Although her death is officially ruled a suicide, The San Diego Union-Tribune reports new court papers disclose federal agents continue to review a soldier’s 2013 hanging at Camp Pendleton … and it’s her civilian husband who is the top suspect in the case.
Friday, San Diego based U.S. Magistrate Judge Karen Crawford approved a search warrant request by the Naval Criminal Investigative Service.
Special Agent Jeffrey Kierman, a cold-case homicide investigator for the NCIS, said the agency is looking for evidence allegedly left on three cellphones. Imelda Oppelt, her husband, David Roneld Oppelt, and their daughter, used the phones, according to the Union-Tribune.
The Union-Tribune reports authorities found Imelda Oppelt, 35 at the time of her death, died Sept. 13, 2013, in the family residence’s bathroom in base housing.
Imelda, originally from the Philippines, served in the Active Guard Reserve program at Camp Pendleton.
There have been no arrests in the case; however, an attachment to the search-warrant affidavit indicates authorities are investigating Imelda Oppelt’s death as homicide. Electronic data and physical documents could point to her husband’s “efforts to plan and execute” her death, according to the federal court filing.
When contacted by the Union-Tribune Monday, David Oppelt referred the paper to Dallas-based attorney Patrick McLain. In a statement, McLain said NCIS agents have “been non-communicative” with him on the case, adding the bulk of his work for Oppelt has been to obtain Freedom of Information Act paperwork and “civil rights” issues.
Oppelt’s attorney said he wants NCIS to get to the truth.
“Mr. Oppelt wants the NCIS to get to the truth and resolve this case so that his family can have closure after the tragic loss of the woman he loved, his wife,” McLain wrote.
According to the Union-Tribune, authorities argue David Oppelt told them that he discovered his deceased wife in the bathroom but earlier he told a Marine police officer arriving at the scene a different story, saying that just before she died, the couple had quarreled over a romantic affair she had with a person in her Army unit, according to the search-warrant application.
The Union-Tribune writes the couple’s daughter — who now lives with her father in Florida — told investigators that she heard “a loud noise” and then saw her father grab a large knife, the documents state. She told agents that she heard three “loud banging noises from the upstairs bathroom” and her father yelling, then later saw him carrying her mother “by the neck and waist from the bathtub.”
The Union-Tribune reports the autopsy conducted by the San Diego Naval Medical Center determined Imelda Oppelt’s cause of death to be “hanging,” but the manner of death was described as “undetermined.”
In the search-warrant application, NCIS agent Kierman alleges David Oppelt bugged his wife’s cellphone to track her movements. The investigator also said Global Positioning System data on the husband’s phone could confirm his whereabouts on the day of his wife’s death, according to the Union-Tribune.
The Union-Tribune reports NCIS officials declined to comment on the case Monday.
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