Sailor arrested in Florida on desertion charge
By LINDA TRISCHITTA | Sun Sentinel (Tribune News Service) | Published: February 24, 2017
Fort Lauderdale, Fla. — A U.S. Navy sailor has been jailed in Florida, accused of deserting her post after having a baby last summer.
Police arrested Ana Lucia Gnecco, 24, in Hollywood on Wednesday on behalf of the federal government. Her daughter, Kori Rowe, was born in August, Gnecco’s father said Thursday.
“Evidently, and I didn’t know this, but she left the Navy earlier than she should have,” Armando Rodriguez said of his daughter. “She basically went AWOL; that’s what the Navy is claiming.”
Gnecco enlisted in the Navy in November 2014. Her contract was to end Nov. 11, 2019.
The Navy did not provide the start date for Gnecco’s leave but said she was supposed to return to her base in Portsmouth, Va., on Jan. 14. She is a seaman quartermaster and worked in reception and medical support at the Naval Medical Center there.
“The arrest was the last resort,” said Christina Johnson, a Navy public affairs officer for the medical center. “You’re going to want to try and work with the sailor to get them back, because the consequences for desertion are serious. She was in contact with her command and with the Navy’s arm that would bring her back to duty. All efforts were made to get her back to work, but she chose to stay there.”
Johnson said Gnecco’s case is an open investigation and she could not comment on the reasons why the sailor did not return to her post or what discipline she could face.
Rodriguez said he didn’t know why his daughter did not return to work, “but the baby could be a reason. We could assume that having a baby might not go well with serving in the military.”
After missing a return date by 30 days, “it’s considered desertion,” Johnson said. “Her chief was calling her, people from her office were calling her to make sure she was OK. It’s a decision, up to the sailor, whether they come back or don’t. After a certain period of time, paperwork is filed to the Navy’s division that brings her back to base.”
Gnecco went to high school in Georgia, according to her LinkedIn page. She was arrested at her parents’ home in Hollywood.
She and the baby’s father, who is from Broward County, have both sailed to foreign countries with the Navy, Rodriguez said.
Gnecco’s family — including adult sisters, her mother, Glenda, and Rodriguez — have cared for the infant since her birth, he said.
“The baby’s father’s family is here in Broward, if needed,” Rodriguez said. “We have a lot of support.”
He said he hopes his daughter will be discharged.
“I hope that she goes back up there and they have a hearing and she is released,” Rodriguez said. “There is no point in keeping her.”
Meanwhile, Gnecco had another, immediate problem: She was in pain from lactating and the jail didn’t provide a breast pump, she told Broward County Judge Michael Davis Thursday during her bond hearing.
Details about the Navy’s desertion charge were not discussed during the hearing. Davis told Gnecco he had to comply with the U.S. government’s order that she be held without bond until the Navy picks her up from the Broward North Jail in Pompano Beach.
“The U.S. Navy is asserting jurisdiction over your case,” Davis said. He could not tell her how long she would remain in custody in Florida.
“It’s just because I’m actually currently breast feeding and I can’t release my milk, so it’s just getting painful,” Gnecco told him.
Asked if she had seen a doctor in the jail, Gnecco said, “Yes, they told me there is nothing they can do. It can turn into an infection if I wait too much longer to pump my milk.”
A spokeswoman for Armor Correctional Health Services, which the Broward Sheriff’s Office hired to provide health care to inmates, said in an email, “Armor is committed to its patients’ rights to confidentiality, and it adheres to HIPPA privacy laws that prohibit discussing specific patient information.”
Davis said his assistant Karen Sisson bought Gnecco a $42.39 breast pump from Target.