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Seaman Accused Of Murdering Shipmate In Unalaska Faces Court-Martial For Murder

United States Coast Guard

The U.S. Coast Guard says a seaman will face a court martial on murder and other charges in the death of a fellow seaman during a night of drinking in Unalaska.

Ethan Tucker is charged with the January death of 19-year-old Seaman Ethan Kelch of Virginia Beach, Virginia, while their vessel — the Kodiak-based Cutter Douglas Munro — wasstopped in Unalaska for repairs last winter.

Military prosecutors allege the 21-year-old Tucker, of Ludington, Michigan, beat Kelch and dragged his body to the water where he was left to drown.  

During an October hearing, Tucker's defense attorney painted a very different picture of what happened. Navy Cmdr. Justin Henderson said a bystander took video that night showing Tucker's efforts to get Kelch out of the water, before he collapsed, exhausted and intoxicated.

According to a Coast Guard spokesperson, the decision to proceed to court martial was made last week. 

"On Dec 23, 2019, following a review of the Art. 32 hearing report and consultation with her Staff Judge Advocate on legal issues, the Convening Authority referred the six charges against SN Tucker to general court-martial," said the spokesperson in a statement. "The case will be submitted to the USCG Chief Judge for docketing.  The Chief Judge will assign a military judge who will docket the case for adjudication." 

Tucker is charged with six violations of the Uniform Code of Military Justice — including murder, aggravated assault, and involuntary manslaughter.

He is currently restricted to the Coast Guard base in Alameda, CA. The court martial is expected to take place in 2020.

Hope McKenney is a public radio news director, reporter, producer and host based in the Aleutian Islands, Alaska.
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