Just a week after he began a two-year prison sentence for obstructing a federal investigation into the disappearance and death of contractor Christopher Tur at Naval Base Guantanamo Bay, former Capt. John Nettleton faces a civil lawsuit filed by the dead man’s family.
The 57-page lawsuit, filed in Duval County court, also demands damages from the Navy base’s former spokesperson and Tur’s former wife.
It states federal prosecutors failed to pursue murder charges against Nettleton, who had served as commander of the U.S. Navy base in Cuba, for Tur’s drowning death. The 42-year-old’s body was found in January 2015 floating in Guantanamo Bay, only two days after he disappeared following a drunken brawl with Nettleton, now 55.
The lawsuit states that prosecutors apparently felt it would be difficult to convict Nettleton of murder, opting instead for charges they knew would meet the burden of proof.
“Plaintiff now accuses John Nettleton of intentionally and/or recklessly and/or negligently causing the death of Christopher Tur and brings claims of wrongful death, survival, assault and battery, intentional infliction of emotional distress, failure to render aid and tortious interference with a dead body,” the lawsuit says.
It also accuses Tur’s wife at the time, Lara Sabanosh, and former base public information officer Kelly Wirfel of “intentional infliction of emotional distress” for covering up information relevant to his death.
Nettleton was convicted in January 2020 on six counts including obstruction of justice and making false statements for not disclosing the fight or that Tur had been at his waterfront home before he disappeared. The retired commander from East Palatka was then sentenced to two years in prison for hiding the fight with Tur, whose body was found after both fought at the retired commander’s home on the island base.
Prosecutors argued Nettleton was still culpable for concealing a drunken altercation over the captain’s relationship with Tur’s wife, although the reason he died was never revealed. Prosecutors also argued that even if Nettleton didn’t kill Tur, staying quiet deprived searchers of information they needed to locate the civilian contractor.
Tur was working with the base’s Naval Exchange when he confronted Nettleton about claims of an affair during a party, prosecutors said. There was a fight later that night at Nettleton’s home, and Tur’s body was found two days later in the water.
During court proceedings, members of Tur’s family told the judge about their devastation after his death, saying they were haunted by questions about what happened. Mike Tur, his brother, called the sentence prosecutors were seeking “a relative slap on the wrist.”
The family’s lawsuit gives details of the fight between the two men, some of it witnessed by Nettleton’s daughter. It says Tur suffered four broken ribs, skull contusions and a deep cut over an eye. It says Tur’s blood “was scattered all over Nettleton’s house.”
According to the lawsuit, Nettleton “took the injured Tur to the water and caused him to be drowned knowing that his body would wash out to sea and likely never be found.”
“Following Tur’s killing, Nettleton then cleaned up and destroyed as much physical evidence as possible inside his house,” the lawsuit says. “Nettleton also attempted to sell his boat which was docked at the pier the night Tur disappeared, and the boat was also extensively cleaned.”
The lawsuit states that Sabanosh knew or should have known that “her lies to NCIS and her abhorrent testimony at trial would cause serious emotional distress to the Tur family.”
“Sabanosh flipping the Tur family the middle finger during the criminal trial further indicates her mindset and desire to hurt the Turs,” it says.
And Wirfel also should have known that her concealment of vital information would cause emotional distress to the Tur family. Her holding back pertinent information “was done in a reckless disregard for the emotional harm which is certain to result from such actions.”
The lawsuit demands a jury trial but does not state a specific amount of compensatory and punitive damages. Those named in the lawsuit had not filed responses as of Thursday.
This article is written by Dan Scanlan from The Florida Times-Union and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the Industry Dive publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to email@example.com.
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