Two JBLM soldiers charged in Army veteran’s death plead not guilty
By ROSE L. THAYER | STARS AND STRIPES Published: May 19, 2020
Two soldiers charged in the death of an Army veteran whose body was found badly beaten in a creek pleaded not guilty Monday in a Washington court.
Pvts. Raylin Dwayne James and Joshua Q. Gerald, 20-year-old soldiers assigned to Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., were arrested and charged last month in the death of former Army Pvt. Leroy Joseph Scott III, 20, whose body was found April 25 off a rural road in Kittitas County, according to the Kittitas County Sheriff’s Office.
Gerald is charged with first-degree murder and James faces a first-degree charge of rendering criminal assistance. Both men appeared for arraignment Monday before Judge Scott R. Sparks in Kittitas County Superior Court.
Both soldiers received a tentative trial date of July 28 and are expected back in court next month.
A third person, Hadassah Fisch, 20, of Ellensburg also was arrested on a criminal assistance charge in connection to Scott’s death. She also pleaded not guilty Monday.
Gerald remained in the Kittitas County Corrections Center on Monday with bail set at $2 million, though James was released after he posted $15,000 bail following the court hearing, according to online jail records.
“We intend to contest this charge. [Gerald] 100% maintains his innocence,” said Steve Graham, the Spokane-based attorney hired by Gerald. “We are going to work night and day to see this young man exonerated.”
James asked the judge on Monday for a court-appointed attorney, because one had not yet been provided.
The two soldiers, both of whom are part of the joint base’s 555th Engineer Brigade, attended a birthday party on April 24 for Scott at Fisch’s apartment in Ellensburg, according to a police report. Scott was a member of the same unit until December when he received an other-than-honorable discharge, according to his family.
James told detectives that Gerald, Fisch and Scott all left the apartment together, but Scott did not return, according to the police report. He also said Scott “had fingered both he and Gerald for a drug incident” in November or December and “he didn’t believe as of a couple months ago that Gerald was over what happened between them,” the report states.
Scott’s body was found 10 miles outside of town. Ellensburg is located about 130 miles east of the base.
Scott grew up outside of New Orleans, according to his family. 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.
Gerald of Olanta, S.C., entered the Army in June 2018 and arrived at 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.