Navy captain testifies about drunken fight that preceded civilian worker's death

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Capt. John Robert "J.R." Nettleton (U.S. Navy)

A Navy captain removed as commander of Guantanamo Bay Naval Base following the disappearance and death of a civilian worker in 2015 testified in his own defense Tuesday.

John "J.R." Nettleton isn't accused in the death of 42-year-old Christopher Tur, but he is accused with obstructing the investigation into his disappearance and lying to investigators.


Nettleton, who was eventually reassigned to Jacksonville, initially concealed that he'd had an affair with Tur's wife and a bloody fistfight with him the night he went missing.

Addressing the jury in a loud baritone, the 54-year-old began his testimony by running through his professional history and personal milestones, including his rise through the ranks before taking command at Gitmo.

He recounted the night Tur went missing, which began with a drunken evening at the officers club on base.

"All of us probably consumed too much alcohol," he said.

He testified he didn't recall acting inappropriately at the bar with Tur's wife Lara but didn't challenge the recollection of others who said he had. Nettleton said he had no memory of what initially happened in his home, only lying on his kitchen floor being shaken awake by Tur, saying "Wake up Marine, wake up Marine. C'mon, get up Marine."

He said Tur was drunk and "cycling" through grievances about his marriage, his belief Nettleton was having sex with his wife, but alternately was chatty and wanted to go back to the officers club to drink.

Eventually, after Nettleton asked him to leave a third time, he said Tur became enraged. He acted out the fistfight for the jury, saying Tur came at him several times before he bloodied his nose.

He grew emotional when discussing his daughter Julia, who was 15 at the time she witnessed the fight. It was her text messages to a friend during that confrontation that tipped investigators to the fact that Nettleton may have been the last to see Tur alive.

Nettleton paused at length and drank water trying to regain his composure when asked about a phone call from his son during the chaos.

"He was telling me that Julia was upstairs, and she was terrified," he eventually said.

In response to questions from his attorney Colby Vokey, Nettleton denied he ever intentionally misled investigators.

He said he fought with Tur, bloodied his nose and that Tur eventually left.

Although all other witnesses have testified from the stand using computer maps that can be circled with an electronic stylus, Nettleton's attorney have elected to have him stand in front of the jury holding a microphone and pointing out places by hand. When he acted out the physical confrontation, he played both roles, demonstrating when he threw a punch and when he and Tur went down on a knee.

The announcement that Nettleton would testify followed another surprise — a witness who claims to be the last person to see Tur alive.

That woman, a Jacksonville resident who lived in Guantanamo at the time, was not disclosed by the defense until Monday. Carol Wolfe testified that her recollection now is different from what she told NCIS investigators in January 2015

She testified she saw Tur after he was alleged to have knocked out Nettleton in the fight at the captain's home.

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©2020 The Florida Times-Union (Jacksonville, Fla.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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