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Two JBLM soldiers arrested and charged in the death of Army veteran

U.S. AIR FORCE FILE PHOTO

By ROSE L. THAYER | STARS AND STRIPES Published: May 5, 2020

Two soldiers assigned to Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., were arrested Wednesday and charged in the death of an Army veteran whose body was found in a creek about 130 miles from the base, according to local authorities.

Raylin D. James and Joshua Q. Gerald, both 20-year-old privates assigned to the 555th Engineer Brigade at Lewis-McChord, were in Kittitas County Corrections Center for charges in the death of 20-year-old Leroy Joseph Scott III of Louisiana, according to the Kittitas County Sheriff’s Office and jail records.

Gerald is charged with first-degree murder and James received a first-degree charge of rendering criminal assistance, said Sgt. Zach Green, of the sheriff’s office. A third person, Hadassah Fisch, 20, of Ellensburg also was arrested on a criminal assistance charge.

“We are aware of the incident that occurred on April 29, 2020, in the vicinity of Ellensburg, Wash., and are cooperating with Kittitas County law enforcement who maintain lead in this investigation,” said Maj. Matthew J. Ercolani, spokesman for I Corps at the joint base.

Scott’s body was spotted in a creek just off a county road about 10 miles outside of Ellensburg on April 25, according to the news release. Detectives determined Scott had ties to the Army base, but he was not employed by the military at the time of his death.

Scott served in the same brigade as James and Gerald, but separated from the Army as a private in December, Ercolani said. He enlisted in May 2018 as a wheeled vehicle mechanic and attained the National Defense Service Medal and the Army Service Ribbon, according to his official service record.

Based on the circumstances, the sheriff’s office said it investigated the case as a homicide — its first of 2020 — and five days later arrested the two soldiers.

“It was the nature of his injuries and the condition of his body,” Green said. The location of Scott’s body in such a rural area was also suspicious, he said.

Through several interviews, the law enforcement database and posts on social media, detectives were able to make connections that ultimately led them to the military base, Green said. He declined to offer further details in order to protect the investigation.

The three men were connected to Kittitas County through mutual friends and were said to have been attending a party in Ellensburg on the night of the murder, according to police. Ellensburg is located about 130 miles east of the base.

Gerald of Olanta, S.C., entered the Army in June 2018 and arrived to Lewis-McChord six months later, according to his service record. His first and only assignment in the Army was with the 555th Engineer Brigade as an automotive logistics specialist.

James of Shreveport, La., entered the Army in May 2018 and joined the brigade in September of that year for his first and only assignment as a horizontal construction engineer, according to his service record.

Joint Base Lewis-McChord is located near Tacoma and has about 38,000 active-duty personnel under the command of I Corps, which also oversees activities in the Pacific, Hawaii, Alaska and Japan. Units stationed at the base include the 7th Infantry Division, 1st Special Forces Group and the 2nd Battalion of the 75th Ranger Regiment.

thayer.rose@stripes.com
Twitter: @Rose_Lori

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