Family of former Marine who died on Guantanamo Bay tells I-TEAM: 'We're pushing for justice'

Christopher Tur's family wants Captain John Nettleton to lose Navy benefits

By Vic Micolucci - I-TEAM reporter, anchor, Jodi Mohrmann - Managing Editor of special projects, Eric Wallace - Senior Producer, I-TEAM

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - The I-TEAM is investigating the circumstances of a mysterious death on Guantanamo Bay -- that four years later has led to a Jacksonville Navy captain being accused of adultery, lying and an elaborate cover-up, and the family of the man found dead fighting for justice.

That mysterious death involves 42-year-old Christopher Tur -- a husband, father and former Marine who was working on Guantanamo Bay as a civilian. In 2015, he went missing on base and searchers found his body in the bay. His cause of death was drowning. The commander of the base at the time was Jacksonville Navy Capt. John Nettleton.

"We're pushing for justice because that's what he (Christopher) deserved, 110 percent," said Christopher's sister, Aline Byrnes.

WATCH: Family grieves (Part 1) | Family's fight for justice (Part 2)

The I-TEAM traveled to Christopher's hometown in Pennsylvania last month, right after Nettleton was charged in federal court in Jacksonville with obstruction, giving false statements and falsifying records in regards to Christopher's disappearance and the search for him that followed.

The 36-page indictment against Nettleton, who the Navy confirms currently works on NAS Jacksonville, details allegations that as the base commander, Nettleton was having an affair with Christopher's wife and got into a fight with Christopher the night he disappeared. However, when Christopher was reported missing and a search ensued, Nettleton allegedly lied to investigators and misled searchers.

Family fights for justice

"He was my baby, my little boy," said Christopher's mother, Ann Tur, as we stood with her in Hellertown, Pennsylvania next to her son's grave. "I tell him I love him, and I miss him every day."

Ann says although four years have passed, it's not getting any easier for her or his siblings.

"We just can’t believe this is true. That it actually happened," said Christopher's brother Mike Tur. "He grew into a great: he was a great husband, a great father."

"He died alone in the middle of the ocean," said Christopher's sister Aline. "He drowned and no one was there to help him. I don’t know if he was struggling, unconscious or conscious."

Christopher was a civilian manager at the Naval Exchange on Guantanamo Bay. He lived there with his wife and teenage daughters. The details of Christopher's final night have now been outlined in that 36-page federal indictment against Nettleton.

According to the court document, Christopher confronted Nettleton, the base's commander, at a party at the Officer's Club. Everyone was drinking and Christopher accused Nettleton of having an affair with his wife.

"He is humiliated by his wife and somebody considered a friend, in front of his colleagues and friends," said Mike.

"And the thought of his family falling apart," added Aline.

"He (Christopher) was a good kid. He never wanted to do harm to anybody," said Christopher's brother Hank Tur.

The indictment goes on to say witnesses told NCIS, after the party, Christopher went to Nettleton’s house on base where the two got into a fist fight. After that, Christopher went missing.

"It was disturbing to me. Absolutely disturbing," said Aline.

Christopher's siblings, mother, nephew and in-laws all met with the I-TEAM where they live in Pennsylvania following the federal charges against Nettleton and the lengthy indictment that revealed many details about Christopher's final hours and Nettleton's alleged crimes.

DOCUMENT:
Capt. John Nettleton's indictment

"I’d be lying if I didn’t say it was a bit maddening," said Michael David Tur, Christopher's nephew.

Maddening because investigators say Nettleton did not report the incident, and the next day when friends reported Christopher missing, the base commander said he had no idea what happened and the last place he saw Christopher was at the Officer’s Club.

In fact, as base commander, Nettleton oversaw the search for Christopher, but the indictment states the captain pointed searchers to the area near the club -- not his house. And, he called off a request for a U.S. Coast Guard helicopter to aid in that search.

U.S. Navy photo

Capt. John R. Nettleton

Nettleton wrote an email to admiral about Christopher Tur's missing person's report, noting:

"Alcohol is a factor and this happened before, never this long though. We are preparing for the worst and hoping for the best." 

He goes on to call Christopher, "suicidal."

"Absolutely not times three," Aline adamantly told the I-TEAM about Nettleton's accusations about her brother.

The next morning, a search boat found Christopher's body in the waters of Guantanamo Bay. A Navy autopsy determined he drowned, but he had fractured ribs and a laceration on his head.

Investigators then found Christopher's blood in Nettleton's home and also on a towel in Nettleton's backyard.

"It looks like an open and shut case to me," said Christopher's nephew. "It feels like anybody could read the affidavit and see clear as day what happened."

U.S. Navy photo

Capt. John Nettleton

After an investigation, Captain Nettleton was removed from commanding the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base, but he has kept his rank, and to this day, works at NAS Jacksonville.

"It's really disgusting," said Pam Tur, Christopher Tur's sister-in-law.

"He (Nettleton) has a code of honor. He was supposed to protect everyone there that night. He drank and he let himself get to a point where he couldn't think straight, and from there, the entire base went down. And because of it, we are without our family member," Pam claimed.

Nettleton was arrested in Jacksonville, four years to the day after Christopher's body was discovered in the water. He pleaded not guilty in federal court to charges of obstruction of justice, concealment of material facts, false statements and falsification of records. If convicted on all charges, Nettleton faces up to 110 years in prison.

Nettleton didn't respond to the I-TEAM's questions after his Jan. 9 court hearing, and his attorneys aren't commenting about the allegations. While he awaits trial, currently scheduled for May 6, Nettleton is free on bond with the orders to surrender his passport, stay in Florida and have no contact with any potential witnesses.

But, Nettleton maintains his active-duty status with the Navy and continues to receive his full salary. He's been in the military 30 years and is waiting for retirement orders -- where he'll be entitled to nearly $1.9 million in benefits.

Christopher's family is petitioning the U.S. Navy and the U.S. Senate to take those benefits away. So far, there's been no progress, but they tell us it’s a fight they’ll take to the grave.

"I don't think anybody in this room wants their tax dollars going to him (Nettleton)," said Aline.

Following Christopher's death, his entire family remembered the former Marine with full military honors -- both on base and in his hometown. But they tell the I-TEAM, they don't feel like they have justice or closure.

"Hearing these stories all over again, I think to myself what he went through those last few hours. What was he thinking? What was he doing? I think he was trying to save his family," said Ann.

"Somebody is dead, and there are two daughters that will never walk down the aisle with their father. Never," said Mike.

"He'll never meet his grandchildren, ever," said Aline.

We've reached out to Christopher's widow, Lara, who now works at Naval Air Station Pensacola. We've not heard back.

The couple's two daughters live with her, and because the Tur family believes Lara was involved in the affair with Nettleton and trying to cover that relationship up, they say they don't speak. However, the Tur family told us they do hope the daughters, who are now adults, will reach out to them and connect.

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