Father: Convicted GI poisoned himself before surrendering
Stars and Stripes August 25, 2009
A Special Forces soldier who was on the run for nearly two days following a court-martial conviction poisoned himself before surrendering to police, his father told Stars and Stripes on Tuesday.
Kelly A. Stewart — a sergeant first class at the time of his conviction last week on charges of kidnapping, forcible sodomy and aggravated sexual assault of a German woman in August 2008 — is now in intensive care at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, according to his father, John.
Stewart, 36, fled early Thursday morning after being convicted the night before at his court-martial in Vilseck, Germany. He surrendered late Friday to military police in Stuttgart and was taken to the Army confinement facility at Coleman Barracks in Mannheim. It was at the confinement facility where Stewart showed the first signs of illness, his father said in a telephone interview Tuesday morning.
Stewart, a medic by training, may have injected himself with poison or swallowed pills while he was fleeing authorities, his father said.
He was taken to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center on Sunday and then flown to Walter Reed in Washington, D.C., on Monday afternoon, medical officials said. Patient privacy rules prevent medical officials from discussing patient treatment and conditions.
“He may or may not live,” said John Stewart, who said he was heading to an airport to board a plane from Nebraska to be at his son’s bedside. “He is in the ICU (intensive care unit) and there appears to be some major organ damage, particularly to his kidneys.”
The search for Stewart began Thursday morning in Vilseck after a soldier who was sharing an on-post hotel room with the convicted soldier said that he awoke around 7:30 a.m. and found Stewart missing, along with his Class A uniform, wallet, two cell phones and a rental car.
While he was eluding the police, Stewart called his father.
“We talked for a few minutes,” his father said.
In what John Stewart described as his son’s “death bed statement,” he declared that he was innocent of the charges.
“He told me that he loved me and that he was innocent,” John Stewart said. “And to tell his kids that he was a good man.”
Stewart has two children with his wife, who is also an Army medic, the father said.
John Stewart said that his son was distraught over the conviction and was clearly “suicidal.”
“My daughter and wife had resigned ourselves that he was going to kill himself,” John Stewart said.
The elder Stewart wondered why his son wasn’t being guarded more closely following his conviction.
“I don’t know how they could let him get away knowing that he was like that,” he said.
Stewart was sentenced to eight years in prison, given a dishonorable discharge and reduced to the rank of E-1. During the court-martial, he was found innocent of rape, abusive sexual contact and communicating a threat, charges that could have increased his sentence to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Prior to his conviction, Stewart, a highly decorated soldier who served tours in Iraq, Kosovo and Macedonia, had been training fellow Special Forces soldiers at the International Special Training Center in Pfullendorf.
“He has now lost his entire career,” his father said. “He can’t get any jobs. He’s bankrupt. He’s a sex offender. His life is totally ruined.”