GUANTANAMO BAY NAVY BASE, Cuba Nearly two years after a commissary worker was found dead in the waters off Guantánamo, the Navy still has not closed the case and says it is awaiting word from the Department of Justice about what to do with it.
“The case is ongoing and leads are still being followed,” NCIS spokesman Ed Buice said Monday, declining to elaborate or forecast when it might be concluded.
Christopher Tur, 42, was found dead in the waters off the base on Jan. 10, 2015, a day after he went missing. Soon afterward, the Navy relieved the base commander, Navy Capt. John “J.R.” Nettleton, and assigned him to headquarters in Jacksonville awaiting the outcome of the investigation by the Naval Criminal Investigative Service.
In Jacksonville, Navy spokesman Bill Dougherty said Monday that Nettleton was still assigned to the Navy Region Southeast staff doing “general duties” and is eligible to retire. But Dougherty said he was unable to provide “a specific status for him because the investigation is ongoing” and that officials were awaiting the outcome of the NCIS investigation as well as something from the Department of Justice, which declined to comment.
Dougherty said Navy headquarters was “waiting on the Justice Department” to come to decide some unspecified matter. “Without Justice, we can’t move forward,” he said.
Nettleton’s attorney, former Marine Lt. Col. Colby Vokey, agreed. Nettleton, a former pilot, is “still waiting to retire, and he had nothing to do with Tur’s death,” the lawyer said Tuesday night.
In April 2015, when Navy Capt. David Culpepper took over as base commander, Vokey said that Nettleton was planning to retire after his time at Guantánamo. “It’s not the Navy holding it it up. It’s DOJ,” Vokey added, using the acronym for Department of Justice.
Tur’s brother Michael and sister Aline Byrnes said Tuesday that they had no additional information on the investigation of their brother’s death but “have the utmost confidence in the men and women seeking justice on Christopher’s behalf. We hope justice comes expeditiously.”
Nearly two years after his death, “the pain of Christopher’s death is still fresh in our hearts,” they said in a statement. “He is missed beyond words.”
Tur’s remains were returned to the United States for burial following an autopsy whose results were part of the ongoing NCIS investigation. He had lived with a wife and daughters on the base for several years; his wife, Lara, was the director of the Fleet and Family Services Center and was relocated to a different Navy base in Florida after the death.
Both the Associated Press and ABC News reported at the time that Rear Adm. Mary M. Jackson, commander of Navy Region Southeast, relieved Nettleton after an investigation following the death uncovered suspicions that the base commander and Tur’s wife were linked romantically. The official explanation was a “loss of confidence in Nettleton’s ability to command.”
The base commander has no role in the running of the war-on-terror prison camps at Guantánamo. That is the responsibility of a rear admiral who commands a separate Detention Center Zone within the 45-square-mile base in southeast Cuba and answers to Adm. Kurt Tidd, the commander of the U.S. Southern Command in Doral.
The prison functions much like a tenant on the base, with its nearly 2,000 staff members granted wide access to base facilities as well as the separate prison zone. Successive Navy commanders have likened the job to that of a small-town mayor, in part, because Guantánamo feels like small-town America.