Rape Trial Leads to Navy Seaman’s Death on Military Base
Shortly after Kyle Antonacci testifies against friend accused of rape, he is found dead at Naval Station Great Lakes.
Part 2 of Special Report: Death at Naval Station Great Lakes
When Kyle Antonacci walked into his room at Great Lakes Naval Station on the night of May 8, 2009, he was shocked to find a woman naked under his covers, he told a jury. The female Marine would later accuse Kyle’s friend and fellow Navy seaman Michael Pineda of sexually assaulting her. Kyle was a witness during the trial. Nine months later his body was found hanging by a belt in his closet.
According to Kyle’s parents, Lisa and Al Antonacci, their son’s involvement in the rape trial in November of 2009 was part of a chain of events that led to Kyle’s death on the military base. Authorities would not comment on the details of Kyle’s death because it was still under investigation. However, for the past year and a half, Kyle’s parents have claimed their son was murdered and are blaming officials at the naval station.
Earlier: Details about what authorities discovered at the scene of the crime.
Kyle first arrived at the Navy’s largest training station, located 40 miles north of Chicago, in August 2007.
“He was a proud American and he wanted to defend the country and its citizens,” Lisa Antonacci said. But that initial enthusiasm didn’t last long.
Kyle’s troubles at Great Lakes started to materialize two years after he arrived. In 2009, Kyle’s fellow seaman, Michael Pineda, was court-martialed on charges of raping a female Marine in Kyle’s bedroom and went on trial in November.
During testimony, Kyle told jurors that on the night of May 8, the female lance corporal came to his room uninivited. Kyle admitted to having a previous sexual relationship with her but described it as “tenuous at best” at the time of the alleged rape.
“She just let herself in,” Antonacci told jurors. “She was making some, you know, passes at me, and I was trying to tell her ‘no’ because she was really drunk, and she kept — you know, I was trying to tell her to leave my room.”
Court records show Antonacci said that’s when he texted Pineda for help. Pineda, who lived in the same building, instructed Antonacci to switch rooms with him and said he’d take care of the situation. But when Antonacci returned to his room later that night the woman was still there, this time naked under his covers and crying.
Antonacci told jurors he asked the woman twice if Pineda had hurt her or forced himself on her and both times she said no. But later that night, the accuser testified, she told her superiors she had in fact been raped and Pineda was charged.
While on the stand she also described her life after the attack to jurors. “The mental anguish, the not being able to sleep, not being able to walk outside of my room without looking over my shoulder, not knowing what could happen next, not knowing if he's waiting, just not knowing,” was devastating, she said.
Pineda pleaded not guilty, but the jury sided with the Marine and convicted him of aggravated sexual assault. Pineda was sentenced to three months in prison and a bad-conduct discharge but has been fighting the verdict ever since. Pineda’s efforts paid off; earlier this month the charges were dropped and his record wiped clean. The Navy also agreed to an honorable discharge.
During Pineda’s trial, the Antonaccis said they were concerned about Kyle’s well-being.
In a statement he submitted to NCIS, which was obtained by Patch, Kyle claimed he was being threatened to testify against Pineda, align his story with the female Marine and omit details about the chain of events. He added that the accuser had visited him in September shortly before Pineda’s trial started.
“She stated that her lawyer told her I’m switching sides and that I’m siding with Pineda,” Kyle wrote in the statement. “She proceeded to tell me that Pineda has to burn and that I can’t switch sides.”
In the same statement Kyle wrote he also was hounded by another Marine whom he believed to be armed with a knife.
“He then said that he will be at the court room and if he doesn’t hear what he likes it’s going to be bad for me,” Kyle wrote. “He also said that he will be making return trips so I better watch out.”
Kyle also told NCIS that a few days later he noticed someone had carved an X into the door of his room.
Navy officials wouldn’t comment on the alleged threats. However, according to Jen Zeldis, spokesperson for the Office of the Judge Advocate General, if an allegation of inappropriate conduct is brought to the attention of military personnel, they are supposed to ensure the safety of the witness and begin an investigation into their claims. If witness tampering or obstruction of justice has occurred, criminal charges can be brought against the parties involved.
According to the Antonaccis, Kyle was switched to different living quarters on the base after reporting the threats to NCIS. His parents believe he should have been better protected during the trial.
“They could have moved him to Indiana or another base and brought him back for the case. It would have been very simple,” Lisa said.
Pineda said he also knew his friend was being threatened to testify a certain way.
“The first couple of months I was furious at him [Kyle] because his statements kind of supported her [the rape accuser], but not really,” he told Patch in an interview. He said he realized something else was going on.
“They blackmailed my best friend in the Navy,” he said referring to the female Marine and her comrades. Pineda feels NCIS agents, his legal council and military officials on the base didn’t protect Kyle before or after the trial.
“He was going through a big depression,” he said, and believes someone should have been watching him. “Whether he committed suicide or whether he got murdered, it’s their fault,” he said. “Why was he alone?”
After Pineda’s conviction, Kyle’s ordeal continued. He had been keeping a secret, one that could have changed the course of the trial: He also had sex with the Marine on the night she accused his friend of rape.
Next: Part 3: Navy Seaman Acting as NCIS Informant on Day of Death