Kansas battery case dismissed against North Carolina soldier

A soldier who shot and killed a superior officer before killing himself at Fort Bragg, N.C., last month was just one day away from being sentenced in Kansas for punching a woman in the face.

On Friday, a judge in Kansas formally dismissed the aggravated battery charge against Ricky G. Elder. Prosecutors said the 27-year-old Army specialist from Hutchinson was home on leave in April 2010 when he hit the woman so hard that he shattered her eye socket.

Elden died last month. The Army said he shot and killed Lt. Col. Roy Tisdale of Alvin, Texas, on June 28 before turning the gun on himself. A third soldier, Spc. Michael E. Latham, 22, of Vacaville, Calif., was wounded and has been released from the hospital.

The Hutchinson News reported that Senior Assistant Reno County District Attorney Stephen Maxwell said he notified the Army when Elder was initially charged with aggravated battery. Maxwell, himself a lieutenant colonel in the National Guard, said the Army couldn't discharge Elder early because he had not been convicted in the Reno County case.

"I'm sorry for the family of the soldier who was killed," Maxwell said. "But there's nothing we could have done."

As the case made its way through the courts, Elder's military service led to numerous delays. He was deployed to Afghanistan from September 2010 to July 2011. It was the second deployment for Elder, who enlisted in 2004 and spent 13 months in Iraq in 2006 and 2007, according to Army records.

Upon his return from Afghanistan, Elder changed attorneys and his case was delayed several times, court records show. He ultimately entered a guilty plea on Nov. 28.

The initial plan was to wait to sentence Elder until he was discharged, Maxwell said. But Elder's discharge, initially scheduled for earlier this year, was delayed because he was accused of stealing a toolkit valued at $1,700 and facing court martial proceedings. The sentencing, scheduled for March, was delayed until June 29.