Years after his wife’s fatal fall from a Belgian apartment balcony, a junior Navy officer has been sentenced to life in prison for murdering her.
A U.S. military jury in Mons, Belgium, this spring found Lt. Craig R. Becker guilty of premeditated murder, assault consummated by a battery and conducting unbecoming an officer and a gentleman in connection to the death of Johanna Hove-Becker, 32, who plunged to her death from the seventh floor of their apartment there on Oct. 8, 2015, according to recently published Navy trial result records.
Following the April 30 conviction, Becker was sentenced to a life sentence with the possibility of parole and a dismissal from the service.
Becker’s civilian attorney, Jeremiah Sullivan, did not return a request for comment by Navy Times’ deadline.
The junior officer was charged with assault consummated by a battery for “unlawfully” poisoning his wife the day of her death with a drug cocktail that included the opioid tramadol and the zolpidem sleeping medication, and for strangling her in 2013, according to Becker’s charge sheet.
Becker’s conduct unbecoming charges stemmed from him impersonating Hove-Becker on text messages on the day of her passing, and for lying to local police when he told them he didn’t know the passcode for her phone.
The junior officer’s conviction marks the end of a long legal saga that saw the Navy initially unwilling to prosecute one of their own, even though Becker was assigned to a NATO command in Belgium at the time and fell under the alliance’s Status of Forces Agreement, which allows the military to take jurisdiction over cases involving personnel overseas.
Why the Navy declined to take on Becker’s case remains unclear.
Becker was in Belgian custody for more than two years after Hove-Becker’s death, and the Navy didn’t take over jurisdiction until defense attorney Sullivan filed a complaint in court and former Defense Secretary James Mattis ordered the sea service to do so in 2018.
He soon returned to the states and the Navy arraigned him in February 2019.
In letters and court filings, Sullivan accused Navy leaders in Europe of forum shopping the case to a foreign court to circumvent Becker’s constitutional rights.
In one filing, Sullivan noted the irony of Becker being forced to stand trial in Belgium, a “system that does not provide the constitutional protections that LT Becker was prepared to die for on the battlefield.”
Geoff is a senior staff reporter for Military Times, focusing on the Navy. He covered Iraq and Afghanistan extensively and was most recently a reporter at the Chicago Tribune. He welcomes any and all kinds of tips at firstname.lastname@example.org.