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Ronald A. Soutiere, Witness for the Defendant



(Court convened at 10:02 a.m. The defendant was present. The jury was not present.)

THE COURT: Any matters we need to take care of before we bring the jury in?

MR. HATFIELD: No, Your Honor.

MR. PANOSH: Your Honor, I think we talked about taking a witness out of order at the end of the day, and as I understand it, he's present, and we have no opposition to that.

MR. HATFIELD: I didn't hear what was said. I'm sorry. I didn't hear what Mr. Panosh said.

THE COURT: He said he consented to taking a witness out of order. Are you ready to proceed with that witness, or --

MR. HATFIELD: I'd rather finish the direct and then proceed with the witness.

THE COURT: The State have any objection to that?

MR. PANOSH: If we're going to interrupt, we'd ask it be interrupted now. I'd like to go straight into cross-examination.

THE COURT: All right, sir.

MR. HATFIELD: I don't know why he -- it's up to him.

THE COURT: Well, the Court's going to rule that


way. I think he's entitled to keep it together. Since there's an out-of-county, out-of-state witness here, ready to proceed?

MR. HATFIELD: Yes, sir.

THE COURT: All right.

MR. HATFIELD: Can we complete the direct and then let the out-of-county witness take the stand?

THE COURT: Well, I thought I understood we were going to interrupt right now. That was agreed yesterday, when we had the administrative meeting here at the bench.

MR. LLOYD: Your Honor, my only request would be to let Mr. Kimble at least establish the background that he did go to see --

MR. HATFIELD: If we can just agree that there's a basis for this witness's testimony, then we're ready to move along.

MR. PANOSH: We don't intend to object.

THE COURT: All right.

(The jury entered the courtroom at 10:05 a.m.)

THE COURT: Very pleased to have the jury panel back. I hope the first day of school went okay so far. (Jurors nodded their head up and down.)

THE COURT: Okay. Good.

And I hope everybody had a nice evening. Anyone having any problems on the jury panel today? If so, raise


your hand.

Our court reporter is celebrating her birthday today, Marsha's birthday. She didn't tell me until just awhile ago, walking down the hall. We send best wishes for her on her birthday. And I'm sure you can, too.

Members of the jury, we're going to interrupt Mr. Kimble's testimony. We have an out-of-state witness that's here. And for the convenience of that witness, it's been agreed to by both the State and the defense, we're going to put that witness up at this point. He's being taken out of order and out of sequence, so please remember that when we come back to Mr. Kimble's testimony, the cross-examination (sic) will follow with regards to his testimony. Does everyone understand that?

Okay. If you'll call the witness, please.

MR. LLOYD: Father Ron Soutiere, please.

RONALD A. SOUTIERE, being first duly sworn, testified as follows during DIRECT EXAMINATION by MR. LLOYD:

Q    Father Soutiere, would you state your name for the record, please.

A    Ronald A. Soutiere.

Q    And how are you employed?

A    I'm a commander in the United States Navy, chaplain corps.

Q    And how long have you been in the Navy?


A    Total service counting reserves, about 23 years.

Q    And how long have you been a commander?

A    A little over three years.

Q    And as a chaplain, are you an ordained priest?

A    I'm a Roman Catholic priest for the Diocese of Burlington, Vermont, on loan to the military archdiocese as a chaplain in the United States Navy.

Q    And prior to becoming an ordained Catholic priest, Father Soutiere, did you have any special education in your background?

A    Yes. We have a year of spiritual formation, followed by eight years of study, first four years being undergraduate degree in the field of our choice, including a philosophy major. Then the next four years is four years of theological studies, full-time four years. After which I went on to graduate school in education at Boston College, University of Massachusetts, Johnson State Teachers College, all in preparation for a certification in teacher -- as a teacher in Massachusetts.

Q    And when were you ordained, Father Soutiere?

A    1974.

Q    And did you follow up on your teaching?

A    I had originally hoped to come in the Navy as a chaplain, but my bishop had other ideas. Because of my preparation, he wanted me to be a teacher at an elementary


school in a parish in Barre, Vermont. Then later on, I became a principal. And then after that, I requested to come into the chaplaincy, and he said, "Well, I need you in the high school." So I went to teach in the high school, and then became principal of that high school, and then resigned from there to come in the Navy as a chaplain in 1983.

Q    And while you were a Navy chaplain, did you have a tour of duty at Camp Lejeune?

A    Yes, I did.

Q    All right. And when was that, Father Soutiere?

A    August of '95 until January of '98.

Q    And what was your position at Camp Lejeune?

A    I'm the -- I was the assistant command chaplain in the Marine Corps base. We had supervision of 12 chapels, 14 chaplains, 32, 33 enlisted, would be what we call religious-program specialists, who work directly with us in the administrative and religious programming area, and some FAPs, or Fleet Assistance Program Marines.

Q    And where are you stationed now, Father Soutiere?

A    I'm at Lakehurst, New Jersey, naval air and engineering station in Lakehurst, New Jersey.

Q    And what is your position there?

A    I'm the command chaplain.

Q    Now, during your tour of duty at Camp Lejeune, did you


know the defendant in this case, Ronnie Kimble?

A    Yes, I did. Lance Corporal Kimble worked for me as a FAP. He had multiple responsibilities. He was the driver, one of the drivers that we used, to go to different chapels, to deliver supplies, to pick up supplies, do general mail runs, interoffice, interbuilding mail runs. He also assisted in setting up for services, whenever and wherever that was needed. As I say, we had nine chapels that we directly needed to minister from our people, that is, our assistant people. So he was responsible in that area. And as a FAP, another one of his responsibilities was to be a maintenance man, do the cleaning, the buffing, that sort of thing.

Q    Now, did you see Ronnie Kimble on a daily basis?

A    I would say every day that I was there, from August, until sometime when he left, or I left to go to school at one point. So, yes, I saw him often. He was -- his office and mine were just within 10, 15 feet.

Q    And Father Soutiere, would you have been Ronnie Kimble's commanding officer?

A    Commanding officer was an 06, a captain. I was assistant to him. So insofar as when the captain was away, then I was the commanding officer, yes.

Q    And how would you evaluate Ronnie Kimble's performance as a Marine?


A    Outstanding.

Q    Now, did there come a time, Father Soutiere, when Ronnie Kimble came to you in your capacity as a chaplain?

A    Yes. Generally, because of the proximity of his office to the coffee urn, he gathered there with some of the other FAPs and so we talked. And then, he came into my office, I think the first time out of curiosity about what the Catholic church was all about, the Catholic faith was all about.

Q    And did you have a conversation and answer his questions concerning the Catholic --

A    Several conversations along that line, since the orientation was different, religious orientation.

Q    Now, as a chaplain in the Navy or the Marine Corps, would conversations that -- private conversations between you and enlisted men, would they be held in confidence?

A    Yes, sir, privileged.

Q    All right. And was that fact made known to the enlisted men who were under your command?

A    Well, usually it started in boot camp. They were told that if they needed to speak to a chaplain, that whatever they told the chaplain would be privileged. So I would say several times in the development, they have this what's called rights and privileges course that they have to be given. It's a -- part of the indoctrination course. And


that's --

Q    Now, after these initial conversations, when Ronnie Kimble came in and asked you about the Catholic faith, did there come a time when he came and talked to you about problems of a more personal nature?

A    He was concerned about his -- he had a sleep disorder. He came in to pray over that. We prayed often --

Q    All right.

A    -- on that particular issue.

Q    And when he came and talked to you about his sleep disorder, what were his concerns that he voiced to you at that time?

A    Well, he wanted to get back into the units, and he couldn't do that, because he was on that medical situation, when he was FAPped to us. So, if he couldn't find a cure or correct it or whatever, he wouldn't be able to stay in the-- Marine Corps. He wanted to be a career Marine.

Q    All right. And so, when you say "get back into the units," you mean get back into infantry or that sort of thing?

A    Uh-huh.

Q    Now, how long do you think that time that Ronnie Kimble came to you and you talked to him about his sleep condition, how long do you think that conversation was?

A    They were never usually more than 15 or 20 minutes at


any given time. It was -- my schedule pretty much dictated how much time I had for any of the in-house people.

Q    Now, Father Soutiere, did there come a time when Ronnie Kimble came to you concerning the death of his sister-in-law?

A    Yes. Right after he came back from emergency leave, right after the death of his sister-in-law, he came in and asked me to pray for the families, because of this tragic event, and they were hurting. And so, we prayed over that, yes.

Q    All right. And so, that you prayed over the -- he explained to you that his -- that that was his brother's wife?

A    That's correct.

Q    Do you recall him mentioning any of the details concerning her death?

A    Only that she had been shot and there had been a fire.

Q    And you prayed for the healing of his family and also for the healing of Patricia's family; is that right?

A    That's correct.

Q    Now, did there come a time after that when he came and talked to you again about events concerning Patricia Kimble's death?

A    Yes. A little later on in that same time frame, he came in and said that our Navy intelligence service people


wanted to speak to him about the case. And I said, "Well, you know you better get a lawyer. Don't answer any questions about anything like that." But I gave that advice to everybody that had problems that came and talked to me, whether it was -- they had been on an unauthorized leave. We have a JAG, Judge Advocate Generals, they're lawyers for our Marines and sailors, and they give them advice and direction.

Q    All right. And so, that was pretty much your standard advice, whenever someone came in contact with law enforcement?

A    Anytime they had anything that might be nonjudicial punishment oriented, as well, because they have a right to either have nonjudicial punishment review or an administrative review or a court martial. And they can choose that. But very often, they're not aware of those rights. And so, I always, not being a lawyer, and we don't do the legal end of it, we refer them to our JAG, our Judge Advocate General staff, lawyers.

Q    Now, when Ronnie Kimble talked to you concerning the fact that he was going to be interviewed by Naval Intelligence officers, did he tell you what he was going to do concerning the interview? Was he going to grant it?

A    Oh, yes. But I told him that he should get a lawyer. He said he couldn't afford one. I said, "Well, use your


brother's lawyer."

Q    Now, did -- was there a time, Father Soutiere, that Ronnie Kimble came and talked to you about his concerns about the way the investigation was being handled?

A    He was concerned that they weren't handling it properly, yes. He said they hadn't even talked to him at that time. And --

Q    So this would have been before he came and talked to you --

A    Well, this was --

Q    -- about the --

A -- this was after, when they said that -- when he came in, he was -- he was telling me that the investigators were looking at his brother, and it was in that time frame.

Q    And when he said to you that the investigators had not even talked to him, did he cite some specific reason why they should have talked to him?

A    Yes. He had -- he told me he had used his brother's truck that day for some work, and at the end of the day, he finished his job and went to gas the truck up, and left a receipt for the gasoline on the seat. And he -- and the truck was parked somewhere in the driveway there.

Q    All right. Now --

A    And they hadn't even asked him about it, to --

Q    Father Soutiere, do you recall if he told you when he


brought the truck back, did he tell you whether it was early afternoon or late afternoon or when?

A    Early afternoon --

Q    All right.

A    -- I believe he said.

Q    But he was basically concerned, because the investigators did not question him concerning the receipt, which had his signature on it, which he had left in the front seat of the truck; is that right?

A    Well, he was more concerned that they were questioning his brother and hadn't talked to him --

Q    All right.

A    that's correct.

Q    Now, after that time, when he came to you and talked to you about the situation regarding his brother, did he talk to you again concerning the death -- the events surrounding the death of Patricia Kimble?

A    It would have been sometime after that. I mean, he did come in at other times to talk and to pray, just about his health thing. He was going to some medical. And then he was going to go to be interviewed in town.

Q    All right. And --

A    And again, I cautioned him and told him he should use his brother's lawyer, or a lawyer of some kind, but he didn't.


Q    All right. And when he talked to you, Father Soutiere, what was his position on whether or not he would grant the interview with officers?

A    Always went, always was going to go.

Q    All right. And he told you that he was going to go?

A    Yes, sir.

Q    Even though you advised him to seek legal counsel?

A    Yes -- well, yes, sir.

Q    Now, during any of the interviews that -- or any of the conferences that you had with Ronnie Kimble, did he ever make any sort of admission concerning his involvement with respect to Patricia Kimble's death?

A    No.

MR. LLOYD: That's all I have, Your Honor.


Q    Father, you wouldn't have an independent recall of the dates of these particular interviews that he referred to?

A    No. Just a general time frame of after the -- after the death of his sister-in-law.

Q    And in that general time frame, which discussion do you believe came first?

A    On the -- on the case? About the --

Q    Yes, about the case.

A    The first thing was after he came back from emergency leave, and he asked to pray for the families.


Q    And the next would have been?

A    Short while after that, when the NIS investigators are going to speak to him.

Q    And then the next one would have been?

A    When he came in and said that he was upset with the investigators, because they hadn't questioned him and they were questioning his brother.

Q    And so, in the third interview that you had with him, which would have been, I take it some weeks after the death of Patricia, he said that he had not been questioned yet?

A    Yes, sir. Yes, sir.

Q    And was there a subsequent one, Father?

A    There was no more discussion about the investigation, until he was going to be questioned by, not NIS, there were going to be people in town, and I've learned since then that it was the local sheriff and investigators from here and the­SBI.

Q    And is it your recollection that was several months after the death of Patricia?

A    Long -- yes.

Q    You started to explain Fleet Available Personnel -- or I'm sorry. That wasn't the term.

A    FAP.

Q    What was that term, sir?

A    It's Fleet Assistance Personnel. It's a sea services


term, whenever someone is going to act outside of their capacity, to help the fleet in some other way and -- by assisting chaplains or assisting other units, they were FAPped out. It wasn't always to chaplains. It could be to -- supposing that the individual was an infantryman and he had just come back from a deployment, six months overseas, the usual thing was that the units were drawn down, they were pushed off to the side. Some of their men were taken and put in other units who were working their way up to go out on a deployment. And so, these other men that weren't chosen to go out were FAPped out to assist in different roles aboard the base. Some of them worked with the MAA, master-at-arms. Some of them worked with communications people. They assisted in practically every staff job as maintenance people and drivers.

Q    So it's your understanding then that he was -- Ronnie --Kimble was an infantryman and he was temporarily assigned or FAPped to you, due to his medical --

A    I believe that was -- I wasn't there when he originally came aboard. I came in after he was there. But it seemed to me that it was because of his sleep disorder.

Q    Okay. And you used the word "sleep disorder." Those were Ronnie Kimble's words?

A    No, sir. Those are mine. He said he kept falling asleep and he didn't know why.


Q    But you are aware that he was tested?

A    Yes, sir, uh-huh.

Q    Do you know the results?

A    He was seeing medical people. I don't know exactly what it was. There was a program specifically for sleep disorders, but I don't remember exactly when that was.

Q    Are you aware of the results of the testing?

A    No, sir.

Q    But that would be reflected in his official military Marine medical history, right?

A    More than likely. I didn't have access to that data. We don't have access to their records.

Q    In the course of your dealing with him, did he ever tell you about any type of dreams he was having?

A    No, sir.

Q    Now, you indicated that there is legal counsel available for him at no charge?

A    On an advice basis. They don't represent them in court. But yes, sir, we had the Judge Advocate staff.

Q    And there's also psychiatric staff available?

A    Oh, yes, at the hospital, uh-huh.

Q    And if he felt that he had some sort of problem with dreaming, he could have consulted with the psychiatric staff at no cost?

A    Yes, sir.


Q    Now, when you suggested to him that he use his brother's lawyer, did he tell you why he didn't want to or could not?

A    I don't think there was a time frame there. I don't -­I don't know whether he could. I really don't know. He didn't -- never said.

Q    Did he ever tell you that he and his brother weren't close?

A    They were close as brothers.

Q    They were close as brothers?

A    I think so. I -- yeah. They were friendly, at least. They liked each other, I presume. But he never said that they worked close or whatever that --

Q    Nothing in your convseration led you to believe that he couldn't use his brother's lawyer because of any barriers between himself and his brother?

A    No, sir. I think the main issue, if I may, was that he didn't have any money. You know how that is.

Q And in that -- on that topic, did he tell you that he sold his plasma a couple of times a week or anything along those lines?

A    No, sir.

Q    Now, in the course of your duties there as chaplain -­I believe you said that you started there August of '95?

A    Yes, sir.


Q    And your duties there went to January of '97 approximately?

A    '98.

Q    I'm sorry. '98.

A    Yes, sir.

Q    In the course of your duties there, did you know Mitch Whidden?

A    I knew that he was one of our FAPs, and that, as you told me this morning, he was at Courthouse Bay. We had 12 chapels, and very often we would put them in those chapels to man the telephone and to set up for services.

Q    Did you ever have -- remember having conversations with Mitch Whidden?

A    You asked me that this morning, and I would say yes, in a general way, because their room, their office space, Ron's office space, their office space, was a place of congregation very often. And when they came in for training on Tuesdays, we had coffee, we generally talked about a lot of things basically. So Whidden could have been one. I've seen so many of them in my office, because there was a great interest in religion in that group. There was a great interest in religion in the Bible.

Q    And do you have any specific recollection of discussing a book or series of books known as the Apocrypha with Mitch?

A    Could have been.


Q    And could you briefly tell the ladies and gentlemen of the jury what the Apocrypha is.

MR. LLOYD: Well, objection, Your Honor.

MR. PANOSH: I believe it was raised.

THE COURT: Overruled. You may answer that, sir.

A    The Apocrypha is a difference of books between the Catholic canon and the Protestant canon, the Protestant Bible. The original texts in the Old Testament were taken from the Alexandrian Code, in Alexandria, Egypt. In about 100 A.D., as a result of the rise of Christianity, in a Council of Jammia, the rabbis decided that they should eliminate seven whole books and parts of three books from the Old Testament canon. Those eliminations became known as Apocrypha. The original code, the Alexandrian code, was kept in Christianity from the beginning. The official canon of the Bible wasn't until sometime in 300 or so A.D., and it included those seven whole books and parts of the three others that were eliminated by the Council of Jammia.

Q    And just let me run over them. Are those the Estras, Tobit, Judith, Wisdom of Solomon, Sirach, Barach or Baruck (phon.) --

A    Baruck (phon.).

Q    -- Prayer of Manasses, Macabees, Ester, Daniel parts?

A    First and Second Macabees, yes.


Q    And although you may have discussed them with Mr. Whidden, you don't have any specific recollection of that?

A    It's one of the things that happened a lot. People interested in finding more history of the Bible came in and said, "Well, why are our Bibles different? What's the difference?" And that was usually -- and it was -- I had a Bible on the side, I didn't memorize all the books, but I just picked it up and denoted the Bible differences.

Q    And again, as to any medical condition that Ronnie Kimble told you he had, the more accurate information about that would be his medical records; is that correct?

A    Absolutely, yes, sir. I didn't get to see the medical records. But that's -- if you wanted a source, that probably would be the best.

MR. PANOSH: No, thank you -- No further. Thank you.

MR. LLOYD: Just a couple of questions, Your Honor.


Q    Now, Father Soutiere, you have no specific recollection of any conversations with Mitch Whidden?

A    I've talked to all the boys and a young lady -- other young men and women that worked with us, so I probably did have conversations with all of them at one time or another.

Q    Do you even remember what Mitch Whidden looked like,


Father Soutiere?

A    If he were standing here, I'm sorry, I wouldn't be able to identify him right now.

Q    Now, Mr. Panosh asked you a question about Ronnie Kimble and his brother. You've never met Ronnie Kimble's brother, have you?

A    No, sir.

Q    All right. So you've never seen Ronnie Kimble or his brother interact, have you?

A    No, sir.

Q    Now, Mr. Panosh asked you basically a question concerning the order of the times that Ronnie Kimble came to see you and what was discussed. And I believe you indicated to Mr. Panosh that you thought that the second time that Ronnie Kimble talked to you, the discussion centered on Ronnie informing you that he was going to talk to the NIS agents, and there was some concerns about that, and you advised him at that time to get a lawyer?

A    (The witness nodded his head up and down.)

Q    And then at some time after that, I thought you indicated to Mr. Panosh that Ronnie expressed concerns that he had not been questioned concerning the gas receipt that had his signature, that he left in the truck?

A    That's correct.

Q    Are you sure about the order of those things, Father


Soutiere, or could one of them -- could they have happened in reverse order?

A    I don't think so. I think that was the way it went.

Q    All right.

MR. LLOYD: That's all I have, Your Honor.

MR. PANOSH: No further.

THE COURT: You may step down, Father.

THE WITNESS: Am I excused?

THE COURT: Step down, sir.

MR. LLOYD: Your Honor, could Father Soutiere be excused?

THE COURT: Any objection?

MR. PANOSH: No, Your Honor.

THE COURT: You may be excused, sir. The Court

appreciates your attendance.

THE WITNESS: Thank you. (The witness left the witness stand.)


Published August 15, 2006.  Report broken links or other problems.

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