JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – It’s been more than four years since a Marine Corps veteran mysteriously died in Guantanamo Bay. Now the trial for the Naval captain who was in charge at the time is just weeks away.
Captain John Nettleton retired recently but was the commanding officer for Naval Station Guantanamo Bay Cuba in 2015 when 42-year-old Christopher Tur was found dead in the water.
Federal investigators said Nettleton and Tur got into a fight the night before but “have no idea what caused Tur’s death.” The argument started over an alleged affair between Nettleton and Tur’s wife, Lana. An autopsy report determined the father and husband died from drowning, but his manner of death is listed as “undetermined.”
Federal prosecutors said before Judge Timothy Corrigan at a pre-trial hearing at the Federal Courthouse in downtown Jacksonville on Monday that investigators found Tur’s blood inside Nettleton’s home and on his dock over the water.
Nettleton is accused of adultery, lying and an elaborate cover-up, and the family of the man found dead is fighting for justice.
Nettleton’s defense attorneys pointed out that he is not accused of homicide and said they were concerned prosecutors would try to infer to the jury that Nettleton had a role in Tur’s death.
Prosecutors said they were not treating it as a murder case as they had no evidence to prove or disprove that notion. However, they said they believe if Nettleton hadn’t concealed evidence and lied immediately after the fight, they might have answers about what happened to Tur.
“It’s been a long time coming,” said Aline Byrnes, Tur’s sister who spoke with News4Jax by phone Monday. “(Nettleton) needs to see all of our faces.”
It’s a trial years in the making and for the family of Tur, they said it’s one step closer to their hopes of getting justice.
“I feel very anxious and I’m not gonna lie, a little bit nervous,” Byrnes said.
Nettleton, who retired this year and is collecting benefits from the government, was the head of Naval Station Guantanamo Bay in 2015 when Tur worked at the Navy Exchange on the base.
According to a federal indictment returned in March, Nettleton was having an affair with Tur’s wife, who also worked there. When Tur confronted his commanding officer at a party at the Officer’s Club, investigators said the two got into a fight. Tur was found dead in the water a day later.
The News4Jax I-TEAM also looked into the case extensively, visiting Tur’s family in Pennsylvania. They said they blame Nettleton for their loved one’s death. They petitioned lawmakers and the Secretary of the Navy to investigate further and take away Nettleton’s retirement benefits, believed to worth be more than $1.8 million.
The trial at Jacksonville’s federal courthouse will likely be a long one when it begins Jan. 6. Judge Corrigan said it could take up to four weeks to lay out evidence and cross-examine witnesses. The government’s attorneys said they plan on calling 17 witnesses and showcasing extensive evidence. The witnesses are coming from around the world, including someone from Singapore. Nettleton’s defense team listed 19 people who could testify.
No doubt the details will be hard for Tur’s family to hear when they travel down for the trial.
“I am particularly bitter about that,” said Tur’s brother, Michael Tur. “I don’t want to be. Though I am looking forward to justice, obviously the flow of emotion from 2015 is going to come back and we’re just going to have to endure it. It’s going to be painful.”
Nettleton’s attorneys argued for the judge to prohibit use of autopsy photos, certain crime scene photos and statements alluding to the jurors that Nettleton had anything to do with Tur’s death.