A Marine charged with murder in the death of his Army nurse wife faced a judge in a brief first-appearance court hearing Tuesday.
Wearing an orange prison suit and handcuffs, Marine Cpl. John Wimunc nodded in the three-minute appearance before the judge Tuesday when asked if he understood the charges against him — which in addition to murder of his wife Army 2nd Lt. Holley Wimunc include first-degree arson and conspiracy to commit arson.
He told Cumberland County District Court Judge George Franks he would hire his own lawyer.
"Please remember, he is presumed to be innocent," said Wimunc's attorney D.W. Gray outside the courthouse. "I don't want this tried in the media."
Holley Wimunc's body was found Sunday, three days after a suspicious fire at her Fayetteville, N.C., apartment and a subsequent search.
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John Wimunc's fellow serviceman at Camp Lejeune, Lance Cpl. Kyle Alden, appeared afterwards before the same judge on charges of first-degree arson, conspiracy to commit arson and accessory after the fact to first-degree murder. Alden asked for a court-appointed attorney.
The next hearing was set for Aug. 5.
Holley Wimunc was from Dubuque, Iowa, and based at Fort Bragg.
This is the third time in seven months that a young woman serving her nation has been slain at home, away from the dangers of combat.
"It is so close to home, and it is back to back," said Takisha Word, 30, a combat veteran's daughter from Fayetteville. "It kind of makes you leery."
Investigators have stressed that Holley Wimunc's death and the recent slayings of two other young military women are not related.
But the discovery of Wimunc's body, which was burned during an apparent effort to hide it from authorities, stirred memories of Marine Lance. Cpl. Maria Lauterbach's death.
The 20-year-old from Vandalia, Ohio, disappeared in December. Her remains — and those of her unborn child — were found a month later in the backyard fire pit of a fellow Marine personnel clerk.
Detectives said Cpl. Cesar Laurean, 21, of Las Vegas, admitted in a note to his wife that he buried Lauterbach's body, but denied he had killed her. He fled to Mexico, where he was captured in April and is awaiting extradition to face charges of first-degree murder.
Onslow County District Attorney Dewey Hudson described the scene where state forestry officials responding to a brush fire found Wimunc's body almost the same way he discovered Lauterbach's a few months ago. Each was in a shallow grave, charred beyond recognition.
"It's horrific," Hudson said. "It's hard to believe any human being could do that to another human being."
Meanwhile, police in Fayetteville continue their investigation into the death of Army Spc. Megan Touma, whose decomposing body was found last month in a motel near Fort Bragg. Touma, a dental specialist from Cold Spring, Ky., had only recently arrived in North Carolina after transferring from a three-year tour at a clinic in Germany.
Authorities have made no arrests but stressed the case has no connection to Wimunc's death. There is also no connection between their deaths and Lauterbach's slaying, though there are some similarities.
All three were young women. Two were pregnant. Authorities believe two were killed by someone with whom they had a close, but troubled, relationship.
Lauterbach had accused Laurean of rape. Naval investigators were unable to find any evidence to corroborate her claims, but her superiors separated the pair on base and were pressing ahead toward a possible trial.
Holley Wimunc met her future husband before she was commissioned in 2007 into the Army Nurse Corps, allowing her to marry the enlisted Marine. She had recently secured a temporary restraining order against him and was in the process of getting a divorce.
Fort Bragg spokeswoman Maj. Angela Funaro said those details indicate there isn't a larger trend at work or a rash of random acts of violence. Counseling programs and chaplains are available at Fort Bragg, she said, but noted there hasn't been an increase in soldiers seeking such services.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.