A former member of the U.S. Army stands accused in Florida federal court of murdering a pregnant fellow soldier who was working as a battalion cook in Germany back in 2001.
The Department of Justice, more than 21 years after Pfc. Amanda Gonzales was killed by asphyxiation on Nov. 3, 2001, identified 42-year-old Shannon L. Wilkerson as the suspect.
“The murder occurred at Fliegerhorst Kaserne, then a U.S. Army base in Hanau, Germany. Wilkerson was a member of the Armed Forces at the time of the alleged offense but was later discharged from the Army,” the feds said, noting that the Military Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act (or MEJA) has empowered investigators to pursue the case.
“MEJA subjects certain individuals to federal prosecution for felony offenses committed outside the United States, provided the offense would have been subject to federal prosecution within the special maritime and territorial jurisdiction of the United States,” the DOJ website explains. “MEJA permits the exercise of criminal jurisdiction over crimes committed outside the United States if at the time of the offense the offender was (1) employed by the Armed Forces outside the United States; (2) accompanying the Armed Forces outside the United States; or (3) a member of the Armed Forces.”
Long before identifying a suspect, the feds said that Gonzales was working her first assignment in the Army as a battalion cook when she was brutally killed.
“Amanda Gonzales in Hanau, Germany. Gonzales, 19, was four months pregnant at the time of her murder,” the FBI said. “Her body was found on November 5, 2001, in her third-floor barracks room on Fliegerhorst Kasern, near Hanau, Germany, after she did not report for work. Gonzales, on her first assignment in the Army, was assigned to the Headquarters Supply Company of the 127th Aviation Support battalion as a cook at the time of her death. The cause of death was ruled a homicide by asphyxiation.”
According to the brief indictment against Wilkerson, the suspect was discharged from the U.S. Army on July 31, 2004 and was discharged from the U.S. Army reserve on June 12, 2007.
Wilkerson, “with malice aforethought, and with premeditation, did kill unlawfully Amanda Gonzales, a human being,” said the indictment.
In July 2020, Gonzales’ surviving family members were interviewed about their reaction to the case of Vanessa Guillen, a former private in the U.S. Army who, like Gonzales, was allegedly murdered by a fellow member of the armed forces.
Gonzales’ mother reportedly told KBTX she thought “oh my God, this is my daughter all over again,” when learning about Guillen’s murder. One of Gonzales’ cousins also expressed hope that Guillen’s death would shine a light once again on her loved one’s unsolved case.
“My family deserves closure,” Stephanie Jackson wrote in 2020 on Facebook, sharing the #JusticeForVanessa hashtag. Now, more than three years later, the DOJ says it is ready to pursue justice for Amanda Gonzales in the courts.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Hope T. Cannon signed off on the arrest warrant in the case on Tuesday, Feb. 21, in Pensacola.
The court docket in the Northern District of Florida case indicates that Randall Lockhart has been appointed as Wilkerson’s public defender and that a detention hearing is set for 10:30 a.m. on March 3.
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