Pathologist testifies at Frankfurt shooting trial
By NANCY MONTGOMERY AND MIKE ABRAMS | STARS AND STRIPES Published: December 12, 2011
FRANKFURT, Germany — One of the two airmen killed by gunshots to the head at Frankfurt Airport last March died instantly and the other suffered irreparable brain damage, according to a pathologist’s testimony at the murder trial of Arid Uka, the Kosovo Albanian who has confessed to shooting the airmen.
Airman 1st Class Zachary Cuddeback likely never knew what hit him when he was shot in the right temple while sitting behind the wheel of an Air Force bus waiting to take a group of airmen from Frankfurt Airport to Ramstein Air Base en route to a deployment in Afghanistan, pathologist Hansjürgen Bratzke told the Frankfurt court Monday.
Bratzke told the court that the bullet exited Cuddeback’s left temple, killing him instantly. The bullet was fired from about four inches away, Bratzke said. He made that determination from gun powder residue found on Cuddeback’s head and hand.
Senior Airman Nicholas Alden, the first airman to be killed when he was standing outside the bus, waiting to board, was shot in the lower right side of the head with a bullet fired from at least a foot away, the pathologist said.
The bullet tore through blood vessels and brain tissue and became lodged in Alden’s skull. His death was also quick, the damage to his brain irreparable, Bratzke said.
In testimony in October, Senior Airman Nicholas Gursky, 22, who was among the airmen from RAF Lakenheath, England, on board the bus, said he rushed to Alden’s aid after the shooting stopped and that Alden was still conscious.
“He didn’t look like he was going to make it,” Gursky testified. “He was starting to turn white.”
At the start of his trial in August, Uka, 21, confessed to killing Alden, 25, and Cuddeback, 21. Uka is also charged with three counts of attempted murder. Staff Sgt. Kristoffer Schneider and Senior Airman Edgar Veguilla were wounded in the March 2 shooting. When Uka pointed the gun at another airman, Staff Sgt. Trevor Brewer, 23, the gun jammed.
A murder conviction in Germany carries a life sentence. But parole is possible after 15 years, and there is no sentence of “life without parole.”
The pathologist’s report came on the penultimate day of testimony. He also said a toxicology report showed no drugs or alcohol in Uka’s system.
Uka has said he was influenced by jihadist propaganda on the Internet. He said he wanted to prevent American servicemembers from going to Afghanistan, where he said he believed they would rape Muslim girls.
Next Monday, a psychiatrist is to give his assessment of Uka’s mental state, before the lawyers give closing arguments Jan. 9 and the judgment and sentence are handed down Jan. 19.