KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, ClosingsPlea deal reached in Marine murder case

Plea deal reached in Marine murder case


DUBUQUE (KWWL) -- A man accused of killing an army nurse, and Dubuque native, Holley Wimunc-James will spend life in prison without parole. Monday afternoon, a judge in North Carolina accepted a plea bargain from Marine Corporal John Wimunc.  Instead of the death penalty, he wil spend life in prison.

John Wimunc pleaded guilty to all charges including first degree murder, conspiracy to commit murder and arson. In July 2008 police found the burned body of 24-year-old Second Lieutenant Holley Wimunc in a wooded area near Camp LeJeune Marine Base in North Carolina.

Wimunc was charged with first degree murder and it was treated as a death penalty case. Holley's family expected a trial, but didn't expect it for at least another year. Friday afternoon, Holley's dad, Jesse James, received a call from the district attorney in North Carolina saying John Wimunc was considering a guilty plea.

"The tragic loss of Holley is inexplicable. I don't know how to explain that," James said.

Several times a week since his daughter's murder, James stops at the cemetery to visit her grave.

"Losing Holley is such an overwhelming emotion that there isn't room for a lot of other emotions there," James said.

Back in July 2008, when the murder happened, James was told the trial would take a lot longer due to the death penalty. He imagined it'd be a year from now. They also told him it'd take four to six weeks.

Then he got a call and learned his former son-in-law was considering pleading guilty.

After a weekend of more waiting, Monday afternoon, James received another call from the district attorney in North Carolina.

"He reported to me that John Wimunc has pleaded guilty to all the existing charges, that none of them had been downgraded to lesser charges. And in exchange for that they dropped the death penalty and he received a sentence of life without parole," James said.

It was a relief of sorts, knowing his daughter's killer would spend the rest of his life in prison.

"There's something about him having to go before a court and say he did it. It doesn't change our reality," James said.

A reality that both the James and Wimunc families will have to face.

"We lost a loving and compassionate girl. They lost a son who could commit such a horrific crime. So we do have sadness for his family," James said.

James says he wanted to get this story out because he is so grateful for support he received from the Dubuque community. He said it took them four weeks to get Holley's remains back to Iowa and in those four weeks they didn't cook a single meal because of all the support. He says they couldn't have gone through this without their support and he is forever grateful.

Online Reporter: Lauren Squires

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