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Army Lt. Col. charged with hiring hit man to kill wife, superior officer

Post by Stacia Glenn / The News Tribune on March 13, 2012 at 3:33 pm with 30 Comments »
March 13, 2012 8:29 pm
Courtesy of KIRO-TV

An Army lieutenant colonel was charged today with three counts of felony harassment for allegedly hiring a hit man to kill his estranged wife and superior officer at Joint Base Lewis-McChord.

Robert Underwood, 46, was arraigned this afternoon in Pierce County Superior Court. A not guilty plea was entered on his behalf. Bail was set at $250,000 for the Steilacoom man. A restraining order remains in place for his wife of 18 years and their two teenage daughters.

Pierce County sheriff’s detectives arrested Underwood Monday night at JBLM after somebody called to report he had threatened to blow up the Capitol Building.

Detectives soon discovered he had made threats against his wife, girlfriend and boss. Pornographic images of children – including one of a sleeping relative and others of young girls possibly taken in Afghanistan – were also found on his laptop, according to DuPont police records.

“The totality of everything sounded like he was having some issues and could pose a real threat,” sheriff’s spokesman Ed Troyer said.” We weren’t going to wait to find out and have somebody get hurt.”

According to charging documents:

Underwood’s girlfriend contacted his estranged wife earlier this month to tell her that Underwood “was on the edge.”

He told his girlfriend, whom he has been dating for three months, he had paid a man $150,000 to kill his wife and superior officer. Underwood bragged about how the money would not be found because it was in a foreign account.

The girlfriend then borrowed Underwood’s laptop and found a photograph of a naked relative sleeping in bed. He had also researched how to get teenagers drunk and have sex with them.

When she confronted Underwood, “he told her that her head was on the chopping block.”

The wife told Pierce County sheriff’s detectives that Underwood has “an arsenal of weapons,” could save $150,000 and would likely carry out his threats. She sought a military protection order against him in December.

Prosecutors said Underwood has been going through a “nasty” divorce for the last two years and recently things have not been going his way in court hearings. The couple was due to appear in court March 22.

Underwood recently told one of his daughters “that he was going to do something crazy and it would be on the news, the world would know about it and he was going to resign his commission,” according to charging documents.

After learning of the threats, Underwood’s superior officer, a colonel, ordered Underwood to be involuntarily evaluated.

Underwood has deployed three times but does not suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, according to the military.

Prosecutors said when Underwood was 9 he witnessed his mother kill his two siblings. His mother also shot Underwood five times and left him for dead, records show.

In addition to threats made against people in his life, Underwood also spoke of blowing up the State Capitol and working with the Taliban. He said if he was contacted by the Taliban “he would give them what they wanted,” according to police records.

Underwood arrived at JBLM in January and is assigned to the 191st Infantry Brigade, which is a training support brigade for the Army Reserve and National Guard.

He has deployed  three times. He went to Bosnia from July to October 1998; Iraq in 2003; and Afghanistan from June 2008 to January.

Underwood enlisted in the Army in 1988 and has earned several awards, including two Bronze Star medals and a Meritorious Service Medal.

Leave a comment Comments → 30
  1. NineInchNachosII says:

    awesome week for JBLM ‘most troubled base’ meme

  2. DeschutesMan says:

    Seems to be real sane to me too! No excuse, however other men do that same thing but they are not in the military nor have they been to war ( except with the spouse )

  3. NineInchNachosII says:

    shut the base down. sell everything. turn it into a Christmas tree farm. free lobotomies for the criminally insane.

  4. fivecardstud says:

    And these are the people protecting us? Now we just need someone to protect us from them.

  5. nosugarcoating says:

    I’m willing to bet that the location of JBLM has nothing to do with any of these crimes, it’s the people that are coming back from war that are damaged that are causing the issues. Many of you forget that JBLM is a fairly large base and therefore there are lots of soldiers coming back mentally screwed up. Yeah it’s sad, but it’s not the bases fault.

  6. guidocarmasi says:

    Post Traumatic Disorder? He watched his mother kill his two siblings and also shot him? What is that called “Father Knows Best?” How did he ever get in the Army?

  7. everybodiesmom says:

    Just curious if he was diagnosed with not having PTSD before or after the shake up at the base regarding PTSD? Was he ever tested for PTSD? Although I don’t think even that would be a defense against plotting to kill your wife and your boss and threatening your girlfriend. Looks like they should require a deep psychological evaluation of all soldiers returning from deployment. Mandatory, no exceptions.

  8. Looks like JBLM is a Pandora’s Box, a living example of hell on earth!!!

  9. Just another day at JBLM of late. No real surprise.

  10. This is part of the untabulated “cost of war” not directly associated with ammunition, vehicles, planes, equipment, etc. that can never be changed. It’s a very sad situation that even Haliburton can not be paid to address.

  11. tortoise says:

    How did this guy ever get a security clearance, much less keep one. This can’t be a recent development. O-5….wow.

  12. tortoise says:

    How did this guy ever get a security clearance, much less keep one. This can’t be a recent development. O-5….wow.
    Please tell me he isn’t a West Point boy.

  13. What a mess of a base! Shut it down before more of ‘em lose it. It’s become a danger to the area.

  14. Atenhouse1 says:

    TheSlag, navguy and fivecardstud, please continue relating what you little or nothing of.

    Have any of you served, or do you sit on the sidelines and pass judgment?.

    I will bet that navguy MIGHT be one of those homeported “combatants” from NSB Bangor…

    Enjoy your Freedom!

  15. SandHills says:

    You are right atenhouse1, just having the nickname of slag pretty much tells you what rock they come out from under to throw rocks.

  16. NineInchNachosII says:

    Where did he get the 150 K ? Selling black-market rifle scopes and assault rifle accessories?

  17. I don’t know what’s in the water over there at Lewis, but they need to fire the Base Commander, Striker Brigade Commander and their assistants. It’s time the Air Force step and for it’s name back as well, no need dragging the outstanding Airmen at McChord through all of Lewis’s mess.

  18. I don’t know what’s in the water over there at Lewis, but they need to fire the Base Commander, Striker Brigade Commander and their assistants. It’s time the Air Force step up and ask for it’s name back as well, no need dragging the outstanding Airmen at McChord through all of Lewis’s mess.

  19. hultmale says:

    Weird how all these guys we keep training to kill people keep killing people.

  20. truthbusterguy says:

    No-vet, draft dodging, liberals should not comment here. Only VETS please:

    War (or a battle in a war) can be as shocking to the human mind as a serious plane crash, car crash, earth quake, flood, terrorist attack (September 11, 2001), etc. Some folks “go crazy” after experiences such as those.

    However…many thousands upon thousands upon thousands of men have experienced war; in just the Vietnam War alone. And very very few of them “went crazy.” Discounting the men that “saw red” (went sort of crazy during the heat of battle) of course. That’s normal, almost all men in the “heat of battle” get super angry and fight like…well, like “crazy men.” That’s good! For when the fighting’s over with, they’re our heros. But once the battle’s over with, EVERYONE expects him to drop back to normal. And 99.9% percent of them do. But there’s always one or two that or more that don’t.

  21. hurricanebree says:

    This just makes one wonder how many more soldiers are out there with this mentality regarding Afganistan and the Taliban..Maybe we should be talking a closer look at what is really happening to our soldiers and have some sort of check and balances as for the amount of deployments that an individual soldier can pull..

  22. ginahopk says:

    It’s not the bases’ fault. This guy would have tried to have his boss killed even if he was never in the military. He’s probably a liar also, as most sociopaths are manipulaters. I don’t believe that story about his mother. He’s trying to manipulate and get sympathy so his sentence will be decreased.

  23. CLOSE THIS FU(%ING BASE DOWN!!!! Ever since I’ve been here, since the mid ’80s, these idiot soldiers have done nothing but cause trouble around here. Send them ALL to Iraq/Afghanistan/Syria, whatever; they want to be bad-asses, fine, send them PERMANENTLY to where they can be used for some good. Now, this idiot Underwood will make an insanity plea, go to Western State for awhile, and will probably be allowed to retire with his pension from the Army with all the other military retirement trimmings. Too bad Mommy didn’t finish the job on him when he was a little kid, not that we believe that that really happened to him.

  24. rgardner says:

    A couple of odd things in the story that are likely errors.

    – Officers don’t “enlist,” they are commissioned (as opposed to enlisted, easy distinction to remember). He may have been enlisted prior (Mustang).
    – 13 years (since 1998) isn’t enough time to make O-5/LtCol as a line officer unless he is a total hot runner and promoted early twice and had just pinned it on. Promotion flow point for LtCol is 15 to 17 years. Given his age (46) he entered the military when he was around 33? In specialty fields (like MD, DDS or Civil Engineer) with an advanced degree he could have been commissioned as an O-2 or O-3 and could be an O-5 now – but he is attached to an infantry training brigade.

    As for the double-negative Joint service hater above (dissing the Navy), you speak about that which you know little (no more NSB Bangor since 2004 for example). And RRAnderson’s (4:05) comments aren’t funny, even in a cynical sense. They are inane.

  25. HaleRevere says:

    Fivecardstud,
    Please don’t allow the actions of a few to tarnish the honor, values, character and reputation of the rest of us who have served.
    There are thousands of us who are still willing to give our lives for you.

  26. Atenhouse1 says:

    rgardner: I was just trying to narrow it down for all of our interested readers. People might have thought I was referring to “Torpedo Town” or the shipyard. Take a gander at the sign about 75 meters from the gate and you will see “Homeported Combatants” with the names of the Tridents on display for all to see. Great OPSEC.

    Oh…and “mustang” is a U.S. Navy/Marine term.

    Tacjam: If I need CAS/TAC Air, I would rather call Navy/Marine Air…I’ve had too many close calls with Air Force jet-jockeys. Stick to hauling supplies and providing transportation.

    Thanks!

  27. rgardner,

    According to this Triblog post, the Col “enlisted” in 1988 making the prospect of him being former enlisted plausible.

  28. truthnjustice says:

    This story is not over. Underwood is a great guy, does not have PTSD, and did not do any of the things that the press says he may have done. He did not do the things he was charged with either. Notice he was only charged with felony harrassment. The other things were just made up lies with nothing to back it up, absoutely no evidence. The authorities didn’t even do a real investigation. The harrassment charges were the best they could come up with and they don’t have evidence for that either. It’s he said, she said. And she is known drunken, lier, trying to get back at Underwood for not liking her. So what do you have now? I’d say a DA looking for a big story to help his career. Watch this turn into a witch hunt when he can’t find what he needs. He’ll distect Underwood’s life looking for anything so he doesn’t look like a giant fool, and end up ruining a war heros life.

  29. truthnjustice says:

    And the charges were dropped. No evidence was found, as I said would happen. Some of the comments that were made were so outragous, ridiculous and down right mean. Hope those mean commenters get what they get coming to them. Underwood is a great guy. The women involved in trying to bring him down will get theirs, too.

  30. truthnjustice says:

    And the charges were dropped. No evidence was found, as I said would happen. Underwood is inncent. Some of the comments that were made were so outragous, ridiculous and down right mean. Hope those mean commenters get what they get what they deserve. Underwood is a great guy. The women involved in trying to bring him down will get theirs, too.

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