Originally created 07/31/05

Hearing set in recruit's death



BEAUFORT, S.C. - A staff sergeant is the subject of the military's version of a grand jury investigation into the drowning death of a recruit in February at Parris Island, according to the Marine Corps.

The hearing, known as an Article 32, will investigate charges against Staff Sgt. Nadya Y. Lopez stemming from the drowning death of Pvt. Jason Tharp, of Sutton, W.Va.

Staff Sgt. Lopez, 26, is charged with negligent homicide, assault and failure to obey an order or regulation, the Marine Corps said Friday.

An investigating officer will hear the Marine prosecution and Staff Sgt. Lopez's civilian defense arguments Thursday before making recommendations to Parris Island's commanding general on whether a trial by court-martial should take place, said Lt. Scott Miller, a spokesman for the Marine Corps Recruit Depot.

The commanding officer of the recruit depot, Brig. Gen. Richard Tryon, has the final say on what action is taken.

Some of the charges against Staff Sgt. Lopez came from interviews with other recruits, Lt. Miller said. When the other incidents occurred would likely be revealed at the hearing.

Staff Sgt. Lopez joined the Marines in 1996 and has been assigned to administrative duties since the incident, which is standard procedure during an investigation.

"She is not directly in contact with recruits," Lt. Miller said.

Pvt. Tharp drowned while trying to tread water in about 8 feet of water, according to an autopsy report obtained by two television stations last month.

An investigation into Pvt. Tharp's death found that Staff Sgt. Lopez, who was Pvt. Tharp's swim instructor, did not recognize or ignored indications that the recruit was too tired or incapable of continuing the swim training.