An airman at the center of the Air Force's only ongoing capital case will answer to fewer charges when he stands trial later this year. But Charles Wilson III, of Robins Air Force Base, Georgia, will still face three murder charges in connection with the 2013 death of his fiance and their unborn child and the 2011 death of a friend whom prosecutors allege was hired by Wilson to burn down the airman's rental house for an insurance payout.
During a motions hearing March 9 and 10, military judge Col. Vance Spath denied Wilson's motion to dismiss a felony murder charge in the 2011 death of the friend, Demetrius Hardy, said defense attorney Lt. Col. David Frakt.
Frakt had argued that even if Wilson and Hardy had an agreement for Hardy to burn down his house — which the prosecution alleges and the airman denies — Wilson still would not be culpable for Hardy's death. Spath ruled the felony murder charge will stand, Frakt said. The judge held off making a ruling on the defense's argument that the unborn child of homicide victim Tameda Ferguson does not qualify as a person as it relates to an aggravating factor in the alleged murder.
In order for Wilson to be convicted of a capital offense, the jury must unanimously agree that there were one or more aggravating factors, Frakt previously told Air Force Times.
During the hearing, the judge agreed to dismiss three charges — two specifications of communicating a threat and a charge of wrongfully discharging a firearm, Frakt said. The prosecution, headed by chief senior counsel Lt. Col. Brian Thomas, also agreed to combine two conspiracy charges into one, although that will require approval by the convening authority.
Wilson, who is being held in a Charleston, South Carolina, military prison, will now face 13 charges instead of 17 when he stands trial, currently scheduled to begin July 13. He faces the death penalty if convicted in the capital case, although it is unlikely such a sentence would be carried out. The military last executed one of its own more than 50 years ago.