Missing Nurse's Marine Husband Charged With Murder

John Wimunc was charged with murder after police found charred remains of wife.


July 14, 2008— -- A Marine arrested at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina was charged today with murdering his estranged wife, an Army nurse who disappeared four days ago and whose charred remains police believe they found Sunday in a brush fire near the base.

Cpl. John Patrick Wimunc, 23, a Marine stationed at Camp Lejeune, was arrested around 4:30 p.m. Sunday and initially charged with arson for a fire that burned through Lt. Holley Wimunc's Fayetteville, N.C., apartment on Thursday, the day she went missing.

Police are awaiting a medical examiner's report to confirm publicly that the body found near Camp Lejeune, some 130 miles from Fayetteville, belonged to the nurse, but investigators said they have strong suspicions it is her and a family member said police had told them it was her.

Fayetteville Police Chief Tom Bergamine told reporters that investigators would need to conduct more tests to confirm the identity of the body, but hinted they suspected it was Wimunc.

Police said evidence suggested that the body had been first burned in the Fayetteville fire and was then brought to the outskirts of the base in an effort to further destroy the evidence.

"I can say with great certainty she was killed here in Fayetteville," Bergamine said.

Bergamine would not suggest a motive in the murder, though the couple was reportedly in the midst of a bitter divorce and Holley had procured a restraining order against her husband.

John Patrick Wimunc and codefendant Kyle Ryan Alden, 22, were arrested Sunday afternoon and initially charged with arson in relation to the Fayetteville apartment fire.

On Monday, police charged Wimunc with first degree murder and Alden with conspiracy to commit murder.

Police said the remains of the discovered woman were so badly burned she could not be identified by sight alone.

Though police said they must await official confirmation of the victim's identity to make a public statement, Holley Wimunc's father said in a statement this morning that police told him that his daughter's remains had been found.

"It is with profound sadness that our family just received the news from authorities that our beloved daughter Holley is dead," Jesse James, of Dubuque, Iowa, said in the statement.

"Since last Thursday's shocking news about Holley's burned apartment and her missing person status, our family through the country has nonetheless been holding on to a thin thread of hope that she would be found alive," James said.

"Today, that thread of hope broke as her body was discovered."

John Wimunc and Alden were being held at the Cumberland County Detention Center and are scheduled to appear in court Tuesday, Debbie Smith, a spokeswoman for the county sheriff, told ABCNews.com.

John Wimunc is being held on $500,000 bail and Alden on $250,000 bail, she said.

Division of Forest Resources personnel found the burned human remains when they responded to a fire in the Sneads Ferry area near the southern border of Camp Lejeune late Sunday afternoon, according to The Associated Press.

Onslow County Sheriff Ed Brown said in a statement that the brush fire in which the human remains were found appeared to have been set in an effort to cover up the crime.

"Paraphrenalia around the charred remains gave investigators strong suspicions this was the missing Army lieutenant female missing from Fayetteville," Brown said.

Police have been searching for Holley Wimunc since Thursday, when she failed to show up for her nursing job at Fort Bragg's military hospital maternity ward and a fire was found in her apartment.

Authorities quickly ruled that the fire had been intentionally set with the help of an accelerant, Lt. David Sportsman, spokesman for the Fayetteville Police Department, told ABCNews.com on Friday.

According to divorce documents cited by ABC News' Raleigh-Durham affiliate WTVD, Holley Wimunc had a restraining order out on her husband and claimed that at one point he held a gun to her head and threatened to kill her.

Several local, state, federal and military agencies have been involved in the investigation including the ATF, the FBI, as well as Army and Navy investigators.

ABCNews.com's David Schoetz and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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