QUANTICO, Va. --
The Air Force Office of Special Investigations prides itself on its ability to collaborate with fellow law enforcement agencies to combat crime. Nowhere does that inter-agency cooperation manifest itself more than outside the continental United States.
In an overseas environment OSI special agents depend on being able to liaison with host nation law enforcement agencies which have primary jurisdiction in their countries.
That was the dynamic facing OSI Detachment 531, Aviano Air Base, Italy and OSI Det. 518 Spangdahlem AB, Germany, as they teamed to bring a three-time sexual predator to justice.
The scenario began March 3, 2015, when Det. 531 opened an investigation based on victim 1, a co-worker, alleging the subject sexually assaulted her. Det. 531 initiated a second rape investigation Sept. 18, 2015, when the subject’s wife, victim 2, alleged he raped her multiple times and tied her up with zip ties. She later escaped to a neighbor’s home and called the Carabinieri (Italian police).
“Liaison! Liaison! Liaison! Any cooperation we obtain through the Carabinieri and the Prefettura (prosecutor) happens because we’ve laid the groundwork to be involved with investigations against Air Force personnel,” said Special Agent Adam Kurzen, Det. 531 Commander. “In both cases we already had good liaison with the Air Force unit due to previous investigations and leadership co-ordinations.
“However, this investigation was aided by us sending personnel to the Carabinieri to build a critical relationship. All the host nation relationships paid dividends with evidence preservation, crime scene analysis and ultimately the U.S. obtaining jurisdiction from the Italians for prosecution,” SA Kurzen added.
During the victim 1 investigation it was difficult for OSI to pinpoint the subject’s behavior, normal one minute and predatory the next. The victim 2 investigation enabled OSI to establish the subject’s predatory behavior as his normal behavior.
The second investigation, coupled with the subject’s suicidal ideations, prompted his leadership to send him to Spangdahlem, where the parent wing of his unit in Italy is located.
Det. 518 began its investigation based on information provided by the Trier Polizei, Trier, Germany, who reported the American subject sexually assaulted victim 3, a German national, at her residence.
Victim 3 was unable to recall many details of the night in question after consuming two cups of water provided to her by the subject after they had consumed alcohol together. The subject told her to drink the water to prevent a hangover the next morning. However, she did recall feeling someone grabbing her wrists and her knees feeling cold.
Toxicology results showed the victim’s urine tested positive for two separate drugs used in over-the-counter sleep aid medications. The cup seized as evidence indicated a powdery content from the same two sleep aid medications.
A Det. 518 review of Army and Air Force Exchange Service purchase records revealed the subject purchased two separate sleep aid medications containing the active ingredients found in the toxicology report.
“The sleep medication purchase days prior to the assault clearly indicated his motivation and intent to incapacitate the victim in order to carry out his assault,” said lead case agent Special Agent Garrett Cain.
The review of the subject’s electronic media showed he searched for pornography websites using terminology such as “rape,” “drugged, drunk, passed out,” and more.
OSI specific training in the cognitive interview technique played a pivotal role in solving the case.
“The details provided during the victim (3) interview were vital to piecing together the facts of the assault,” said Special Agent Ashlee Wega, Det. 518 Criminal Investigations Branch chief. “And, the victim (3) said her initial, positive interaction with OSI contributed to her co-operating throughout the investigation and legal process.”
Most of the witness interviews which were critical to the case, specifically the one with the victim’s mother who witnessed the assault, were conducted in German. They were made possible with the assistance of Special Investigator Liane Steinbach and SA Cain, who is fluent in German.
The subject was sentenced Oct. 20, 2016. In the case involving the co-worker, the subject received an Article 15 and reduction in rank to E-4. In the cases involving his now ex-wife and the German National, the subject was sentenced to 31 years in prison, reduction in rank to E-1, forfeiture of all pay and allowances and a Bad Conduct Discharge. The outcome was gratifying to OSI agents.
“It’s satisfying knowing not only that justice was served, but that the investigative teamwork between OSI Det. 531 and host nation law enforcement helped solve our portion of the case,” Special Agent Kurzen said. “Much of our time overseas is spent developing relationships with host nation law enforcement so the Air Force can obtain quicker resolution. Jurisdictional and overseas issues often make it more difficult to get a case to a courtroom. Justice being served makes working the extra hours and finding ways around challenges worth it.
“These types of multi-country/multi-agency investigations are only possible through coordination among OSI units,” he continued. “From our perspective, Det. 518 and Det. 531 working effectively together with the Spangdahlem Judge Advocate ultimately made the difference on this case.”
“Cases like this are the reason many agents join OSI,” said SA Wega. “This is truly an example of neutralizing a sexual predator who was a threat to the Air Force and society.”
Due to the length of the collective investigation, several agents touched these cases. Det. 531 Aviano Special Agents involved were: Christopher Kervin, Joshua Kidwell, Molly Reeder, Kaprice Montecalvo, Benjamin Kelley, Matthew Miller, Robert Binns and Adam Kurzen. Lt. Col. (SA) Dan Sevigny oversaw the vast majority of the work during his tenure with the detachment.
Meanwhile, Det. 518 Special Agents who worked the case at Spangdahlem were: Garrett Cain, Ashlee Wega, Douglas Reedy, David Bethel, Matthew Maguire, Eboni Briscoe-Jenkins, Jorge Munoz, Alicia Borja, Timothy Adkins, Mylon Emard, Eric Pangburn, Special Investigators Klaus Heim and Liane Steinbach and Special Agent Anthony Rodriguez from the 13th Field Investigations Squadron, Ramstein AB, Germany.
(Editor’s Note: This is the second in the series, OSI: On the Case, highlighting the multi-faceted work of Special Agents as they pursue the command’s mission: Defend the Nation, Serve Justice, Protect the Integrity of the Air Force and Find the Truth.)