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Did she jump or was she pushed? 'Dateline' NBC profiles death of former Jacksonville resident

A Jacksonville father was prominently featured in a 2-hour report on NBC's 'Dateline' about the murder of his 32-year-old daughter in Belgium.
Credit: Hardage-Giddens Chapel Hills Funeral Home and Cemetary

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — This story was originally reported by the Florida Times-Union.

For the first year or so after his daughter's 2015 death, Jacksonville businessman John Hove could not bear to turn on the radio in fear he might hear a news report about her case.

He needed quiet.

But after pursuing justice for psychologist daughter Johanna “Hanna” Hove-Becker for seven years — in 2022 his son-in-law, Navy Lt. Craig R. Becker, was convicted in her murder — he can easily talk about her, the winding road the case took and how he still isn't allowed to see his granddaughter.

"I think about my daughter every day," he said. "Now I've got a little bit of distance."

Hove, 68, was prominently featured in a two-hour report at 7 p.m. Sunday on NBC's "Dateline" about the murder of his 32-year-old daughter in Belgium. 

What happened to Johanna Hove-Becker?

The report recounts how Hove, president of Buffers USA in Jacksonville, which manufactures and sells intermodal parts and hardware, was "determined to find out what happened to his daughter after her fatal fall from a penthouse apartment," according to NBC News.

Her death was initially ruled a suicide and even after Belgian police charged her estranged husband, the Navy refused for years to take jurisdiction.

Correspondent Dennis Murphy interviews Hove and other "insiders close to the case," including Hove-Becker's former college roommate Elizabeth Aciego, Belgian police inspectors Claude Cloosen and Arthur Scorry, Officer Fredrick Valle and attorney David Sheldon, according to the network.

In 2022 a U.S. military jury in Mons, Belgium, found Becker guilty of "premeditated murder, assault consummated by a battery and conducting unbecoming an officer and a gentleman," according to the Navy Times.

Becker, who was serving at NATO headquarters in Brussels at the time, maintained his innocence with his attorneys attributing his wife's death to suicide because of mental illness. His appeal is pending.

The "assault consummated by a battery charge" stemmed from Hove-Becker being poisoned the day of her death with tramadol, an opioid, and zolpidem, a sleeping medication, according to the Times. The "conduct unbecoming" charge 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 publication said.

He was given a life sentence with the possibility of parole and a dismissal from the service.

This story was originally reported by the Florida Times-Union. 

What was the Navy's role in Lt. Craig Becker's case?

"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," according to the Times.

The Navy argued that the Naval Criminal Investigative Service had no authority for an independent homicide investigation on non-military property in Belgium. They also had no subpoena power over work done by Belgian police and the witnesses they assembled.

Becker's attorney accused the Navy of abandoning his client to "circumvent Becker’s constitutional rights," according to the Times. In 2018 the attorney filed a complaint and former Defense Secretary James Mattis ordered the Navy to take jurisdiction.

At the time, Becker had been in Belgian custody, either in jail or under house arrest.

He told the San Diego Tribune in 2017: "It’s pretty unfortunate and frustrating … You don’t expect, as a U.S. service member on active duty, to find yourself confined to your apartment building. I really don’t have any support from the Navy and it’s been like that for a significant period of time. I spend a lot of time thinking about when it’s all going to end. When is someone going to come and assist me?"

He was arraigned and court-martialed at Naval Base San Diego.

Bereaved father left with memories of Hanna Hove-Becker

"I never really liked him," Hove told The Florida Times-Union. "He was standoffish … So full of himself."

Hove and his late wife, Yvonne, and only child Hove-Becker moved to Jacksonville in 1989 from Sweden where he was an attorney and judge. He had decided to take up business law and moved to the U.S. to expand the family business, moving shipping containers via rail, ships and trucks, with his brother running the show back home.

"I wanted more excitement," Hove said.

Hove-Becker was 6 at the time. She attended Arlington Country Day School and the University of North Florida, where she obtained a master's degree in psychology, he said.

"She was very intelligent, bubbly, opinionated, easy to talk to," he said.

Hove-Becker was a triathlete and particularly excelled at cycling and swimming. "She was like a seal," her father said, but was challenged by running. She had trouble adopting the right "technique," he said.

Hove wonders what kind of girl his granddaughter Isabelle, born in 2014, is becoming. Becker, who retains parental rights as long as his appeal is pending, has not allowed Hove to see her. Hove does not even know where she lives.

"I haven't seen her in eight years," Hove said. "She would not know me."

Yvonne Hove died in 2018. But Hove has almost fulfilled a promise he had to his wife — to finish their longtime restoration of a riverfront mansion in Avondale, known as the Lane-Towers House. A few more weeks, he said, and it will be done.

"It's a big job," he said. "But I have gotten a lot of support. I am grateful."

This story was originally reported by the Florida Times-Union. 


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