Prosecutors: Barksdale airman admitted to choking 2-year-old stepson

Prosecutors: Barksdale airman admitted to choking 2-year-old stepson

BARKSDALE AFB, LA (KSLA) - A Barksdale airman charged with the murder of his 2-year-old stepson remains in confinement after a preliminary hearing on base Friday morning.

Airman 1st Class Colton Ballance, assigned to the 2nd Security Forces Squadron at Barksdale Air Force Base, was charged Dec. 23 with the child's death.

The preliminary hearing is required to determine whether there is enough evidence for the charge to stand and whether the case should advance to a court martial.

An autopsy ruled the cause of the boy's death as acute strangulation.

During the hearing Friday morning on base, the government argued that A1C Ballance admitted to military investigators that he had put his hands on the boy's neck.

Ballance has been in custody on base since Oct. 14. A day earlier, Ballance's wife called base emergency officials to report that she believed her son had died. The child had been put to bed the night before and authorities said when she went to check on him that following morning he was unresponsive. Ballance was questioned and later arrested.

The only testimony during the hearing came from forensic pathologist Dr. Terri Haddix via telephone from California. The airman's defense counsel called Dr. Haddix to discuss her review of the autopsy findings, which she determined did not show evidence of strangulation, but long-term oxygen deprivation. The government counsel also questioned Haddix, asking her whether a grown adult could cause the injury seen in the autopsy. Haddix said it was possible.

According to the Uniform Code of Military Justice, Article 118 (3) - Murder - is defined as, "Any person subject to this chapter who, without justification or excuse, unlawfully kills a human being, when he is engaged in an act that is inherently dangerous to another and evinces a wanton disregard of human life."

Preliminary Hearing Officer Lt. Col. Brendon Tukey has asked for final statements from both the government and defense by close of business Monday. A ruling is expected sometime next week.

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