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Sailor found guilty of rape on ship, gets life in prison

NORFOLK, Va. — A Navy jury has convicted a sailor of kidnapping and brutally raping a female shipmate aboard the Vella Gulf missile cruiser while it was on deployment in the Mediterranean earlier this year and sentenced him to life in prison.

Jurors found Petty Officer 2nd Class Daniel Wilt guilty on all four charges leveled against him: rape, sodomy, kidnapping and assault. After a short deliberation, they gave him the maximum sentence, life with the possibility of parole.

During the trial, which lasted from Dec. 6 until Tuesday, Wilt’s accuser carefully detailed a more than two-hour ordeal in the bowels of the Vella Gulf while it was at sea in the pre-dawn hours of April 26. The victim’s name is being withheld because The Virginian-Pilot normally does not publish the names of sexual assault victims.

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His accuser, now a petty officer third class, testified that Wilt lured her with a concocted story about a leak on the ship, overcame her by force and then, holding a box cutter, threatened to cut her into pieces and throw her body parts overboard if she did not comply with his wishes.

He forced her two flights down into a storage room within an equipment room that he had lined with black trash bags using duct tape, and then raped and sodomized her.

DNA evidence corroborated her story, indicating Wilt had penetrated the victim both with sexual intercourse as well as anal penetration. It also showed his fingerprints on weapons and other equipment that the victim described him using.

Wilt’s attorney tried to debunk the evidence, suggesting that the two had consensual sex and that the victim’s testimony had inaccuracies about how long she and her attacker worked together and whether she had a closer relationship than she acknowledged.

But there was little character testimony on behalf of Wilt, and the defense could offer no motive for the victim to make up such a story.

Wilt, who has been held in a Navy jail since the attack, will spend a minimum of 20 years behind bars and will be dishonorably discharged without pay from the Navy. The jury recommended that his command, Navy Region Mid-Atlantic, defer the automatic halt in his pay to allow his wife and two young children some time to get on their feet. His family will continue to receive some health coverage and benefits during the appeals process, said the prosecutor, Cmdr. Michael Luken.
 

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