State News

DA: Slain soldier case stays in civilian court

Posted August 1, 2008 7:36 a.m. EDT
Updated August 1, 2008 4:19 p.m. EDT

— The case of an Army sergeant accused of killing a fellow soldier, who was the mother of his unborn child, will stay in North Carolina courts, although the military could file a charge of fetal homicide against him, a newspaper reported Friday.

Cumberland County Prosecutor Ed Grannis told The Fayetteville Observer that he didn't believe the case against Sgt. Edgar Patino, 27, would be moved to federal military courts.

Patino is jailed on a first-degree murder charge in the death of Spc. Megan Touma, 23, of Cold Spring, Ky. Touma's body was found in a Fayetteville motel room on June 21. She last was seen June 13, and Patino told police he had been in her room that day.

The newspaper said Patino could be charged with killing Touma's unborn child under the military statutes. Grannis said there hadn't been discussions about letting the Army prosecute the case.

Touma was seven months pregnant when she died.

Fort Bragg spokesman Tom McCollum said the case remains in civilian hands.

Grannis acknowledged the possibility of moving the case, but said he hadn't discussed it with his staff.

"The military doesn't have the caseload that we have," Grannis said. "Their system moves a lot quicker."

Grannis said the military sometimes asks to prosecute cases and his office will agree, but he stressed he had no reason to think it would be moved.

North Carolina and 13 other states don't have a fetal homicide law, the newspaper said.

Patino's wife, Heileen Patino, issued a statement Friday through the John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School, where her husband was assigned to undergo psychological operations training. The statement asked reporters to leave her alone.

"My family is going through a difficult time. I ask that the news media respect both my privacy and the privacy of my family as we deal with our current circumstances," the statement said.