Trial possible for suspected stalker airman
RAF MILDENHALL, England — The Article 32 hearing for a 100th Air Refueling Wing airman suspected of attempted murder, stalking and vandalism closed Monday following testimony from two key witnesses.
Airman 1st Class Chad A. Rhine sat quietly as his supervisor and estranged lover entered testimony in the military equivalent of a grand jury hearing. Rhine and the alleged victim, Airman Karla Stith-Hopkins, serve in the 100th Communications Squadron.
The day began with Senior Master Sgt. Nick Barone testifying about his role in the case, which began when he issued Rhine a no-contact order and ended with him escorting the accused to a civilian mental health facility in London. Barone, who is the first sergeant in the 100th Communications Squadron, said he became involved in the soured relationship between Rhine and Stith-Hopkins when she asked him to restrain Rhine from her and her husband.
He testified that he issued a no-contact order for Rhine to avoid Stith-Hopkins after the suspect allegedly was found waiting for the married couple outside of a movie theater earlier this year.
“It appeared to me to be the beginning of some type of stalking thing,” Barone said.
Barone also said he issued Rhine a letter of reprimand after Rhine allegedly altered approximately 19 co-workers’ e-mails with access gained through his job duties.
He testified he issued Rhine a second no-contact order to avoid the RAF Lakenheath housing complex following a vandalism incident on one of the Stith-Hopkins’ cars, which he said Rhine later admitted to via a text message.
Barone also said that Stith-Hopkins acknowledged an extramarital affair with Rhine to Air Force security forces investigators. The affair occurred prior to the stalking and attempted murder allegations.
Stith-Hopkins’ testimony largely mirrored Barone’s. She laid out the stalking and the no-contact orders. She also acknowledged receiving an Article 15 administrative punishment for her role in the affair with Rhine.
Air Force court documents allege that, on Oct. 1, Rhine attempted to break into the Stith-Hopkins home on RAF Lakenheath armed with a knife with the intent to kill.
Rhine also allegedly stalked Stith-Hopkins via text message and vandalized two of her cars, according to court documents.
The case was prosecuted by Capt. Lisa Richard. Lt. Col. Saritha Anjilvel served as the investigating officer.