Marine Declared Not Guilty in Parris Island Court Martial. - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

02/22/05

Marine Declared Not Guilty in Parris Island Court Martial.

A very quick deliberation, and a not guilty verdict on Parris Island.

Staff Sergeant Nadya Lopez was accused in the drowning death of a nineteen- year old marine recruit.

But Tuesday night, Lopez was cleared of those charges, after the defense rested without even calling a single witness.

It was an emotional day for families of both people involved; but especially for the family of Jason Tharp, the recruit whose death prompted this court martial.

Walking out of the court martial, Johnnie Tharp wept: "It's like our son just got killed again."

Meanwhile, there was a steady confidence from the defense that justice was served.

Lt. Col. Scott Jack, who represented Lopez, says, "We are certainly happy for the verdict. She is happy this weight is off her shoulders, but we also offer our sincere condolences to the Tharp family. Certainly a painful time for them as well."

Tharp drowned last year while doing combat training in a pool on Parris Island. The military judge overseeing the court martial deliberated just over half an hour before handing down his decision: stating Lopez was not responsible for Tharp's death.

Lopez said afterward, "It's an accident, just like the autopsy report reported."

Tharp's family spoke with reporters for less than 30 seconds before boarding a van and leaving.

Reported by: Chris Cowperthwaite, ccowperthwaite@wtoc.com

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