A judge sentenced a 20-year-old transient to 20 years in prison Thursday for fatally stabbing a disabled Joint Base Lewis-McChord soldier 14 times in the back, neck and head during a drug-fueled attack in March.
The soldier, Nathaniel Ollis, 29, from Maine, was killed in his apartment in the 500 block of Lilly Road just 21/2 years after he suffered permanent injuries when an improvised explosive device detonated while he was serving with the 5th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division in Afghanistan.
Thurston County Superior Court Judge Carol Murphy handed down Dwight Bradsbery’s sentence after hearing a prepared speech by the dead soldier’s older sister, who flew in from Seabrook, N.H.
Ollis lived in various places in Maine during his life, including Mexico, Auburn, Lewiston and Harrison.
Lisa Ollis-Ruszczyk spoke of how she believes Bradsbery deserves more than a 20-year sentence for killing her brother. Prior to Thursday’s hearing, Bradsbery had pleaded guilty to second-degree murder, residential burglary, theft of a motor vehicle and attempting to elude police.
“Respect for our soldiers, God bless America, doesn’t that mean anything today?” Ollis-Ruszczyk said as she addressed Judge Murphy. “Sometimes I think our men and women in the military are in more danger here in America than they are overseas. Why would people want to hurt the ones that are protecting us? I just don’t understand.”
Bradsbery stabbed Ollis 14 times in the back, neck and head, Thurston County Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Scott Jackson said in court Thursday. Court papers quote Bradsbery saying the 12-inch knife broke apart during the attack, leaving the blade in Ollis’ body.
Jackson said that there is no way to make sense of Ollis’ murder and no motive, other than the fact that Ollis and Bradsbery had become deeply involved in the local drug culture. Bradsbery’s attorney, Alexander Frix, conceded that his client was high on methamphetamine at the time of Ollis’ death.
Ollis was using a wheelchair when he was murdered. He had suffered two shattered heels on Sept. 24, 2009, when a 550-pound bomb ripped through his Stryker vehicle in southeastern Afghanistan. Three of Ollis’ friends and fellow soldiers died in the blast. The bomb went off as the Stryker was traveling outside the village of Omar Zai.
Ollis attended his friends’ funerals on Oct. 7, 2009, and spoke with a newspaper reporter. “There didn’t seem to be anything out of the ordinary before he got hit,” Ollis said at the funeral. “We were just driving and it went off. The floor ripped in two.”
Outside court Thursday, Ollis-Ruszczyk said that after her brother returned to the United States, “he was more distraught over losing his buddies than he was over losing his feet.” She said she knew her brother was in bad shape from the trauma, as well as the pain of separating from his wife, and had turned to drugs as he awaited discharge from the Army in Olympia.
Ollis-Ruszczyk added that her brother was haunted by guilt that he had survived the blast but his friends had died. She said her brother told her that just minutes before the blast, Ollis’ captain ordered him to change his assigned seat on the Stryker. If the captain hadn’t ordered that change, Ollis believed he would have died in the blast, she said.
Judge Murphy said the facts surrounding the case are sad, and an “indication of what a culture of drug abuse does and how it impacts our community.”
Ollis leaves behind two young sons and a stepdaughter, Ollis-Ruszczyk said. Ollis’ estranged wife, Callie Ollis, submitted a victim’s impact statement to the court prior to Thursday’s sentencing, explaining how the homicide has “torn apart” her family. “Nathaniel had two weeks left in the Army,” she wrote. “He was excited to start his new life. We were all waiting to come home.”
Ollis was found dead in his apartment March 9. Olympia police arrested Bradsbery and a second man, Trey Jones, on March 12 after a multicounty chase that ended in a crash on Interstate 5 near Kelso. Jones faces a pending charge of rendering criminal assistance in connection with Ollis’ death.
The chase began about 3 p.m. March 12 near Centralia and continued along several back roads in Lewis and Cowlitz counties for about 30 minutes, Olympia Police Lt. Jim Costa has said.
“These guys were throwing things out of the car,” Costa said in a March interview. “At one point they were shooting fireworks out of the car at them. It got pretty crazy.”
According to court papers, Jones told detectives that he and others had helped clean blood from the crime scene on Lilly Road. Jones said he was “masterminding” the cleanup efforts because “I’m the smartest one,” court papers state. Jones said he was injecting methamphetamine during the police pursuit on I-5.
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