Kadena airman on trial for beating, abducting wife
May 25, 2006
KADENA AIR BASE, Okinawa — It’s the story of a marriage gone bad almost from the start.
Airman 1st Class Ryan D. Kowalewski married Megan Strickler, 20, in February 2005, five days after she followed him to his new duty station on Okinawa, as a dental technician with the 18th Dental Squadron. But the honeymoon was brief, she testified at Kowalewski’s court-martial Tuesday.
Within the year, the airman would be charged with adultery, kidnapping, wife beating, repeatedly disobeying orders and lying.
When his general court-martial began in Kadena Law Center Tuesday, he admitted to less serious charges, which still could land him in prison for 28 years.
But he pleaded not guilty of adultery and wrongfully holding his wife in confinement. Conviction of those charges could boost his top sentence to life in prison.
Kowalewski admitted in court Tuesday that between April 2005 and February he:
Failed to attend alcohol-abuse counseling.Drove with a suspended license.Used his work computer to send offensive e-mails.Broke restriction to quarters.Assaulted his wife repeatedly, including by spitting and urinating on her.Lied when he denied at an Article 15 hearing that he rode a dirt bike while drunk.To buy alcohol, repeatedly left the base without permission.Ignored an order that he have no contact with his wife.Kowalewski told the judge he broke restriction to visit his wife in their Yomitan home because “we were spending time together … trying to work things out.”
His wife, who said she met Kowalewski when she was 18, testified the marriage deteriorated in April 2005 when she got drunk on a deep-sea fishing trip with friends and kissed another man.
“It was a huge mistake on my part,” she testified. “He never really got over it.” She said she continued to try to make the marriage work, even letting him return home after she told military police in mid-December that he’d assaulted her and had sex with an Air Force staff sergeant.
She filed the charges after another airman gave her photos of Kowalewski kissing another woman at a party. “I loved him a lot,” she said. “I wanted so much to believe he would change.”
The staff sergeant testified she’d engaged in sexual foreplay with Kowalewski but did not remember having sex. “But there were two occasions when I had a lot to drink,” she said.
Kowalewski’s wife said the final blow to the marriage came Feb. 8, when her husband locked her in the bedroom.
“He started talking all crazy,” she said. “He said he’d found a bug on the telephone.” As she peered through a crack in the door, she said, she saw him take out a knife and motion as if to cut his wrists.
“He said, ‘I’m going to do this so everyone would know it’s your fault.’ He said … I had ruined his life and he wanted me to see his dead body,” she testified.
She said he let her out after about a half hour and handed her a blue notebook while he held a knife to his wrist. He dictated five pages of a rambling message in which he had her deny he’d ever done anything wrong to her.
Then, she testified, he cut his wrist slightly, shook blood onto the book, then smeared the blood on her face. “He said, ‘Now this is all on you,’” she said. She reported the incident two days later.
Closing arguments were to be heard Wednesday morning.