Local News

Police: Suspect fathered slain soldier's unborn child

Posted July 30, 2008 7:44 a.m. EDT
Updated July 30, 2008 11:57 p.m. EDT

— A Fort Bragg soldier charged in the death of a pregnant comrade was the father of the woman's unborn child, police said Wednesday.

Sgt. Edgar Patino, 27, of 374 Lairgate Lane in Hope Mills, is charged with first-degree murder in the death of Spc. Megan Touma, whose body was found June 21 in a room at the Fairfield Inn near Cross Creek Mall.

Patino was arrested at his home at about 6 p.m. Tuesday. Neighbors said he lived there with his wife.

He was being held Wednesday evening in the Cumberland County Jail without bond. During a brief court appearance, he requested a court-appointed lawyer.

Touma's body was found after a motel employee responded to guests' complaints about an odor coming from her room. Her body was in the bathtub, and police said she had been there for a few days.

Police declined to discuss the cause of death, saying the information would have to be released by medical examiners.

The Army and the state medical examiner's office in Chapel Hill have completed autopsies, but the cause of death has not been disclosed. A spokeswoman for the Fayetteville Police Department said last week that toxicology results were pending.

Investigators believe Touma was killed late on June 13 or early on June 14, said Detective Joshua Carter, who is heading the investigation for the Fayetteville Police Department. No key card was used to access the room between June 14 and when Touma's body was found a week later, he said.

A "Do Not Disturb" sign had been hung outside the door for several days, so no motel employee had entered the room during that time, police said.

Patino admitted to police that he had been in the motel room on the night of June 13, Carter said. He hasn't confessed to killing Touma, Carter said.

"I think one might describe the initial interview with Mr. Patino as deceptive, and that's about all the contact we had with him until we had handcuffs on him (Tuesday) night," said Sgt. Chris Corcione, the chief homicide investigator for the Fayetteville Police Department.

Touma, 23, who was seven months pregnant, was assigned to Fort Bragg on June 12. A dental specialist from Cold Spring, Ky., who had been in the Army for five years, she previously was assigned to Army dental clinics in Germany and at Fort Drum, N.Y.

Patino, who had served with Touma in Germany, was the father of her unborn child, Fayetteville Police Chief Tom Bergamine said. He and other investigators declined to discuss a possible motive in the case.

Patino joined the Puerto Rico Army National Guard in 2000 and became an active-duty soldier in the Army in March 2004. He was assigned to a base in Bamberg, Germany, in October 2004 and was deployed to Iraq from November 2005 to October 2006.

He was assigned to the John F. Kennedy Special Warfare School at Fort Bragg, part of Army Special Operations, in December and was being trained in psychological operations.

Investigators focused on him early on as a possible suspect, Carter said. Information gathered from other soldiers who worked with Touma and Patino in Germany and evidence collected from Touma's motel room led investigators to him, he said.

A week after Touma's body was found, someone sent letters to The Fayetteville Observer newspaper and to police claiming to be her killer. The letters included a symbol at the bottom that was similar to one used by "the Zodiac," a California serial killer in the 1960s who was never caught.

Investigators believe Patino sent the letters to mislead police, Corcione said.

Police found a typewriter in Patino's house and learned he had purchased it on June 23, the day before the anonymous letters were postmarked, Corcione said.

Touma is one of three female service members to be slain in North Carolina in recent months.

The remains of Marine Lance Cpl. Maria Lauterbach were found near Camp Lejeune in January. A fellow Marine, Cpl. Cesar Laurean, has been charged in her death and is awaiting extradition from Mexico.

Army 2nd Lt. Holley Wimunc's remains were found near Camp Lejeune two weeks ago. Her estranged husband, Marine Cpl. John Wimunc, has been charged with murder in the case, which began at her burned apartment in Fayetteville.