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Last Updated: Thursday, 12 February, 2004, 14:07 GMT
Dark past of US marine
Toby Studabaker
Studabaker trained with an anti-terrorism unit
Toby Studabaker had a respected past as a former Bible scholar who was decorated for his military service.

But behind the facade were accusations that he had groped his 12-year-old niece and began writing to girls over the internet only a year after his wedding.

The 32-year-old grew up in Constantine, Michigan and went on become a martial arts instructor who was praised for his teaching skills.

Between 1993 and 1994, Studabaker attended Rosedale Bible College, an evangelic junior university in Ohio that aims to help students "grow spiritually and serve effectively in the church and society".

He married in 1996, but his wife, Jenny Northrop, died of cancer in 2001.

His wife's father David claims Studabaker began writing to girls via the internet just a year after the wedding.

Life insurance

Family members claimed he left his wife when she was diagnosed with leukaemia but returned to collect her 60,000 life-insurance policy when she died.

In 1998 Studabaker was accused by a family member of groping his 12-year-old niece during a game of play wrestling.

He was also accused of giving bubble-gum flavoured sexual lubricant to a nine-year-old niece and suggesting she use it on him.

No charges were brought in either of the cases.

The prosecutor for St Joseph County, Michigan, Douglas Fisher, explained: "The only evidence we had was the testimony of the 12-year-old victim.

"She would have testified that while wrestling, he touched her breasts twice.

Studabaker's brother Leo and his wife Sherry
Studabaker stayed with his brother Leo and his wife Sherry
"The chances for conviction were not good. They were probably 30% or 40%."

Mr Fisher said that when he heard that Studabaker was on the run with a 12-year-old girl from the Wigan area of Greater Manchester, he feared the worst.

He said: "She might have been murdered, there might have been some evidence of terrible sexual assaults.

"I feel very badly. I wished that I had, in fact, tried as hard as I could ... to prevent this sort of further action."

In May 2000, Studabaker joined the US Marines, explaining on a school alumni website that it was for reasons he would "rather not discuss".

He trained with the 4th Marine Expeditionary Brigade, an anti-terrorism unit, and was deployed to Afghanistan after 11 September.

On the school alumni website he described Afghanistan as "one of the best experiences I have had... getting the people responsible for the deaths of thousands".

He thought they were getting serious and wanted to go over and find out exactly what her feelings were
Studabaker's brother, Leo
He was awarded the Sea Service Medal and National Defence Ribbon for his service.

Last summer he was voluntarily discharged from the military after injuring his shoulder in a car crash.

He returned to stay with his brother Leo and his sister-in-law Sherry at their Michigan home.

When news of Studabaker's disappearance with the 12-year-old unfolded, the house was besieged by the world's media.

Studabaker had told Leo and Sherry he had planned a visit to England to meet up with a friend he had been in contact with on the internet for more than a year.

Studabaker told his brother, Leo, the friend was a 19-year-old girl who was going to college.

'How old?'

Leo said: "He thought they were getting serious and wanted to go over and find out exactly what her feelings were and see what she wanted to do, continue the relationship forward or just break it off."

Studabaker's friends have also insisted he believed the girl was 19 and did not know she was actually 12.

Kim Kasner, who did martial arts with him in Constantine, Michigan, said in an interview: "I asked him repeatedly, 'Toby, how old is she?'

"He told me between 18 and 19. He told me she had told him she was in college."


SEE ALSO:
Ex-marine admits abduction
12 Feb 04  |  Manchester


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