimes in question.
However, proceedings this Tuesday and Wednesday in the small US courtroom in Iceland were not a trial. Investigating Officer Col Mark Allred has yet to make a report and recommendation whether there is sufficient evidence for a case against Hill to proceed.
Hill’s defense counsel did not present evidence or call witnesses during the hearing, which is not unusual in this kind of military hearing designed to determine whether the prosecution has enough of a case to move forward legally.
No closing statements were made by the prosecution or defense counsels.
The three members of Turner’s immediate family also gave personal testimony earlier in the hearing.
“If you had put us in this courtroom five months ago, you would have had to drag us out,” said Jason Turner, Ashley’s brother, appearing composed in an interview after the hearing.
Jason Turner and Lawrence and Lisa Turner, the victim’s parents, visited the alleged crime scene on base, which has been sealed for several months, the day they arrived to Iceland.
“It’s trial…it’s emotional,” said Lawrence Turner, the victim’s father. Turner says the military did not do as much hand-holding as he and his family would have liked during the months following his daughter’s death, but was satisfied with how the government proceeded in this week’s hearing. “I don’t care how much they keep from me or make me angry,” he said. “I got the rest of my life to seek justice, and that’s what I want.”
If court martialed and found guilty of murder, Hill could face life imprisonment or the death penalty under military law.
Lawrence Turner added,“We’re going to have to sit and hold onto our seats. It’s going to be a bumpy ride, but we’ll land.”