Former Soldier Convicted in Killing of Pregnant Army Private Two Decades Ago


A former U.S. Army soldier has been convicted of murdering a pregnant 19-year-old fellow soldier on a U.S. base in Germany more than two decades ago, the Justice Department said Tuesday.

The former soldier, Shannon L. Wilkerson, 43, was charged last year with one count of first-degree murder in the death of Pvt. Amanda Gonzales. He beat and strangled her to death on Nov. 3, 2001, in her barracks room at Fliegerhorst Kaserne, then a U.S. Army base, in Hanau, Germany, the department said on Tuesday.

On Monday, a federal jury found Mr. Wilkerson guilty of second-degree murder, according to court documents filed in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida. He faces a maximum sentence of life in prison.

“Many dedicated law enforcement officers and prosecutors persisted for years, pursuing every available lead and never wavering in their search for evidence to hold the victim’s killer to account for his heinous crime,” Nicole M. Argentieri, a principal deputy assistant attorney general for the Justice Department, said in a news release on Tuesday. Timothy R. Langan Jr., an executive assistant director with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, said that Mr. Wilkerson had believed that Private Gonzales was pregnant with his child.

Mr. Wilkerson’s lawyers did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Tuesday evening. Details surrounding the murder remained unclear, and the Justice Department did not immediately respond to requests for more information on Tuesday evening.

Gloria Bates, the mother of Private Gonzales, said by phone on Tuesday that the conviction felt “like a dream. I still can’t believe it.”

In a previous interview, she told the Times that her daughter was several months into her first assignment in the Army when she called to tell her she was pregnant. Ms. Bates booked her daughter a ticket home for Christmas, but she never made it. Private Gonzales was found dead in her third-floor barracks room, her mother said. Her death was ruled a homicide by asphyxiation. She was four months pregnant at the time.

Ms. Bates told The Times that she had fought to keep the investigation alive, writing letters to members of Congress and to television shows like “Dr. Phil” and “America’s Most Wanted.” On the 10th anniversary of Private Gonzales’s death, Army investigators offered a $125,000 reward for information. But the case still went cold.

Ms. Bates said on Tuesday that her daughter had never mentioned Mr. Wilkerson, but that the authorities had later informed her that Private Gonzales had been dating him at the time of her death. She told her mother the baby was another man’s — information that was later confirmed through an autopsy on the fetus, Ms. Bates said.

She said that she and her husband, who live in Texas, had found relief in attending the court proceedings in Florida, where they observed as the guilty verdict was read aloud this week. “To watch two Marshalls take him away and cuff him, that right there set my soul free,” Ms. Bates said.

She said she hoped Mr. Wilkerson’s sentencing, scheduled for Aug. 8, would deliver even more closure, and that he would “never see daylight” again.

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