Posted on: Tuesday, April 25, 2006
Hearing begins for Schofield soldier
By William Cole
Advertiser Military Writer
Spc. Jeffery White
Spc. Felicia LaDuke
WAHIAWA – Army Spc. Felicia LaDuke had a young son she loved, but on the night of Oct. 7, 2005, she had a baby sitter, and was in white pants, a black blouse and new high heels looking forward to a night out at the clubs, friends said.
Instead, she got a late phone call from Spc. Jeffery White, the child’s father, and with whom she had been involved in a custody and child support battle, according to testimony yesterday at a military court hearing at Wheeler Army Airfield.
“I was leaning against the cell phone and I heard Jeffery White tell her, ‘I need to see you because I need to talk to you about some personal (stuff),’ ” said Korina Walker, a friend of LaDuke’s.
It was the last time she would see LaDuke alive.
The 22-year-old Schofield Barracks soldier and Iraq war veteran was found face up in tall grass by Ka’ena Point, a party spot service members called “the end of the world.”
She had been strangled to death and run over three times by a vehicle, police said.
White had been ridiculed by his platoon for seeing LaDuke, and once said “it would be much easier for me to just kill her than to pay child support,” testified Spc. Ricky Walker, a onetime friend of White’s.
Walker said he didn’t believe White was serious.
White, charged with LaDuke’s murder, yesterday heard the testimony at an Article 32 hearing similar to a civilian preliminary hearing and grand jury.
A recommendation will be made on whether to try White at court-martial.
Prosecutor Capt. David Clark said in order to make the case eligible for the death penalty, he would ask the investigating officer to find that the murder was aggravated because it was for the purpose of receiving money or value, and that it was preceded by physical harm or mental suffering.
White, 21, of Houston, is charged with premeditated murder, communicating threats and obstruction of justice under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.
Yesterday’s testimony at the Wheeler courthouse opened the hearing that military officials said is expected to last most of the week.
The prosecution said it had about a dozen witnesses to call, while the defense has about 20 names on its list.
Honolulu police detective Jimmy Anderson, who had responded to Ka’ena Point, said he was told White and LaDuke met to discuss child custody, and that White strangled LaDuke, threw her out of the car and ran her over three times.
Honolulu police previously said they had statements that White drove LaDuke’s rental car back to a spot near Schofield Barracks, and that he returned with a friend hours later and showed where the body was located.
The Army in November took over the prosecution of White.
LaDuke had previously deployed to Iraq, leaving her son, Elijah, now 2, with a relative in Minnesota.
White, meanwhile, served in Afghanistan, and defense attorney Capt. Yolanda McCray asked about his experience in combat.
“Did he tell you he got hit a lot (by attackers?),” McCray asked.
Ricky Walker said White had told him that he had, and that before the deployment and marriage to wife Amanda, he was a “goofy, cool-type person.” Afterward he was serious and wasn’t the same person, Walker said.
White and LaDuke each accused the other of being a bad parent, acquaintances said. The prosecution witnesses also said White made statements that he initiated a child custody case only because he didn’t want to pay child support.
Korina Walker said LaDuke “was a very good mom” who once spent her entire paycheck to buy her son clothes and toys.
Reach William Cole at email@example.com.