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Defense raises possibility of mistaken identity in killing

May. 18, 2007 - 09:44AM   |   Last Updated: May. 18, 2007 - 09:44AM  |  
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CANNON AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. — The defense attorney for a Cannon Air Force Base airman accused of killing his wife suggested the woman may have been a mistaken target of retaliation against a witness in an unrelated homicide trial.

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CANNON AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. — The defense attorney for a Cannon Air Force Base airman accused of killing his wife suggested the woman may have been a mistaken target of retaliation against a witness in an unrelated homicide trial.

A hearing began May 16 for Airman Basic Edward Novak II, who is charged with the Oct. 28, 2004, murder of his 20-year-old wife, Kimberly Novak, who was found dead in their home on base.

This is the second such hearing, the military equivalent of a preliminary hearing. The first was last June and led to an Air Force recommendation that the case move ahead to a court-martial for trial.

At the defense's request, the hearing was reopened.

Defense attorney Capt. Sterling Pendleton asked an agent from the Office of Special Investigations at Cannon why he placed another couple — residents of the same street as the Novaks — into a protective program three days before Kimberly Novak's death.

Agent Christopher Haider said Chris Aultman, husband of Cannon Airman Naomi Thompson, was a witness in a civilian homicide case at the time.

Thompson contacted military law enforcement Oct. 25, 2004, to report she had received a threatening phone call about her husband's testimony. She told agents the caller threatened to kill her husband and indicated their home location was known.

Haider testified he called Clovis law enforcement officials, who told him there was cause for concern.

Aultman and Thompson were escorted home that night to retrieve personal items, then put in a hotel under fictitious identities. They were placed in the Threatened Airman Program and sent to another base, Haider said.

In 2006, Aultman testified against William Riley in state district court. Riley, 34, was convicted of first-degree murder in the shooting death of Roshawn Pitts, 20, and sentenced to life in prison.

Haider, who later was involved in the investigation of Novak's death, said investigators never examined a possible link between the two events.

Under cross examination, Haider said an official case never was opened into the threat involving Aultman and the caller never was identified.

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