Navy member being held in slaying of fellow sailor Victim was dismembered, then dumped into trash at St. Mary's Co. school

November 12, 1995|By Sheridan Lyons | Sheridan Lyons,SUN STAFF

The Navy and the St. Mary's County sheriff's department are investigating the death and dismemberment of an enlisted man stationed at the Patuxent River Naval and Air Warfare Center in Lexington Park.

The man's torso, arms, legs and head were found in the St. Mary's County landfill last week after a three-day search by investigators using dogs, county Sheriff Richard J. Voorhaar said.

He identified the victim as Petty Officer 2nd Class Jerry Lee Culbreath, 37, of Greenwood, S.C.

A suspect in the homicide, described only as another Navy man stationed at the base whose identity was withheld yesterday by authorities, was detained last week. He was being held yesterday at the Marine base at Quantico, Va.

Representatives from the sheriff's department and the Navy are scheduled to meet tomorrow to determine charges in the case.

Charges could be filed by the county or by the Navy, which may hold the suspect four days for an investigation, the sheriff said. A spokesman for the Navy base was unavailable for comment yesterday.

Sheriff Voorhaar said that Petty Officer Culbreath apparently was killed Nov. 3 and his body had been dismembered with a handsaw. Investigators did not disclose the cause of death.

A tip first led authorities to a trash container at the Spring Ridge Middle School, where investigators believe the victim was dismembered, the sheriff said. Where he was killed was unclear.

The body parts, which the sheriff said were grouped in several trash bags, apparently were placed in the outdoor trash container late Nov. 2 or early Nov. 3.

The trash container was emptied and its contents taken to the landfill Nov. 3.

As a result of the tip, Navy and sheriff's department investigators began a three-day search at the landfill with dogs -- poking through 6 feet of rubble -- for contents of the school's trash container.

Petty Officer Culbreath was described by the sheriff as having been a reliable worker.

He was reported missing Nov. 2 by co-workers at the base, and his blood-stained Nissan 300ZX was found near his apartment, the sheriff said.

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