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Family sues former Guantanamo Bay commander for wrongful death in contractor's 2015 drowning

The lawsuit alleges Navy Capt. John Nettleton, now serving a two-year prison term, conspired with two others to hinder an investigation into Christopher Tur's death.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — The family of a civilian contractor who mysteriously drowned at Naval Base Guantanamo Bay in 2015 is suing the ex-commander of the base, its former spokesperson and the deceased man’s ex-wife.

The civil lawsuit is a wrongful death/survival claim which asserts that Christopher Tur’s drowning death was either directly caused by Captain John Nettleton, or that Nettleton is liable for any pain and suffering Tur endured before dying. It alleges the three defendant conspired to cover up information relevant to his death and in so doing cause pain and suffering.

The lawsuit was formally served on the defendants Wednesday, one week after Nettleton reported to prison for obstructing a federal investigation into the disappearance and death of Christopher Tur.

Tur was found floating in the waters of Guantanamo Bay in January 2015, two days after he vanished following a drunken brawl with Nettleton. Nettleton was never charged in Tur’s death but was convicted of lying to conceal both the bloody fistfight and his extramarital affair with Tur’s wife. He was sentenced to two years in prison in October after a jury found him guilty of six counts of obstructing justice, lying to investigators and concealing material facts from investigators.

The civil lawsuit claims Nettleton thwarted the search for Tur’s body and conspired with Tur’s wife Lara Sabanosh and the base’s Public Information Officer Kelly Wirfel “to destroy evidence, commit perjury and cover up Nettleton’s role in the death of Christopher Tur.”

“Defendant Nettleton negligently and/or grossly negligently and/or recklessly and/or intentionally caused Tur to drown knowing that his body would wash out to sea and likely never be found,” the complaint says. “At minimum, Christopher Tur – suffering severe injuries inflicted by Nettleton and intoxicated – was left on his own and drowned.”

Credit: contributed
Lara Sabonosh (formerly Lara Tur) testifies in federal court at the trial of Navy Capt. John Nettleton.

Sabanosh testified at trial that she’d repeatedly lied to NCIS investigators when asked about the affair because she didn’t think it was relevant. The complaint alleges that she inflicted emotional and mental distress through her “public flaunting of the affair with Nettleton” and that “her actions were outrageous, extreme and intolerable in a civilized society.”

The suit also alleges “Sabanosh flip[ed] the Tur family the middle finger during the criminal trial,” saying it “indicates her mindset and desire to hurt the Turs.”

Wirfel testified that she received a call from Tur the night he disappeared, and knew he’d had a fight with Nettleton. The lawsuit alleges that “while knowingly concealing information about an active death investigation, Wirfel, the public affairs official [at GITMO] made statements to the media to the affect [sic] that Christopher’s death was a suicide or maybe an accident.”

Credit: contributed
Kelly Wirfel, former Public Information Officer at Naval Base Guantanamo Bay, testifies at the trial of Capt. John Nettleton.

The suit seeks compensatory and punitive damages among others claims, but does not state a specific amount. None of the named parties have yet filed a response.