Coast Guard member charged with murder of fellow seaman
By ROSE L. THAYER | STARS AND STRIPES Published: August 29, 2019
AUSTIN, Texas — A Coast Guard member is accused of killing a fellow seaman in January by hitting him over the head and leaving him to die on an Alaska shore, according to information released Thursday by the service.
Seaman Ethan W. Tucker, 19, was charged Wednesday for the murder of 19-year-old Seaman Ethan Kelch, according to the statement. Kelch’s body was found in Dutch Harbor, Alaska, on Jan. 27 and a seven-month investigation followed.
Both were crewmembers of the cutter Douglas Munro, based out of Kodiak. While the ship was in port for repairs at Dutch Harbor on the night of Jan. 26, Kelch did not return to the ship. He was found unresponsive following an air and ground search the next day and later pronounced dead from bleeding in his skull caused by blunt force trauma to the head, according to Tucker’s charge sheet.
Tucker is accused of hitting Kelch in the head and leaving him for dead in the water, according to the charge sheet. Tucker later lied about an injury to his hand, claiming he hurt it punching a steel bulkhead after learning the news of Kelch’s death. Tucker is also accused with misleading rescue personnel to impede their search efforts.
Tucker, who is from Ludington, Mich., was being held at the Naval Consolidated Brig Miramar in San Diego, where he awaits a court-martial, according to the news release. The seven charges against Tucker include murder, involuntary manslaughter and aggravated assault.
Tucker joined the Coast Guard in August 2017 and joined the crew of the Douglas Munro on Nov. 13, 2017, as his first assignment following boot camp, according to his service record. On June 4, he was reassigned to Coast Guard Base Alameda, Calif.
The service declined to release details about Kelch’s service in the Coast Guard.