In first use of jurisdiction act, USAF spouse to be tried in husband's death
Stars and Stripes June 5, 2003
In an unprecedented case, the spouse of an Air Force staff sergeant charged in the death of her husband at Incirlik Air Base, Turkey, will face trial in California under the Military Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act.
It is the first time in Department of Defense history that the little-known jurisdiction act, which was enacted in 1999, has been used, said 1st Lt. William Bryan Edmonson, spokesman for the 39th Wing at Incirlik.
Latasha Lorraine Arnt was turned over to U.S. Marshals on Sunday and returned to the United States. She had been detained at Incirlik since May 27 in connection with the death of her husband, Staff Sgt. Matthias A. Arnt III, who died at about 1:30 a.m. that day, according to a 39th Wing Public Affairs Office release.
Details of the killing were not made available.
Even though the slaying took place in Turkey, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California assumed jurisdiction of the case because the suspect, who is a civilian, cannot be tried under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.
Turkey officials waved jurisdiction of the case because it did not involve any Turkish nationals, Edmonson said.
The case was sent to California because that is the home of record for the accused.
“Situations like these don’t happen very often,” Edmonson said. “The [Military Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act] can only be used in certain circumstance involving military situations and whenever the host nation waves jurisdiction.
“Before the act was created, the person could essentially walk free. The U.S. could not gain jurisdiction of a crime done overseas,” he said. The act was used, he said, because she is a civilian who allegedly did something on a military base to an American servicemember.
“Turkey does not have to take jurisdiction,” Edmonson said. “… Because of the new act, we are able to try her.”
Latasha Arnt was formally indicted by the grand jury for the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, 60 miles east of Los Angeles, on May 30. She appeared in court Tuesday in Riverside, Calif., and was ordered held without bail.
She is charged with second-degree murder, and will be arraigned Monday in the U.S. District Court in Los Angeles, said Thom Mrozek, a spokesman for the federal prosecutors.
If convicted, she faces up to life in prison.
Matthias Arnt, 22, of Lebanon, Pa., was assigned to the 39th Security Forces Squadron at Incirlik. A memorial service and retreat were held in his honor at the base on May 29.
Latasha Arnt’s mother is caring for the Arnts’ 4-month-old daughter, Ashton Chandler, said Matthias Arnt’s father, Matthias A. Arnt Jr. The wife and daughter had come to visit the new father only two days before the slaying, he said.
“Tasha has rights and she gave power of attorney to her mother,” the senior Arnt said in a phone interview on Wednesday afternoon. “Personally, I think it stinks.”
He said he and the victim’s mother, Wanda Ditzler Arnt, only want answers.
“We want to know why,” he said. “I know there’s an investigation going on and the Air Force is giving information out as it comes, but I just want to find out what happened. Of course, they won’t let me talk to her,” the father said, of Latasha Arnt. He said he found out about her being sent to California by a news reporter who called his house.
“We get information day by day,” he said.