Schofield suspect could face death penalty
The soldier allegedly killed his ex-girlfriend after an argument about child support
A Schofield Barracks soldier could face the death penalty for allegedly murdering his ex-girlfriend because he did not want to pay monthly child support payments of $285.
Yesterday, the Army began a week-long investigative hearing, known as an Article 32 hearing, into the Oct. 7 slaying of Spc. Felicia LaDuke, 22, a 25th Infantry Division soldier whose body was found near Mokuleia Beach.
Her ex-boyfriend, 21-year-old Spc. Jeffery White, is charged with premeditated murder, threatening and obstruction of justice.
In his opening statement, Army prosecutor Capt. David Clark asked Maj. Suzanne Mitchem, who is presiding over what is similar to a civilian preliminary hearing, to consider allowing White to be at a general court-martial with the death penalty as the maximum sentence.
He said it is a capital case because "White committed the crime to receive money," and there was "substantial physical harm, pain and suffering to the victim."
At the request of defense attorney Maj. John Hyatt, Army officials initially tried to bar the press and the public from attending the hearing. The defense argued that the hearing should be closed to protect White.
The hearing was opened after protests by the Star-Bulletin and the journalist group Military Writers and Editors.
Homicide Detective Jimmy Anderson, who was HPD's lead investigator, said White told friends that he strangled LaDuke, threw her body out of her car "and ran her over three times to ensure she was dead."
Anderson said White tried to hide the ownership of the green Forester SUV LaDuke had rented by scattering the car's manual, rental car agreement, personal papers, CDs and medical documents of their child at the crime scene before driving it back to Schofield Barracks and abandoning it on Kunia Road in front of Foote Gate.
Anderson said fibers from the white pants LaDuke was wearing were found in the tires of the rented SUV.
Anderson said White told two friends what he did to LaDuke, and they reported the crime to the police.
LaDuke was killed on a remote Mokuleia beach on Farrington Highway seventh-tenths of a mile beyond Camp Erdman at a spot where White and his friends held weekend drinking parties.
Spc. Ricky Walker, who was White's first roommate when he arrived at Schofield Barracks in 2003, said that on two occasions the accused said "he just wanted to kill her" so he would not have to pay child support.
White and LaDuke's son, Elijah, was born in February 2004 just before LaDuke deployed to Iraq as a truck driver with the 25th Transportation Company, 524th Support Battalion.
Walker, who is now stationed at Fort Hood in Texas, said the battle over the couple's son did not start until last summer, when a paternity test proved that White was Elijah's father.
Once the Article 32 investigative hearing is completed, Mitchem will report her recommendations to Col. Patrick Stackpole, 3rd Brigade Combat Team commander. However, the Army said that Stackpole does not have the authority to convene a general court-martial where the death penalty would be the maximum sentence. That determination will have to be made by Maj. Gen. Benjamin Mixon, commander of the 25th Infantry Division.