Various news agencies have identified the 25-year-old suspect in the beating death of his 19-year-old girlfriend and aspiring model as a distinguished U.S. Army Iraq war veteran who earned a Purple Heart, an Army Commendation Medal and a Combat Infantry Badge.
Now, the retired infantryman sits in Orange County Men’s Jail. According to the District Attorney's office:
John Wylie Needham, 25, San Clemente, is charged with one felony count of murder and faces a maximum sentence of 25 years to life if convicted. The People will be requesting $1 million bail at his arraignment tomorrow, Wednesday, Sep. 3, 2008, at the Central Justice Center in Santa Ana. The time and Department are to be assigned.
The DA also revealed more details about the case.
Needham was watching television with his girlfriend when another woman arrived at the house. Needham went into the living room to speak with the visitor, but when his girlfriend emerged from the room where she had been watching television, she got into a physical fight with the other female.
“Needham broke up the fight and the other female left the residence and called 9-1-1 to report the altercation,” the DA reports. “After the other female had left, Needham is accused of assaulting Jane Doe and severely beating her, and leaving her to die.”
Deputy District Attorney Ebrahim Baytieh of the Homicide Unit is prosecuting this case.
The Orange County Register reports that Needham joined active duty on March 9, 2006, and as a private second class received the Army Commendation Medal on Aug. 1, 2007, an honor generally not bestowed upon ranks below that of a non commissioned officer.
Needham retired in July because of a permanent or temporary medical disability. Media reports say he suffered from post traumatic stress disorder, but the military does not release medical information to the public.
The victim's identity had yet to be released as this was posted because her family had yet to be notified. But several readers who left comments on the online version of the Register's story revealed the girl's first name, mentioned her MySpace page and critiqued photographs of both the victim (“a very pretty African American girl”) and the suspect (“that guy looks like someone that will soon be on a CSI episode as a serial killer.”).
The girl apparently moved to San Clemente from Northern California.
The Register's latest update also identifies the woman named Debbie from the previous Weekly post as Debbie Krecu.