Vehicle found, but fugitive soldier still on the run
Stars and Stripes August 22, 2009
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BÖBLINGEN, Germany — Police have located the rental vehicle used by a Special Forces soldier to flee custody after he was convicted in a court-martial of kidnapping and aggravated sexual assault of a German woman. The soldier remains at large.
The black Audi Q5 was parked on Waldburgstrasse, which runs parallel to the northern perimeter of Panzer Kaserne’s family housing.
A manhunt for Sgt. 1st Class Kelly A. Stewart, 36, began Thursday morning after he failed to show for the sentencing phase of his trial. Late on Wednesday, a court-martial panel in Vilseck found him guilty of several charges in relation to an August 2008 incident. A soldier who was sharing an on-post hotel room with the convicted soldier told the court Thursday that he awoke around 7:30 a.m. and found Stewart was missing, along with his Class A uniform, wallet, two cell phones and the rented Audi.
The vehicle was found no more than 300 meters from the northwest corner of the base on Friday morning. On the front passenger seat, a half-eaten pastry and a bottle of water could be seen. There were a pair of dark green slacks and a white shirt, along with two cardboard boxes, in the back seat.
At least three plainclothes German police officers, obscured by nearby bushes, had been observing the vehicle.
Army officials and German police officers would not comment on the case, saying only that an investigation is ongoing.
Despite his absence, Stewart, who trained fellow Special Forces soldiers at the International Special Training Center in Pfullendorf, was sentenced to eight years in prison and a dishonorable discharge.
David Court, the civilian attorney who represented Stewart, decliined to comment on his client’s state of mind and was cautious when asked if he thought Stewart would be found.
“Do I have a crystal ball?,” Court said. “I can tell you this. There was evidence presented in court that [Stewart] had the highest level of [Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape] training.”
Steve Mraz and Marcus Klöckner contributed to this report.