A former soldier was convicted on May 6 of the 2001 murder of a 19-year-old pregnant soldier after the conclusion of an investigation spanning 22 years and two continents.

Shannon Wilkerson was convicted Monday by a federal jury in Pensacola, Florida, for the murder of Amanda Gonzales, according to a Justice Department press release. Wilkerson managed to evade justice for over two decades after Gonzales’ body was found in her barracks in Hanau, Germany, on November 5, 2001.

Advancements in DNA technology, as well as an inability to account for Wilkerson’s whereabouts between when Gonzales was last seen on Nov. 2 and when her body was found on Nov. 5, eventually helped land a conviction.

The prosecution alleged that Wilkerson was wearing a sweatshirt he’d borrowed from a friend during that time, according to court documents. The owner of the sweatshirt said he had not provided the clothing to anyone else. The government conducted a DNA test on the sweatshirt in 2021 using previously unavailable technology.

That’s when Jeffrey Fletcher, the U.S. Army Criminal Investigations Laboratory forensic biologist who examined the sweatshirt, identified something significant.

“Fletcher found a mixture of DNA on the sweatshirt’s sleeve that was at least 4,000 times more likely to have originated from Gonzales, Wilkerson, and the owner of the sweatshirt than from an unknown person, Wilkerson, and the owner of the sweatshirt,” the prosecution said in the release.

Despite the damning evidence, Wilkerson’s defense sought to pin the murder on Chinu Kim, a soldier who lived in the room next to Gonzales and who killed two mechanics five years after the death of Gonzales. Kim was convicted in 2010 for two counts of first-degree murder and sentenced to two life sentences without the possibility of parole.

United States Attorney Jason Coody poked holes in the defense’s argument, noting, among other things, that Kim was too small in stature to match the killer in the Gonzales case.

“Amanda Gonzales’ wounds indicate she was overpowered quickly by a large, strong individual,” said Coody, according to court documents.

The prosecution also argued that Kim had been interviewed in prison and made no mention of killing Gonzales despite having already been sentenced to life without parole.

The Justice Department also mentioned a potential motive alongside the conviction announcement.

Timothy R. Langan Jr. of the FBI’s Criminal, Cyber, Response, and Services Branch said that Wilkerson murdered Gonzales with the belief that she was pregnant with his child.

Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Nicole M. Argentieri, the head of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, praised the tenacity of the department in their pursuit of solving the case.

“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,” Argenteri said in the release.

Wilkerson is set to be sentenced on Aug. 8 and faces a maximum penalty of life in prison. The FBI New York Field Office, along with the Department of Army’s Criminal Investigative Division, led the investigation.

Riley Ceder is an editorial fellow at Military Times, where he covers breaking news, criminal justice and human interest stories. He previously worked as an investigative practicum student at The Washington Post, where he contributed to the ongoing Abused by the Badge investigation.

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