By KEVIN MAURER
FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. (AP) — The husband of an Army nurse who worked in the maternity ward at Fort Bragg's hospital was charged Monday with murder in her death, a day after her body was discovered by authorities.
Marine Cpl. John Wimunc, 23, was also charged with first-degree arson and conspiracy to commit arson in the death of his wife, Army 2nd Lt. Holley Wimunc, of Dubuque, Iowa. Her body was found Sunday, three days after a suspicious fire at her Fayetteville apartment.
In May, Wimunc secured a temporary restraining order against her husband. She told authorities he got drunk and held a loaded handgun to her head and his. At the time of her death, the couple was going through a divorce.
"You start with people who are closest to the spouse and you work your way out from that," Fayetteville Detective Jeff Locklear said of the investigation.
Authorities also charged Marine Lance Cpl. Kyle Alden, 22, with first-degree arson, conspiracy to commit arson and accessory after the fact to first-degree murder. Both were arrested at Camp Lejeune, the Marine Corps base about 130 miles southeast of Fayetteville where they are stationed as combat engineers.
Wimunc's body was found in a wooded area near the southern border of Camp Lejeune late Sunday afternoon, not far from Alden's residence. The body had been there several days and there is evidence she was dead upon arrival, said Onslow County District Attorney Dewey Hudson, who wouldn't elaborate. The men were arrested late Sunday night after police interviewed Alden.
"We were able to corroborate a lot of the things he told us," Locklear said. "We used that information, interviews with witnesses ... to get the arrest warrant."
Both men are currently being held without bond in the Cumberland County jail and are scheduled to appear in court Tuesday. It wasn't immediately clear if they had attorneys. John Wimunc's father declined to comment when reached by The Associated Press, but Alden's mother said her son's only involvement was giving a friend a ride to Fayetteville.
"He had no idea what was going on. He didn't do this," Connie Johnson said in a phone interview from her home in Pequot Lakes, Minn.
Fayetteville police began searching for Wimunc when she didn't show up for work Thursday. Co-workers could not find her at her apartment, but smelled what they suspected was a fire and called police. Once inside, investigators found evidence of arson.
Sgt. Chris Corcione said Monday that investigators found several points where the fire was started, but the blaze was concentrated in the apartment's rear bedroom. While the interior walls of the burned room were black with soot, Corcione said, the fire burned itself out and left behind useable evidence.
Holley Wimunc, 24, was commissioned by the Army Nurse Corps in 2007. Her first duty assignment was at Fort Bragg, where she worked in the mother and baby unit at Womack Army Medical Center.
Corcione said Wimunc was last seen alive the night of July 8, when she went out with friends and used her ATM card. Police believe she was dead when she was taken out of the apartment, but they are not yet sure when her body was taken to Onslow County.
Hudson said an attempt to burn the body set off a brush fire that drew the attention of authorities, and the body was located by Division of Forest Resources personnel. He said detectives likely would never have found her body had it been burned in a brush-free area about 100 feet away.
"It seems that someone tried to torch the body in the shallow grave," Hudson said.
Maj. Cliff W. Gilmore, a spokesman with the 2nd Marine Division at Camp Lejeune, said both suspects are assigned to the division's 2nd Combat Engineer Battalion. John Wimunc has served one tour in Iraq from February to September 2006. The base said Wimunc also deployed to a non-combat zone from July 2007 to January 2008.
Alden deployed to Iraq from April to November 2007, the base said.
"All he wanted to do was defend our country," said his mother. "He has a wonderful, loving heart."
Holley Wimunc's father in Dubuque, Jesse James, said his daughter was a St. Ambrose University graduate, and excited about nursing and her career in the U.S. Army. She also had a son and daughter.
John Wimunc was not the father of Holley Wimunc's two children, and they were not in Fayetteville when the fire was reported. She had sent them to live with her father because of "the domestic situation," Corcione said.
Wimunc's death is the third homicide of a young North Carolina-based female service member in the past seven months.
In January, the body of Marine Lance Cpl. Maria Lauterbach, of Vandalia, Ohio, was found in the back yard of a fellow Marine, Cpl. Cesar Laurean. He fled to Mexico and was captured in early April, and is charged with murder in her death.
Last month, the decomposing body of Spc. Megan Touma, of Cold Spring, Ky., was discovered in a motel near Fort Bragg. Authorities have made no arrests in that case, but stressed Monday it has no connection to Wimunc's death.
Associated Press writers Estes Thompson and Mike Baker contributed to this report from Raleigh.