By GILLIAN FLACCUS
SANTA ANA, Calif. (AP) — A Marine was in custody Friday and authorities were searching for a second as they investigated the shooting death of a fellow Marine whose body was found in a ditch, in his desert fatigues and boots.
Orange County sheriff's deputies arrested Lance Cpl. Christian William Carney for investigation of murder Friday after Camp Pendleton personnel put him in the brig the night before, sheriff's spokesman Jim Amormino said.
Carney, a 21-year-old veteran of the Iraq war, was wanted in the May 15 slaying of Pfc. Stephen Serrano. Authorities were still looking for Pfc. Alvin Reed Lovely, 20. Amormino said Lovely has been on unauthorized leave from Camp Pendleton since April, is considered a fugitive and is thought to be armed and dangerous.
A hiker found Serrano's body in a drainage ditch north of the Marine base in San Clemente on May 15. Authorities said they believe Serrano, 21, was in the ditch when he was shot once in the chest. A murder weapon was not recovered.
The victim and the suspects were all assigned to the 1st Marine Division. Carney and Serrano had been with the Marines about one year, but Lovely went missing several months after arriving at the base, Amormino said. It wasn't clear why Lovely left, he said.
Amormino said all three Marines knew each other, although he didn't know how close they were.
Authorities have ruled out a love triangle as the reason for the killing but said they otherwise have no motive.
The sheriff's spokesman said neither Carney nor Lovely was believed to have retained an attorney.
Serrano, of Sacramento, was a field radio operator who joined the Marines in March 2007. He had not served in Iraq, Amormino said.
Lovely, of Dallas, Texas, had not been deployed to Iraq. He was listed by the Marines as being on unauthorized absence, a step before being declared a deserter, said Marine spokesman 1st Lt. Curtis Williamson.
Three servicemen from Camp Pendleton have died in the past eight days in noncombat-related incidents.
Lance Cpl. Samuel Stucky, 19, died Saturday after he was found unconscious in his barracks a day earlier with a gunshot wound. The same day, 25-year-old Lance Cpl. Noah Cole died of injuries suffered in a motorcycle accident during a visit to relatives in Grand Rapids, Mich.
Tom Umberg, a former Army colonel and military prosecutor, said such cases are exceedingly rare, despite the combat stress that many servicemen and servicewomen face during and after deployment.
"Being in a high stress situation over a long period of time can exacerbate a number of things, including the ability to continue to cope, especially if the person is already unstable," he said.
Associated Press writer Chelsea Carter in San Diego contributed to this report.