FORT LEWIS, Wash. – Charges of involuntary manslaughter against Private (E-2) Timothy E. Bennitt were referred for trial by General Court Martial Thursday, following an investigation into the death of Leah King, 16, on February 15, 2009, in a barracks on Fort Lewis.
Bennitt was charged March 10 under the following articles of the Uniform Code of Military Justice:
- Article 119 – Involuntary Manslaughter (two specifications)
- Article 112a – Wrongful use and distribution of controlled substances (seven specifications)
- Article 81 – Conspiracy to use controlled substances (one specification)
An Article 32 investigating officer, Maj. Rebecca Connally, was appointed to hear evidence on these charges, during hearings conducted May 19 and 20, May 26, and June 25.
The investigating officer reported the non-binding findings of this investigation on July 9, recommending trial by General Court Martial with modification of two specifications under Article 112a, and two additional specifications under Article 112a.
The General Court Martial Convening Authority for Fort Lewis, Brigadier General Jeff Mathis, referred the charges for trial by General Court
Martial on July 30.
The charges were referred with one modification to specification two under Article 112a, wrongful distribution of marijuana on or about 1 December 2008 to 15 February 2009. One additional specification was also preferred under Article 112a, wrongful use of cocaine on or about
February 12-15, 2009.
If convicted of all charges (and specifications) contained in the charge sheet, the maximum punishment is reduction in rank to private (E1),
forfeiture of all pay and allowances, confinement for 82 years, and a dishonorable discharge.
Fort Lewis officials emphasize that the charges are merely an accusation and that the accused is presumed innocent until proven guilty.
No date for the court martial has been set.