Navy captain charged with hindering death probe officially retires

Ex-Guantanamo Bay commander awaiting trial on 10 federal charges

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

JACKSONVILLE, Fla - The Jacksonville Navy captain out on bond, accused of lying and covering up facts in the death of a former Marine on Guantanamo Bay, has officially retired from the military.

The I-TEAM has obtained new documents showing John Nettleton, who was most recently assigned to NAS Jax, retired from the U.S. Navy March 1.

Back in January, four years after 42-year-old Christopher Tur's body was found floating in the waters of Guantanamo Bay, Nettleton was charged with obstructing justice and nine other offenses related to Tur's death. Nettleton was the commander of Naval Station Guantanamo Bay when Tur was reported missing and later found dead.

According to the federal indictment, Tur was working on the island as a civilian and had gotten into a fight with Nettleton -- accusing Nettleton of having an affair with his wife.

When Tur was reported missing the next day, investigators say Nettleton denied knowing what happened to Tur and repeatedly denied getting into a fight with him.

However, court documents show investigators found Tur's blood on a rag in Nettleton's backyard. Documents also outline that prosecutors have witness statements and other reports to support their case.

An autopsy showed Tur had a cut on his head and fractured ribs, but his death was ruled a drowning.

Tur's family released this statement to News4Jax on Nettleton's retirement.

It has come to our attention that despite our many objections, the Navy has permitted Nettleton to retire on 3/1/2019. The Navy cited Title 10 US code 634a as their reasoning.  Our family only found out 19 days after retirement.

The Tur family is cognizant of and will be exploring if the Navy had other remedies under US code, Title 10.  If they did, then we will want to know why such remedies were not pursued.  Further, we shall be exploring if there were other lawful measures available to the Navy at any time following Christopher’s death including but not limited to criminal prosecution, rank, retirement benefits or other benefits afforded to discharged veterans.  The public should demand it.  We will want to know specifically who made all decisions.  A few high-ranking names are already known.

As many are now aware, the indictments are damning and the Navy’s response shortly after Christopher’s death is questionable at best.  This last decision only makes their ongoing decisions more questionable.  We thought the public should know that ranks up to the Secretary of the Navy did not act despite knowing early after after Christopher’s death that Nettleton allegedly violated military and other federal laws.  Still, the Navy did not act.  The indictment makes that clear.

The public and Navy should know that the Tur family will not rest until justice is served.  We will turn over every rock and hold all those accountable who were directly and indirectly involved in Christopher’s death as well as any derelictions following his death.

Tur's family told the I-TEAM, since Nettleton's 10-count federal indictment, they've been petitioning Pennsylvania Senator Pat Toomey and the Secretary of the Navy to try to stop Nettleton from receiving military retirement benefits of nearly $2 million.

On March 18, Tur's family received a letter sent by a Navy official to the Senator. It said in part:

“Captain Nettleton having completed 30 years commissioned service was retired on March 1, 2019. If any adverse findings come from Captain Nettleton’s civilian trial, his retirement grade determination may be re-opened by the Navy.”

Vice Admiral B.H. Lindsey, the deputy commander of the Navy, also wrote that federal investigators conducted hundreds of hours of witness testimony and reviewed a myriad of evidence:

“…I expressed my complete confidence that the Department of Justice would assess this case for its full prosecutive value and ensure justice was served.”

Nettleton won't go on trial until at least next year. His trial was initially set for May 6, but a federal judge granted a motion last week to give Nettleton's defense team more time to go through the more than 400,000 pages of discovery material that the government has spent the last four years collecting. Nettleton's new scheduled trial date is January 6, 2020.

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