Third sailor accused in grisly Okinawa murder pleads guilty
CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — Seaman Audley G. Evans II, chin resting on clasped hands, on Friday watched a video of himself showing military police how he cut another sailor’s throat on Camp Hansen in February.
He didn’t cry but appeared distressed as he sat in the Keystone Judicial Circuit Court, knowing that according to his pre-trial agreement, he faced a maximum of life in prison without parole and a minimum of life with parole.
Evans, 20, of Royal Palm Beach, Fla., pleaded guilty to charges of murder, conspiracy to commit murder, obstructing justice and three counts of grand larceny. Without a pre-trial agreement, his maximum sentence could have been death for brutally killing fellow dental technician Seaman Adam J. Palecco, 21.
According to evidence presented during his court-martial Friday and at two co-defendants’ trials, Evans was in a shoplifting ring responsible for stealing more than $10,000 of items from Okinawa base exchanges from August 2004 to Feb. 2, 2005, the day he stole the three knives and two sets of gloves from the Hansen exchange used in killing Palecco later that night.
Evans had heard that Palecco, facing a Feb. 4 court-martial for shoplifting, had agreed to tell military police all he knew of Evans’ ring, co-defendants Seamen Robert L. Person Jr., 19, and Tiffany Marie Brooks, 21, have stated.
“Evans said Palecco had to go,” said Person, of Turrell, Ark. “We had to kill him for snitching.”
Person and Brooks were tried in June. Person was sentenced to life in prison with all but 60 years suspended; Brooks, of Carthage, Miss., to life with all but 65 years suspended. She and Person received dishonorable discharges.
Evans had been arrested on Christmas Eve for trying to steal a printer, 10 CDs, 32 DVDs and a pack of gum. Brooks and Person had not been charged in connection with Evans’ ring.
“We all thought we was all going to jail because of what Palecco had told his lawyer,” Brooks said in her video. “I was afraid of going to jail.”
Person, Evans, Brooks and Palecco worked in the base dental clinic. Testimony at previous trials said Palecco was not a ring member but was caught trying to emulate them. Others at the clinic described him as a “lively kid” with a huge appetite for food and fun. “He could always make you laugh,” Petty Officer 3rd Class Daniel Cortes testified Friday. “He was a funny guy.”
In a video recreation of the crime, Evans neither displayed remorse nor hesitated to speak of the murder, correcting himself repeatedly to get another fact right.
He spoke of how Person lured Palecco behind the dental clinic, where he and Brooks waited. As they all walked, Evans slipped behind Palecco.
“I held the knife in my left hand, behind my leg, and followed,” Evans said in his video, grabbing a mannequin to demonstrate. “I swooped to his left side. I grabbed his forehead, tilted his head back and cut his throat.”
He said he stabbed Palecco three more times, then Person and Brooks joined in. An autopsy showed Palecco was stabbed 17 times and almost decapitated.
Evans said he and Person hid the body in a storm drain tunnel. A Marine discovered it two days later. On the video, a Naval Criminal Investigative Service agent asked Evans why he killed Palecco.
“I was afraid to get into trouble any more than I was,” Evans said, the video image seeming to look straight at the man slumped at the defense table. “We had to do what we had to do.”
The court-martial is to continue Monday, when Evans’ father and members of Palecco’s family are expected to testify.