Okinawa Marine sentenced, discharged in fatal shooting
CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — A Marine was sentenced to three years’ confinement and a handed a bad conduct discharge for accidentally killing another Marine last June while playing with loaded pistols in the back of a moving Humvee.
Pfc. Jonathan Markert, 20, pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter in the June 8 shooting of Lance Cpl. Scott Oldroyd, 21, as they were being transported for gate guard duty on Camp Hansen, in northern Okinawa.
He also pleaded guilty to failing to obey proper procedures for handling weapons and engaging in reckless misconduct that was prejudicial to good order and brought discredit upon the Marine Corps.
After a 10-hour hearing, Markert stood at attention as Lt. Col. D.J. Daugherty rejected defense pleas to allow him to stay in the Marine Corps.
“The good Lord already gave you the second chance,” Daugherty said: “the life that Lance Cpl. Oldroyd doesn’t get to enjoy.”
Markert’s mother, sitting behind him in the public gallery, stifled a sob as Daugherty read the sentence. On the other side of the courtroom, Carol Oldroyd, the mother of the dead Marine, dabbed her eyes with a tissue.
She testified Tuesday that she had rushed to the bedside of her youngest son as he struggled for life in the U.S. Naval Hospital on Okinawa following the shooting.
“We had four days with him before he passed on,” she said. She and her husband travelled to their son’s bedside from Florida, where they were at the time of the shooting. They were joined in the hospital by Oldroyd’s older brother, Jonathan, who had been in China teaching English.
According to trial evidence, the Marines were pointing loaded 9 mm pistols at each other in the back of the Humvee when a bump in the road caused them to jostle each other; Markert’s gun, which had been taken off safety and the hammer cocked, fired.
The bullet struck Oldroyd in the back of the head. Had he survived, doctors said, he likely would be blind, paralyzed on his right side and unable to speak.
“I had such great hope that somehow a miracle would occur,” said his mother, of Laguna, Hills, Calif. “But then his kidneys started shutting down.”
On June 14, the family, devout Mormons, asked doctors to remove their son’s life-support systems. He died about 30 minutes later.
“We all talk about him still,” she said. “His spirit’s still here. But it’s been very hard, very hard to think that my baby’s no longer here.’
Her husband, John Oldroyd, 55, a retired police officer, said he bore Markert no ill will.
“I wrote him a letter,” Oldroyd testified. “I wrote it because I knew he must be suffering.
“I am thankful that I was Scott’s father and not his (Markert’s) father, because I would rather deal with the death of my son than having to imagine my son being the perpetrator. That would have broken my heart more than losing my son.
“Although I told him I held him responsible, I told him I did not hold him in low esteem,” Oldroyd said, his voice cracking. “I told him that I didn’t hate him.”
Markert, who faced a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison and a dishonorable discharge, asked to remain in the Marine Corps to honor his best friend’s memory.
“I looked up to Scott and he treated me and looked after me as if I was his little brother,” he said, shakily reading aloud a prepared statement. “Please consider allowing me to stay a Marine, to pay tribute to Lance Cpl. Oldroyd and bring honor to the U.S. Marine Corps.”
Markert said he and Oldroyd were best friends and did everything together while deployed to Okinawa. “Since Scott’s death I have been in constant sorrow and pain,” he said.
But that did not prevent him from at first trying to lie his way out of trouble, argued the chief prosecutor, Capt. Matthew J. Kent.
“He told the police that Lance Cpl. Oldroyd had shot himself,” said Kent, who sought a six-year sentence and a dishonorable discharge.
Lt. Col. Michael Carsten, Markert’s military attorney, argued that the Marine may have lied initially, but told the truth and confessed to the shooting a few hours later.
“It was a moment of weakness and panic,” he said. “Within three to four hours of the false statement … he owned up to what he did.”
After the trial, John Oldroyd said he thought the sentence was just. “There has to be a penalty,” he said, “but it need not be long. He’s a young guy and is going to live with the pain of this for a long, long time.”
Oldroyd said he met briefly with Markert’s mother and brother-in-law during a recess and conveyed his sympathy to them.
“It’s much harder on them, I believe,” he said.