Army officer charged with hiring hit man to kill wife, boss

By STACIA GLENN | The News Tribune | Published: March 13, 2012

An Army lieutenant colonel was charged Tuesday with three counts of felony harassment for allegedly hiring a hit man to kill his estranged wife and superior officer at Joint Base Lewis-McChord.

Robert Underwood, 46, was arraigned Tuesday afternoon in Pierce County Superior Court. A not guilty plea was entered on his behalf. Bail was set at $250,000 for the Steilacoom man. A restraining order remains in place for his wife of 18 years and their two teenage daughters.

Pierce County sheriff’s detectives arrested Underwood Monday night at JBLM after somebody called to report he had threatened to blow up the Capitol Building.

Detectives soon discovered he had made threats against his wife, girlfriend and boss. Pornographic images of children – including one of a sleeping relative and others of young girls possibly taken in Afghanistan – were also found on his laptop, according to DuPont police records.

“The totality of everything sounded like he was having some issues and could pose a real threat,” sheriff’s spokesman Ed Troyer said.” We weren’t going to wait to find out and have somebody get hurt.”

According to charging documents:

Underwood’s girlfriend contacted his estranged wife earlier this month to tell her that Underwood “was on the edge.”

He told his girlfriend, whom he has been dating for three months, he had paid a man $150,000 to kill his wife and superior officer. Underwood bragged about how the money would not be found because it was in a foreign account.

The girlfriend then borrowed Underwood’s laptop and found a photograph of a naked relative sleeping in bed. He had also researched how to get teenagers drunk and have sex with them.

When she confronted Underwood, “he told her that her head was on the chopping block.”

The wife told Pierce County sheriff’s detectives that Underwood has “an arsenal of weapons,” could save $150,000 and would likely carry out his threats. She sought a military protection order against him in December.

Prosecutors said Underwood has been going through a “nasty” divorce for the last two years and recently things have not been going his way in court hearings. The couple was due to appear in court March 22.

Underwood recently told one of his daughters “that he was going to do something crazy and it would be on the news, the world would know about it and he was going to resign his commission,” according to charging documents.

After learning of the threats, Underwood’s superior officer, a colonel, ordered Underwood to be involuntarily evaluated.

Underwood has deployed three times but does not suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, according to the military.

Prosecutors said when Underwood was 9 he witnessed his mother kill his two siblings. His mother also shot Underwood five times and left him for dead, records show.

In addition to threats made against people in his life, Underwood also spoke of blowing up the State Capitol and working with the Taliban. He said if he was contacted by the Taliban “he would give them what they wanted,” according to police records.

Underwood arrived at JBLM in January and is assigned to the 191st Infantry Brigade, which is a training support brigade for the Army Reserve and National Guard.

He has deployed three times. He went to Bosnia from July to October 1998; Iraq in 2003; and Afghanistan from June 2008 to January.

Underwood enlisted in the Army in 1998 and has earned several awards, including two Bronze Star medals and a Meritorious Service Medal.