Stepfather charged with 2006 killing of child on Okinawa
Almost two years after 8-year-old Jordan Peterson died of internal injuries sustained in his off-base home in Uruma, Okinawa, his stepfather has been charged with first-degree murder, according to an indictment unsealed in a federal court in Baltimore.
Roberto E. DeLeon, 27, was indicted Friday.
DeLeon was being held in Atlanta, awaiting a hearing Monday on charges he assaulted his stepson with such force that the boy died of massive internal injuries, The Washington Post reported Saturday.
When Stars and Stripes first reported on the boy’s death almost two years ago, Okinawa police said DeLeon, married to Air Force Staff Sgt. Sabrina Renee DeLeon, was alone with the boy April 11, 2007, when he called his wife and said Jordan had stopped breathing.
She raced to the home, about 15 minutes from Kadena Air Base, accompanied by an ambulance.
Jordan Peterson was rushed to the U.S. Naval Hospital on Camp Lester, where he was pronounced dead about two hours later.
An autopsy showed a massive loss of blood from internal injuries.
Okinawa police had jurisdiction in the matter because it happened outside a military base, and they arrested DeLeon, a civilian, on May 16.
But on June 6, 2007, DeLeon was released with no charges filed. An Okinawa prosecutor said investigators lacked evidence because they had no witnesses.
"The autopsy showed [Jordan] died from the shock of excessive bleeding caused by recent damage to the liver," Hirokazu Urata, the deputy chief prosecutor, told Stripes when DeLeon was released. "A criminal act was highly probable, but there is insufficient evidence the suspect inflicted the fatal injury."
The military held no jurisdiction over DeLeon, and Air Force investigators forwarded their case files to the U.S. Justice Department. Under the Military Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act, passed in 2000, persons can be charged by federal authorities for crimes committed outside the United States that would have been considered felonies if committed on federal lands in the United States. The cases can be tried by any federal court.
Federal prosecutors in Maryland announced Friday that DeLeon would be tried in U.S. District Court in Baltimore because his last known U.S. residence was in Glen Burnie, Md.
The case drew outrage from the Okinawa community when it was disclosed by reports in Stars and Stripes that prefectural welfare workers knew months earlier that the boy may have been abused. In November 2006, an Okinawa woman found the boy wandering barefoot and shirtless, dressed only in shorts, a few blocks from his Uruma home.
The woman said the boy was badly bruised and told her that he was running away from home. She took him to a store to buy him warm clothes, but the boy refused to wear them, telling her that his stepfather would not let him wear anything new.
Okinawa police responded, but the boy refused to speak to them, and it was decided to return him to his mother. After Jordan’s death, military officials declined a Stripes request to discuss what action was taken after they were notified of the November incident.
Almost a year after Jordan’s death, the director of the Okinawa Prefectural Department of Health and Welfare said her office failed to properly investigate the November 2006 abuse report.
DeLeon is charged with assault and first-degree murder in Jordan’s death. He could face a maximum punishment of life in prison on the murder charge and 10 years for the assault.