Seaman accused of murdering shipmate in Unalaska faces court martial for murder

Unalaska. (Photo by Berett Wilber/KUCB)

The U.S. Coast Guard says a seaman will face a court martial on murder and other charges in the death of a fellow seaman during a night of drinking in Unalaska.

Ethan Tucker is charged with the January 2019 death of 19-year-old Seaman Ethan Kelch of Virginia Beach, Virginia, while their vessel — the Kodiak-based Cutter Douglas Munro — was stopped in Unalaska for repairs last winter.

Military prosecutors allege the 21-year-old Tucker, of Ludington, Michigan, beat Kelch and dragged his body to the water where he was left to drown.  

During an October hearing, Tucker’s defense attorney painted a very different picture of what happened. Navy Cmdr. Justin Henderson said a bystander took video that night showing Tucker’s efforts to get Kelch out of the water, before he collapsed, exhausted and intoxicated.

According to a Coast Guard spokesperson, the decision to proceed to court martial was made last week. 

“On Dec 23, 2019, following a review of the Art. 32 hearing report and consultation with her Staff Judge Advocate on legal issues, the Convening Authority referred the six charges against SN Tucker to general court-martial,” said the spokesperson in a statement. “The case will be submitted to the USCG Chief Judge for docketing.  The Chief Judge will assign a military judge who will docket the case for adjudication.” 

Tucker is charged with six violations of the Uniform Code of Military Justice — including murder, aggravated assault, and involuntary manslaughter.

He is currently restricted to the Coast Guard base in Alameda, CA. The court martial is expected to take place in 2020.