Spangdahlem airman's wife charged in connection with infant son's death
January 7, 2011
KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany — German prosecutors have charged the 22-year-old spouse of a U.S. airman assigned to Spangdahlem Air Base in Germany with mistreating the couple’s 10-month old baby boy, who died Oct. 30 in a German hospital of brain injuries.
Trier-based prosecutors charged Jennifer Wickware with violating a German law requiring parents to adequately care for their child and for maltreatment on three separate occasions, which eventually led to the infant’s death, according to a press release issued Tuesday.
Wickware has been in German custody since early September - shortly after the baby was first taken to the hospital, according to the Trier prosecutor’s office news release.
The Air Force, with assistance from German police, is also conducting a separate investigation of Wickware’s husband, a review that could take several more weeks, Spangdahlem officials said this week.
The airman’s name or unit has not been released because he has not been charged with a crime, base spokeswoman Iris Reiff said. Reiff said the airman is “being closely supervised while the investigation runs its course.”
Wickware and her husband brought the child to a German hospital in Wittlich on Sept. 2, where doctors first suspected the 8-month-old boy of being abused due to his injuries, according to a Trier prosecutor’s office news release.
The baby died nearly two months later at a Trier hospital from “heavy brain trauma,” said Trier prosecutor Jörn Patzak.
Patzak said German investigators do not believe the mother mistreated the child by herself, but because she did not protect the child from danger, German law considers her culpable of maltreatment.
If convicted, Wickware faces a sentence of six months to 10 years in German prison. Her defense lawyer, Susanne Hardt, declined to comment on the case this week, but said she expects Wickware’s trial to begin in German court by the end of February.
Under NATO Status of Forces Agreement rules, the U.S. military has primary jurisdiction over military members stationed in NATO-member countries who commit offenses solely against U.S. victims or property, according to Air Force officials. A civilian spouse, however, falls under the host nation’s jurisdiction.