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Airman accused in Ramstein sailor's murder will not get death penalty

Aug. 13, 2014 - 06:00AM   |  
Petty Officer 2nd Class Dmitry Chepusov was declared dead Dec. 14 after being found unresponsive in a vehicle. (Screenshot)
Petty Officer 2nd Class Dmitry Chepusov was declared dead Dec. 14 after being found unresponsive in a vehicle. (Screenshot) ()
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The military will not seek the death penalty against an Air Force staff sergeant accused in the December strangling death of a U.S. sailor in Kaiserslautern, Germany.

Staff Sgt. Sean Oliver faces up to life in prison without the possibility of parole if convicted of murder, assault, adultery and making a false official statement, Kilian Bluemlein, a Ramstein Air Base spokesman, said in an email.

Third Air Force Commander Lt. Gen. Darryl Roberson, who referred the charges to court-martial Aug. 8, decided not to pursue a capital case against Oliver “based on the evidence,” according to the email. No further explanation was provided.

German police first arrested Oliver in the death of Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Dmitry Chepusov following a Dec. 14 traffic stop. Chepusov was discovered unresponsive in the passenger seat of the car Oliver was driving.

When German authorities handed over the victim’s body nearly a week later, they withheld certain key evidence pending assurances the U.S. military would not seek a death sentence. The victim’s body had also been washed, erasing any potential DNA evidence.

Germany, like most European countries, outlawed capital punishment decades ago.

Bluemlein referred questions about the status of the evidence to Kaiserslautern officials.

Udo Gehring, a spokesman for the Kaiserslautern prosecutor’s office, said Thursday it still has not received word from the U.S. that the death penalty will not be considered.

“There’s no official letter or something that says the situation has changed,” Gehring told Air Force Times. Until there is, “our constitution forbids us to cooperate.”

In an Article 32 hearing in July, the armed forces regional medical examiner Army Maj. Dori Mitchell Franco testified that without the evidence, she could not say with certainty how Chepusov died, although his injuries appeared consistent with strangulation, Stars and Stripes reported.

Oliver and Chepusov both worked at American Forces Network Europe. A third co-worker, Army Spec. Cody Kramer, has been charged as an accomplice in Chepusov’s murder. Oliver was having an affair with the victim’s wife, according to the Article 32 testimony.

Oliver’s court-martial is scheduled to begin Jan. 12 in Ramstein.

Military Times reporter Jeff Schogol contributed to this report.

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