Marine pleads not guilty in dental technician's slaying at Camp Hansen
August 13, 2005
CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — Lance Cpl. Jesika I. Jenkins pleaded not guilty Thursday to having any direct involvement in the brutal Feb. 2 slaying of a Navy dental technician on Camp Hansen.
During the first day of a court-martial on charges relating to the death of Seaman Adam J. Palecco, 21, Jenkins, a Camp Hansen guard, pleaded not guilty to aggravated assault, reduced from a charge of murder in accord with a pre-trial agreement.
But she pleaded guilty to failing to report the murder, making a false official statement to police and dereliction of duty in helping her boyfriend leave the base while on restriction.
Prosecutors said Jenkins, 19, was Seaman Audley G. Evans II’s girlfriend. Military officials say the dental technician led a shoplifting ring that stole costly electronics from exchanges on Okinawa military bases. Evans, 20, of Royal Palm Beach, Fla., is charged with murder.
Palecco was to be court-martialed on a larceny charge on Feb. 4. According to evidence at two accomplices’ murder trials, Evans reportedly concocted a plan to kill Palecco after learning he intended to tell military police what he knew of Evans’ involvement in the shoplifting ring.
According to videotaped statements, Evans slit Palecco’s throat and Seamen Robert L. Person Jr. and Tiffany Marie Brooks stabbed him.
At separate courts-martial in June, Person, 19, of Turrell, Ark., and Brooks, 21, of Carthage, Miss., pleaded guilty to murder and related charges and were sentenced to 60 and 65 years in prison respectively, without parole. They and Evans were Camp Hansen Navy dental technicians who worked with Palecco.
No trial date has been set for Evans.
In pursuing the aggravated assault charge, Marine Capt. Josh Rosen said prosecutors would show Jenkins knew Evans intended to kill Palecco and agreed to give him an alibi by letting him be seen entering her room the night of the crime. But once in Jenkins’ room, Evans left the building from her first-floor bedroom window, Rosen said.
After the murder, Evans, Person and Brooks met in Jenkins’ room to discuss what they’d done, officials have said.
“The accused played a role,” Rosen said in his opening statement. He said that before the murder, Evans asked Jenkins to help him leave the base with Palecco.
When she asked why, Evans explained he knew Palecco was going to talk and needed to get him off base to “have some fun,” according to the prosecutor. “He said he wanted to shut him up,” Rosen said. “When asked how he would do that, Evans made a hand gesture indicating he’d slit his throat.”
According to Jenkins’ statement to the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, she didn’t believe Evans and refused to help him do “something stupid.”
Navy Lt. Michael Luken, her lawyer, said Jenkins believed Evans was serious about killing Palecco only after he returned to her room after the crime.
When Brooks and Person came to her room and started talking of what they’d done, Luken said, she was “shocked, afraid and appalled. She doesn’t want any part of it and she’s too scared to report the incident.”
At the start of the prosecution’s case, NCIS agents testified Jenkins at first denied any knowledge of the crime but changed her statement after Evans, Person and Brooks confessed and implicated her.
Luken described Jenkins as a “small fish” who was “in the wrong place at the wrong time.”
“She’s taken responsibility for her actions and pled guilty to what she is responsible for,” he said.
The court-martial was expected to end Friday.