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KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany — A murder charge has been dropped against one of the suspects in the 2005 beating death of Sgt. Juwan Johnson.

Pfc. Latisha Ellis faces a summary court-martial next Tuesday on a charge of making a false official statement to Criminal Investigation Command investigators.

Ellis had been one of two soldiers charged with murdering Johnson during an alleged initiation ceremony into a gang called the Gangster Disciples. Spc. Bobby Morrissette had his murder charge reduced to involuntary manslaughter.

Johnson, 25, of the 66th Transportation Company, died of multiple blunt force injuries on July 4, 2005, a day after the alleged “jumping in” ceremony.

Three other soldiers have been charged with involuntary manslaughter, and two of those soldiers — Sgt. Rodney H. Howell and Pfc. Terrence A. Norman — have their Article 32 hearings early next week.

Based on earlier testimony, Ellis will likely be a key witness against the other suspects in upcoming courts-martial and Article 32 hearings. During Morrissette’s Article 32 hearing in December, a witness testified Ellis told him she had “a meeting with her family” on the evening of July 3, 2005.

When Ellis returned from the meeting, she was crying and said, “He never dropped his flag,” the witness testified. The witness also testified that Ellis said, “It was only supposed to be six at a time, but it was everybody at the same time.”

The number six holds particular significance with the Gangster Disciples because one of the gang’s symbols is a six-pointed star.

If convicted, Ellis could be reduced to the lowest pay grade, forfeit two-thirds of her pay for one month and one of the following: confinement for one month, hard labor for 45 days without confinement or restrictions to specified limits for two months, said Elke Herberger, U.S. Army Europe spokeswoman.

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