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Families speak out following four-day trial

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POSTED: March 28, 2014 5:18 p.m.
Randy C. Murray/

Alma and Christine Wetzker, parents of Deirdre Aguigui, talk to reporters after their son-in-law was found guilty of murdering their daughter and the death of their unborn grandson.

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FORT STEWART — Pvt. Isaac Aguigui received another life sentence Thursday, this time from military Judge (Col.) Andrew J. Glass at the conclusion of a four-day court-martial.

Aguigui is already serving two life sentences for murders he committed in Long County as the leader of FEAR, an anti-government gang.

Glass found Aguigui guilty of murdering his wife, Sgt. Deirdre Aguigui, and killing their unborn son. His sentence requires Aguigui to forfeit of all pay and allowances, serve life without the possibility of parole and receive a dishonorable discharge from the Army.

Defense counsel offered no witnesses to testify on Aguigui’s behalf. Instead, Capts. William Cook and Scott Noto asked for clemency, reminding Glass that Aguigui is a very young man with a long life ahead of him — a life he’ll spend in a prison cell.

Cook said life without the possibility of parole was cruel.

“Nothing this court does is going to bring back Deirdre,” Cook said. “It’s an incredible loss, but life without parole could mean 50 or 60 years in prison. Pvt. Aguigui is still a young man.

“There is a board that can evaluate him many years from now, maybe not even in my lifetime. There’s no reason he can’t be a reformed man by then.”

Cook asked the judge for life with the possibility of parole. He also asked that Aguigui be transferred from the Georgia prison system to the federal prison at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.

Glass responded immediately to the second request, saying that transferring a prisoner from a state prison to federal prison was not within the authority of the court.

The trial counsel did call witnesses to the stand and introduced more evidence to support their request for life without the possibility for parole. They called Deirdre’s parents Alma and Christine Wetzker.

Alma Wetzker began his testimony by describing his daughter as very smart, intensely emotional and somewhat rebellious.

“I called her my rebel without a pause,” he said. “She had six siblings, and she was different than all of them. If she didn’t have something constructive to do, Deirdre would find something.”

Trial attorney Capt. Catherine Parnell presented nine photos as new evidence then showed them to Wetzker. The individual common in each of the photos was Deirdre, including her baby picture and one with her dancing with her father during what he called a father-daughter dance. She was 12 or 13 years old at the time, he said.

Earlier testimony by medical pathologists noted the Deirdre was 23 to 26 weeks pregnant when she was murdered by her husband on July 17, 2011.

When asked how news of losing Deirdre and his grandson has affected him personally, Wetzker said it was a mental blow from which he has not and may not ever recover.

“I was numb at first,” he said. “It was all I could do to respond to people ... It’s changed the way I interact with my family. I (now) need to know where everyone in my family is at all times ... The one question I can’t seem to answer anymore is, ‘How many children do you have?’ I don’t know.”

He said depression has made it difficult for him to work and that his wife has responded to the loss by becoming withdrawn. She’s pulled away from the family, he said, and some of their children have reacted the same way.

The recent marriage of one of their other daughters should have been a happy occasion, Wetzker said. However, because she also married a soldier, he said negative associations and comparisons are hard to avoid.

When she was on the witness stand, Christine Wetzker was shown a teddy bear, which had been introduced as new evidence. She told Parnell the stuffed bear was given to Deirdre for Christmas 2008.

Deirdre took it with her to Iraq, where she kept it on her bunk against Army regulations. She had another stuffed animal she called Mousy, which she’d had for years. That toy was cremated with Deirdre’s remains, Wetzker said.

Wetzker said they were surprised when the mortuary director at Deirdre’s funeral offered to let them hold their deceased, unborn son, whom Deirdre had already named Calvin.

She admitted it had still not settled in her mind what had happened, so when she learned she would get the chance to hold her grandson, she was excited. Then she discovered how cold his little body was, even though he was wrapped in a blanket.

She said she understood that she’d never get phone calls or email post from Deirdre that Calvin had gotten his first tooth, said his first word or taken his first step.

After the sentencing, the Wetzkers took time to talk with news media about the court’s decision and sentencing.

Alma Wetzker surprised many by saying they had in fact lost three members of their family — Deirdre, Calvin and Isaac. He said he wants Aguigui to know that he forgives him and will continue to pray for him.

Ed and Annette Aguigui also spoke to the media. Weeping softly, Annette Aguigui admitted she didn’t know what happened to her son, but as a mother, she still loved him.

“You don’t just stop loving your kids,” she said. “Anybody who knows us knows we’re family people. Our little grandson is gone ... I’m angry, and I’m broken. We’re victims, too.”

 

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