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Airman Hill murder trial gets under way at Bolling with opening statements, early testimony

BOLLING AFB, D.C. -- After five motions hearings and several months of administrative delays, the court-martial of Airman Calvin Eugene Hill, charged with premeditated murder, in the August 14, 2005 death of Airman 1st Class Ashley Turner while the two were stationed at Naval Air Station Keflavik, Iceland, began April 25 with opening statements from both sides.

Maj. Matthew Stoffel began by telling the jury of eight Air Force officers and six enlisted members that the prosecution would prove, through the testimony of witnesses, DNA and other evidence, that Airman Hill brutally murdered Airman Turner to prevent her from testifying against him in a court martial set for Aug. 22, 2005. In that case, Airman Hill had been charged with larceny/wrongful appropriation of about $2,800 from Airman Turner's bank account and making false official statements.

Airman Turner was found in a small, third-floor room adjacent to a day room where fitness and other recreation equipment was used by dormitory residents, and taken to Keflavik Naval Hospital, where she was pronounced dead just before 11 p.m. An autopsy determined the cause of death to be a stab wound and blunt-force trauma to the head.

Capt. Gwendolyn Beitz, arguing for the defense, said that Naval Criminal Investigative Service investigators "rushed to judgment" by immediately focusing on AirmanĀ Hill, ignored other potential suspects, handled evidence improperly and conducted a biased investigation. She said the defense would show that some key prosecution witnesses were unreliable, and asked the jury members to "look beyond the emotion and tragedy" and focus on the facts in the case.

Early testimony for the prosecution has come from two Navy doctors, including the pathologist who conducted the autopsy, a Navy hospital corpsman who was among the first emergency responders, and two Air Force enlisted members who first discovered Airman Turner's body.

Airman Hill has already entered guilty pleas for larceny, wrongful appropriation, absence without leave and making a false official statement, but has pleaded not guilty to the murder of Airman Turner and obstruction of justice. The court-martial is expected to last from four to five weeks.

If convicted of premeditated murder, Airman Hill faces the possibility of a death sentence. In the last military execution to take place, an Army private, convicted of the 1955 rape and attempted murder of an 11-year-old Austrian girl, was hanged at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., on April 19, 1961. Currently nine former military members who have been sentenced to death are confined at the U.S. Disciplinary Barracks in Fort Leavenworth.