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Fort Drum panel clears soldier of murder, other charges in connection to child’s death

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FORT DRUM — A court-martial panel has found a soldier on post not guilty of murder and other charges in connection with the death of his stepson in December 2012.

Staff Sgt. Raheem O. Hollis also faced charges under the Uniform Code of Military Justice of manslaughter, making a false official statement, assault and obstruction of justice related to the death of his 4-year-old stepson, Michael L. Sanders.

No other information about the panel’s decision Friday was available this week.

The child died at Samaritan Medical Center, Watertown, on Dec. 10, 2012, after being taken there by an ambulance from a residence on post. An Army charge sheet from last August indicated the child died after hitting a hard surface, causing cardiac tamponade and a lacerated liver.

Cardiac tamponade is described as the buildup of fluid around the heart that restricts its movement.

Sgt. Hollis could have faced life imprisonment, had it been determined that the child’s death was premeditated, or if it happened during the perpetration of another serious crime.

Given the not-guilty verdict, Sgt. Hollis will be able to return to duty with the 1st Brigade Combat Team.

Sgt. Hollis has been in the Army since 2000, and has served on three deployments to Iraq: In 2003, 2005 and 2008. During his career, he received multiple honors, including the Bronze Star, Presidential Unit Citation, four Meritorious Unit Commendations, Army Superior Unit Award, three Army Good Conduct Medals and other honors from his deployments.

He arrived on post in August 2012.

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