Authorities in Florida arrested a former service member Thursday on murder charges stemming from the death of a pregnant soldier at an Army base in Germany more than two decades ago, the Department of Justice announced.
Court documents allege Shannon L. Wilkerson, 42, is responsible for the death of 19-year-old Pfc. Amanda Gonzales on Nov. 3, 2001 at Fliegerhorst Kaserne, a former Army base in Hanau where Gonzales was stationed as a cook, according to an FBI release.
Authorities found Gonzales’ body in her third-story barracks room two days after her death, which the FBI ruled a homicide by asphyxiation. She was four months pregnant at the time of her murder, the FBI said.
Wilkerson, who was discharged from active duty in 2004, is charged with one count of first-degree murder, the release said. He pleaded not guilty on all counts at a hearing Thursday, according to a court filing. If convicted, he faces a maximum penalty of life in prison.
“When I saw the news, and that she [Vanessa] was murdered, I thought, ‘Oh my God, this is my daughter all over again,’” Gloria Bates, Gonzales’ mother, said at the time.
“Me and my wife hope we will wake up and it’s all a bad dream,” Gonzales’ stepfather, Mike Bates, told Army Times in 2011.
Wilkerson’s charges fall under the Military Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act, which gives U.S. federal courts jurisdiction over crimes committed outside the U.S. by former service members no longer subject to the military justice system, the DOJ release said.
A detention hearing for Wilkerson is set for March 3 and a trial date has been scheduled for March 27 in Pensacola, Florida, according to the Justice Department.
Jonathan is a staff writer and editor of the Early Bird Brief newsletter for Military Times. Follow him on Twitter @lehrfeld_media