Virginia sailor to face capital charges in Marine's death

By STARS AND STRIPES Published: July 22, 2006

NORFOLK, Va. — A sailor accused of killing a Marine — to defend the honor of a woman whom he e-mailed and spoke with by phone but never met — will face capital charges at a general court-martial, the Navy said Thursday.

Petty Officer 3rd Class Cooper Jackson, 23, of Boones Mill, Va., is charged with murder, kidnapping, impersonating an officer from the Naval Criminal Investigative Service and obstruction of justice in connection with the death of Cpl. Justin L. Huff.

Huff’s body was found Jan. 13 in a wooded area of Currituck County, N.C., just south of the Virginia-North Carolina border. Huff, 23, of Indianapolis, had been missing since Jan. 2 from the Dam Neck Annex of Oceana Naval Air Station, Va.

Rear Adm. Frederic Rueha, commander of the Mid-Atlantic region, made the decision following a June Article 32 hearing, the military equivalent of a grand jury investigation.

Ashley Elrod, a 22-year-old hotel clerk on North Carolina’s Outer Banks, testified at the hearing that she had corresponded with and spoken by phone with Jackson and lied by telling him she had been raped by a Marine, whom she described for Jackson.

She also testified that she “might have” told Jackson the Marine was named Huff or Huffman, and that Jackson called her after Huff was killed. Agents said they questioned Jackson on Jan. 12 and he confessed to the slaying and led them to Huff’s body the following morning.

Both men attended the Navy and Marine Corps Intelligence Training Center at Virginia Beach.

Huff was assigned to the Brigade Service Support Group 1, First Marine Logistics Group, Marine Expeditionary Force, based at Camp Pendleton, Calif. He had served two combat tours in Iraq.

Jackson, who is being held at Norfolk Naval Station, could face the death penalty. The military hasn’t executed anyone in nearly 50 years, but there are nine men on military death row at Fort Leavenworth, Kan.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.