A Pierce County judge Friday signed an order dismissing the felony charges against a Joint Base Lewis-McChord lieutenant colonel who’d been accused of hiring a hit man to kill his estranged wife and his commanding officer.
Robert Underwood had maintained his innocence since his arrest in March, arguing he was the victim of a woman who made up stories about him when he rejected her romantic advances.
Prosecutors filed paperwork Friday saying they’d lost faith in the credibility of the woman, Serena Kiptoo, who was the main witness against Underwood.
Much of what she told investigators early in their investigation could not be corroborated, deputy prosecutor Neil Horibe said. In addition, evidence turned up showing Kiptoo might have had a motive to unfairly disparage Underwood, Horibe said.
Superior Court Judge Beverly Grant signed an order dismissing the three felony harassment charges against Underwood during a hearing Friday. The judge left open the possibility that prosecutors could refile the charges if they gather more evidence, but it appeared unlikely they would.
“When we charged the case, it appeared to be a provable case,” Horibe said. “Subsequent investigation showed that it was not.”
Underwood’s attorney, Philip Thornton of Tacoma, said his client has “been through the wringer” since his arrest.
Underwood was jailed for several days before making bail and being released. Even then he was confined to post and escorted by two soldiers when he went to court or to visit his attorney.
Thornton said he hopes to persuade the Army to lift the restrictions on his client now that the charges have been dismissed.
“He has no pending proceedings against him in the military,” Thornton said.
The charges came after Kiptoo told Underwood’s wife that he was making threats to have his wife and his commanding officer killed. Kiptoo also told investigators he’d threatened to kill her and that the two of them had been involved in a three-month relationship, court records state.
There also were allegations he’d threatened to blow up the state Capitol in Olympia.
Thornton said his client was never romantically involved with Kiptoo, calling her a “female acquaintance” of Underwood’s, and said she got him into trouble to punish him for rejecting her.
Cellphone records back Underwood’s contentions, Thornton added.
Kiptoo’s allegations also caused Underwood trouble in his divorce proceedings, in which he and his wife are in a bitter battle over custody of their children. He has been prohibited from interacting with his children as a result of Kiptoo’s allegations.adam.lynn @thenewstribune.com 253-597-8644