Local News

Slain soldier's brother retrieves belongings from apartment

Posted August 13, 2008 1:40 p.m. EDT
Updated August 13, 2008 4:10 p.m. EDT

— The managers of a Fayetteville apartment complex allowed the brother of a slain Army nurse to salvage some of her belongings Wednesday from her burned apartment.

The move came after the man charged with killing her provided the complex with the necessary legal documents to provide her family access to the apartment.

The charred remains of 2nd Lt. Holley Wimunc were discovered in a wooded area of Onslow County on July 13, three days after a suspicious fire was reported at her apartment and she was declared missing. Her estranged husband, Marine Cpl. John Wimunc, has been charged with murder in her slaying.

Police said John Wimunc and another Camp Lejeune Marine set fire to the apartment to cover up evidence of the slaying. The fire burned itself out before causing much damage, police said.

Holley Wimunc's father, Jesse James, said he traveled from his home in Dubuque, Iowa, to pack up what was left in his daughter's apartment and take some keepsakes home, but was turned away by the managers of Morganton Place Apartments.

Apartment manager Michelle Murphy said anything in the apartment automatically belongs to John Wimunc and that she needed a document from him assigning Jesse James his power of attorney. The document would protect the complex's owner, Sentinel Real Estate, in case Wimunc were to sue, she said.

Wimunc's attorney, D.W. Bray, gave a letter signed by his client to the apartment managers Monday, authorizing the release of Holley Wimunc's belongings to James. Murphy said that wasn't enough, and a power of attorney was provided by Wednesday morning, allowing Holley Wimunc's brother access to her apartment.

"There's only a few things we can salvage. A lot of it was burnt up, and a lot of it (had) smoke damage," said Cpl. Jesse James, a Marine stationed at Camp Lejeune. "Just one thing is enough. If we get one thing out, it'll be good."

He was able to retrieve her running shoes – her 16-year-old nephew wants to carry them in a marathon this fall – her Army nursing coin, her Army identification card and numerous photos.

"Just whatever can give us, our family, the memories from her that we would want to have," he said.

Murphy issued a statement Wednesday defending the apartment complex's actions.

"I have been in contact with the James family since the moment she came up missing. I even allowed them access to the apartment, where they did retrieve personal belongings," she said. "We are not heartless and truly hope this will help bring some closure to the James family."

The younger Jesse James said the family appreciated the efforts of the complex's managers.

The Army provided a van to the James family to haul items from Fayetteville to Iowa.