Ill. Marine charged with wife's murder

July 14, 2008 8:36:06 PM PDT
A Marine from a northern Illinois community is now charged with murdering his wife, an Army nurse.Twenty-three-year-old Marine Corporal John Wimunc is from Sandwich, Illinois, about 60 miles southwest of Chicago. The body of Army 2nd Lieutenant Holley Wimunc was found Sunday in a brush fire near Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.

There was a sense of disbelief in the town of Sandwich Monday. John Wimunc graduated high school in 2004 and joined the Marines a short time later. He was married to Holley about a year ago. She filed for divorce several months ago.

John Wimunc's parents headed to North Carolina to be with their son before his first appearance in court Tuesday. Stunned neighbors declined to talk on camera, but recalled John Wimunc was hard working and was voted class clown. They say they're having a hard time believing he was a murderer.

Authorities discovered Holley Wimunc's body while fighting a brush fire 130 miles away from her apartment. They were going through a bitter divorce. Holley Wimunc filed for a restraining order, saying John Wimunc threatened to kill her and himself. She said he choked her, threatened her with a 9mm and threw her around the room. Another Marine, Lance Cpl. Kyle Alden, 22, was charged, with acting as an accomplice. Authorities interviewed him extensively and say they were able to corroborate a lot of things based on his statements.

Holley Wimunc had been missing from Fort Bragg since the middle of last week. Her apartment was burned over the weekend. Police believe she was killed there and her body transported to the field near Camp Lejeune.

The order of protection was dismissed in late May after John Wimunc appeared in court but Holley failed to appear. John Wimunc is scheduled to appear in another courtroom Tuesday morning to face the murder charges.

"He definitely did not seem like the type of person that would do anything close to this," said Joe Russ, suspect's friend in Sandwich. "I hear it, but it just doesn't seem true, like, because it's his wife, he would be the first suspect."

John Wimunc's parents, Florian and Lana Wimunc, issued a statement to the Fayetteville Observer saying their son's "divorce was uncontested" and is "not a bitter one as some have stated."

"You start with people who are closest to the spouse and you work your way out from that," Fayetteville Detective Jeff Locklear said of the investigation.

Authorities charged Alden with first-degree arson, conspiracy to commit arson and accessory after the fact to first-degree murder. Both were arrested at Camp Lejeune, the Marine Corps base about 130 miles southeast of Fayetteville where they are stationed as combat engineers.

Wimunc's body was found in a wooded area near the southern border of Camp Lejeune late Sunday afternoon, not far from Alden's residence. The body had been there several days and there is evidence she was dead upon arrival, said Onslow County District Attorney Dewey Hudson, who wouldn't elaborate. The men were arrested late Sunday night after police interviewed Alden.

Both men are currently being held without bond in the Cumberland County jail. It wasn't immediately clear if they had attorneys. John Wimunc's father declined to comment when reached by The Associated Press, but Alden's mother said her son's only involvement was giving a friend a ride to Fayetteville.

"He had no idea what was going on. He didn't do this," Connie Johnson said in a phone interview from her home in Pequot Lakes, Minn.

Fayetteville police began searching for Wimunc when she didn't show up for work Thursday. Co-workers could not find her at her apartment, but smelled what they suspected was a fire and called police. Once inside, investigators found evidence of arson.

Sgt. Chris Corcione said Monday that investigators found several points where the fire was started, but the blaze was concentrated in the apartment's rear bedroom. While the interior walls of the burned room were black with soot, Corcione said, the fire burned itself out and left behind useable evidence.

Holley Wimunc, 24, was commissioned by the Army Nurse Corps in 2007. Her first duty assignment was at Fort Bragg, where she worked in the mother and baby unit at Womack Army Medical Center.

Corcione said Wimunc was last seen alive the night of July 8, when she went out with friends and used her ATM card. Police believe she was dead when she was taken out of the apartment, but they are not yet sure when her body was taken to Onslow County.

Hudson said an attempt to burn the body set off a brush fire that drew the attention of authorities, and the body was located by Division of Forest Resources personnel. He said detectives likely would never have found her body had it been burned in a brush-free area about 100 feet away.

"It seems that someone tried to torch the body in the shallow grave," Hudson said.

Maj. Cliff W. Gilmore, a spokesman with the 2nd Marine Division at Camp Lejeune, said both suspects are assigned to the division's 2nd Combat Engineer Battalion. John Wimunc has served two tours in Iraq, including that ended in January. Alden's mother said he went to Iraq in 2006.

"All he wanted to do was defend our country," Johnson said. "He has a wonderful, loving heart."

Holley Wimunc's father in Dubuque, Jesse James, said his daughter was a St. Ambrose University graduate, and excited about nursing and her career in the U.S. Army. She also had a son and daughter.

John Wimunc was not the father of Holley Wimunc's two children, and they were not in Fayetteville when the fire was reported. She had sent them to live with her father because of "the domestic situation," Corcione said.

Wimunc's death is the third homicide of a young North Carolina-based female service member in the past seven months.

In January, the body of Marine Lance Cpl. Maria Lauterbach, of Vandalia, Ohio, was found in the back yard of a fellow Marine, Cpl. Cesar Laurean. He fled to Mexico and was captured in early April, and is charged with murder in her death.

Last month, the decomposing body of Spc. Megan Touma, of Cold Spring, Ky., was discovered in a motel near Fort Bragg. Authorities have made no arrests in that case, but stressed Monday it has no connection to Wimunc's death.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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