Sailor admits to killing wife, mother-in-law
By B.J. Reyes
8:03 p.m., May 5, 2003
PEARL HARBOR, Hawaii – A sailor on Monday tearfully admitted to fatally beating his wife with an iron skillet and stabbing his mother-in-law to death at the couple’s home last year.
Petty Officer 2nd Class David A. DeArmond, 32, pleaded guilty to charges of murder, voluntary manslaughter and abuse of a corpse in exchange for prosecutors dropping charges of premeditated murder, which could have resulted in the death penalty.
DeArmond admitted having sex with his wife’s dead body.
Prosecutors dropped charges of attempted rape and obstruction.
“I just want to say I’m sorry for what I’ve done,” DeArmond said. “I accept responsibility.”
The murder charge carries a maximum sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole.
A military jury will decide DeArmond’s sentence. That phase of his general court martial is scheduled to begin in early June.
Attorneys declined comment after Monday’s hearing.
DeArmond’s Singapore-born wife, Zaleha, 31, and her mother, Saniah Binte Abdul Ghani, 66, were found dead June 10 in the couple’s home in a Navy housing complex at Pearl Harbor.
Witnesses testified at a pretrial hearing that the relationship between DeArmond and his wife was strained.
At Monday’s hearing, DeArmond testified that he hit his wife with a skillet during a confrontation in the pre-dawn hours of June 10.
He then testified that his mother-in-law tried to intervene and swung at him with a steak knife, which he disarmed her of and used to stab her.
Though Hawaii doesn’t have the death penalty, murder can be a capital offense under military law depending on the recommendation of the presiding judge.