Article 32 Hearing in Recruit Drowning Case Wraps Up - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports


Article 32 Hearing in Recruit Drowning Case Wraps Up

Jason Tharp's family leaves the Depot Law Center on Parris Island. Jason Tharp's family leaves the Depot Law Center on Parris Island.

Will Staff Sgt. Nadya Lopez face a court-martial for her involvement in the death of a Marine recruit? That is the question now under consideration, with two days of testimony wrapping up this afternoon. Lopez is charged in the February drowning death of Marine recruit Jason Tharp.

We spoke with Tharp's family, who came from West Virginia to watch the proceedings. As you can imagine, it's been extremely tough for them, but they're hoping the results of this hearing will mean justice for their son.

"This didn't have to happen, cause our son wanted out," said Johnny Tharp, Jason's father. "It didn't have to come to this."

Staff Sgt. Lopez is a swimming instructor at Parris Island, who was suspended for not taking action when video of Pvt. Tharp's instructor pushing him was captured just a day before he died. She was attempting to train Tharp to float in the pool when he drowned.

Johnny Tharp told us he is "just glad that this part is over and we hope that this goes to court-martial at the highest degree."

Staff Sgt. Lopez is charged with negligent homicide, failure to obey orders, and nine counts of assault. The government dropped a tenth assault charge today.

Although this hearing won't bring back their son, the Tharps are hoping that it will prevent it from happening again. "Hopefully this won't happen to another recruit because of it and changes will be made," said Johnny.

During the hearing, a number of former recruits testified claimed on the stand that Staff Sgt. Lopez assaulted them during training. In fact, a number of them said she dunked them repeatedly. One even claimed she said, "Do it or drown."

However, Staff Sgt. Lopez's attorney, Larry Weidner, says these claims and claims she was negligent the day Jason Tharp died are not true. "There's no criminal misconduct on the part of any of the Marines at the pool that day," he said. "Now it's up to the general to step up and do the right thing."

The hearing officer is expected to bring recommendations to the commanding general within ten days. Gen. Richard Tryon will then decide whether the case will go to court-martial.

Reported by: Jaime Dailey,

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