Soldier arrested in slaying of Megan Touma
Posted July 29, 2008 7:54 p.m. EDT
Updated July 30, 2008 8:14 a.m. EDT
Fayetteville, N.C. — Police have arrested a soldier in the death of a pregnant Fort Bragg soldier who was found in a Fayetteville motel room more than a month ago, Fayetteville police Chief Tom Bergamine said.
Edgar Patino, 27, of 374 Lairgate Lane in Hope Mills, was arrested at his home at about 6 p.m. Tuesday. Neighbors said he lived there with his wife.
He is charged with first-degree murder in the death of Spc. Megan Touma, police said. They withheld details about how he knew Touma.
Patino was being held Tuesday evening in the Cumberland County Jail without bond. His first court appearance is set for 2:30 p.m. Wednesday.
Touma's body was found at the Fairfield Inn at Cross Creek Mall on June 21 after a motel employee responded to guests' complaints about an odor coming from Touma's room.
Her body was discovered in the bathtub, and police said she had been there for a few days. A "Do Not Disturb" sign had been hung outside the door since Touma checked in on June 17, so no motel employee had entered the room during that time, police said.
Touma, 23, who was seven months pregnant, was assigned to Fort Bragg base 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.
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.
Early in the investigation police questioned an unidentified soldier at the John F. Kennedy Special Warfare School at Fort Bragg, part of Army Special Operations, but he was not called a suspect in the case. Police confirmed Tuesday evening that the solider questioned was Patino.
Police were releasing few details about Patino, saying they planned a press conference Wednesday at 11 a.m.
A week after Touma's body was found, someone sent a letter to The Fayetteville Observer newspaper claiming to be her killer. The letter 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.
Fayetteville police told the paper that although the letter is valuable evidence, they believe it was written to mislead investigators and the public.
Investigators seized two sections of drywall containing a red substance suspected to be blood from Touma's room, according to search warrants. Swabbings of DNA and other items also were taken from the hotel room and a rented Chevrolet Trailblazer parked outside.
Touma was the second pregnant service member to die under suspicious circumstances in North Carolina in recent months.
Marine Lance Cpl. Maria Lauterbach was found dead near Camp Lejeune in January. A fellow Marine, Cpl. Cesar Laurean, has been charged in her death and is awaiting extradition from Mexico.
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