Marine sentenced in Okinawa dental tech slaying
August 14, 2005
CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — Marine Lance Cpl. Jesika I. Jenkins broke into tears here Friday as she apologized for her role in events surrounding the vicious Feb. 2 murder of a Navy dental technician on Camp Hansen.
During the sentencing phase of her court-martial in Keystone Judicial Circuit Court for aggravated assault in the killing of Seaman Adam J. Palecco, Jenkins stood shakily at attention as she struggled to make an unsworn statement.
“I just want to say that I’m sorry about all this stuff and I didn’t mean any of this to happen,” said the petite 20-year-old from Jacksonville, Fla., pausing to wipe tears from her eyes. She also cited a letter she wrote to Palecco’s mother while in the brig.
“If I could bring him back I would,” she said.
It was Jenkins’s only outward show of emotion during her two-day court-martial. At the end, Marine Col. B.D. Landrum, the military judge, sentenced her to four years in prison, a dishonorable discharge, reduction in pay grade to E-1 and forfeiture of all pay and allowances.
The sentence also covered two lesser convictions for:
Giving a false official statement to Naval Criminal Investigative Service agents.Using her camp guard position to let her boyfriend, accused of being the murder plot ringleader, leave Camp Hansen after she was told he and two other dental technicians had killed Palecco.According to a pre-trial agreement, a charge of murder was withdrawn and replaced with aggravated assault.
During the trial, prosecutors portrayed Jenkins, a radio operator assigned to guard duty on Camp Hansen, as the girlfriend of Seaman Audley G. Evans II, 20, who military officials say led a shoplifting ring.
Palecco, 21, and Evans were friends who worked at the dental clinic on Camp Hansen.
According to Jenkins’ confession, Evans told Jenkins that Palecco had agreed to tell investigators about Evans’ shoplifting activities.
Evans was restricted to the base because he also faced a court-martial for shoplifting. He asked Jenkins to help him leave the base with Palecco so he could “shut him up.” When Jenkins asked what he meant, Evans drew his hand across his throat in a slashing motion, she told investigators.
Jenkins testified Friday she did not think Evans was serious. However, she said, she refused to help him leave the base “to do something stupid.”
Later that night, Palecco was slashed and stabbed to death.
In June, seamen Robert L. Person Jr. and Tiffany Marie Brooks pleaded guilty to their part in the crime and were sentenced to 60 and 65 years’ prison respectively.
Prosecutors argued Jenkins let Evans use her room as an alibi, entering it in uniform and leaving from her first story window to commit the crime.
“She knew something was going to happen to Dentalman Palecco,” said Lt. Col. Kurt Brubaker, lead prosecutor. “She knew an attack was going to occur. … We have her confession.”
Person and Brooks testified during Jenkins’s trial. As a prosecution witness, Brooks said she heard Evans tell Jenkins to be sure to be in her room when he returned later the night of the murder. After she and Person dumped their knives and bloody clothing off base, they met with Evans in Jenkins’ room and discussed what they’d done, she said.
Prosecutors said days after the murder, but before any arrests, Jenkins used her camp gate guard position to let Evans leave Camp Hansen. She let him leave knowing he was still confined to base on the shoplifting charge and after she’d been told he, Person and Brooks had killed Palecco.
Person, testifying for the defense, said Jenkins was not part of the murder plan, nor was there a plan to use her room as an alibi.
Jenkins’ conviction leaves just Evans, of Royal Palm Beach, Fla., awaiting trial. No court-martial date has been set and he has yet to have a preliminary hearing on the charges.