Okinawa court denies wife’s appeal in airman murder case

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Tech. Sgt. Curtis Eccleston in an Air Force photograph when he was the special planning supervisor for the 733rd Air Mobility Squadron at Kadena Air Base. Eccleston was found dead with a neck wound in February 2011 in an off-base apartment. (Rey Ramon/Courtesy of the U.S. Air Force)
From Stripes.com
Tech. Sgt. Curtis Eccleston in an Air Force photograph when he was the special planning supervisor for the 733rd Air Mobility Squadron at Kadena Air Base. Eccleston was found dead with a neck wound in February 2011 in an off-base apartment. (Rey Ramon/Courtesy of the U.S. Air Force)

Okinawa court denies wife’s appeal in airman murder case

by: Travis J. Tritten and Chiyomi Sumida | .
Stars and Stripes | .
published: July 17, 2013

CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — A Japanese court on Tuesday rejected the appeal of a Brazilian woman convicted of plotting the murder of her Air Force husband on Okinawa in 2011.

Barbara Keiko Eccleston, 34, had asked the court to reconsider the guilty verdict and 20-year prison sentence issued last year for conspiring with an airman lover to kill her husband, Tech. Sgt. Curtis Eccleston of the 733rd Air Mobility Squadron at Kadena Air Base.

After reviewing evidence in the case, the Naha branch of the Fukuoka high court denied the appeal filed by Eccleston, who pleaded not guilty during her criminal trial.

Eccleston’s attorney said she was disappointed by the court’s decision but had not yet decided whether to appeal to Japan’s supreme court.

Prosecutors portrayed Eccleston as a prolific liar and the mastermind behind her husband’s murder. They said she manipulated then 26-year-old Air Force Staff Sgt. Nicholas Cron, also a member of the 733rd Mobility Squadron, into attacking and slashing the airman’s neck in the couple’s off-base apartment.

Cron pleaded guilty during an Air Force court-martial trial and testified against Eccleston as part of a deal to avoid the death penalty.

He said the two had an affair while secretly mocking her husband and discussed various ways to kill him for months, referring to the murder as a “gift” to Barbara Eccleston.

Cron said he believed they would start a life together if her husband was out of the way.

Curtis Eccleston was a popular member of his squadron and had made some attempts to file for divorce and end the deeply troubled marriage.

Cron went to the airman’s Mihama apartment around 4 a.m. in February 2011 wearing all black clothes and heavy dish gloves and carrying a hunting knife, box cutter, surgical gloves and towels to clean up blood spray, according to trial evidence.

He stepped through the apartment door, slashed Eccleston’s neck, and the two struggled for nearly 90 minutes before the airman collapsed on the kitchen floor. Cron called Barbara Eccleston on his cell phone so she could hear her husband’s last gasps before he died. He then drank a soda from the apartment refrigerator before fleeing.

During the trial in Japanese court, prosecutors said Barbara Eccleston had reminded Cron to take the cell phone so she could confirm the murder.

But Eccleston testified that she “didn’t have anything to do with the crime.”

She said the discussions with Cron about murdering her husband – many captured in text messages -- were actually magical spells that had been suggested by a Brazilian fortune teller she met online and were meant to make her husband treat her better.

Eccleston also said she only partially listened to the call from Cron during her husband’s murder because she put down the telephone to play an online video game.

She has two weeks to decide whether to appeal.

tritten.travis@stripes.com

sumida.chiyomi@stripes.com