Sailor accused in stabbing to remain in pre-trial confinement

Wilbur Harwell outside Federal Court in Norfolk on June 12, 2014. (WAVY/Walter Hildebrand)

NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) – The Sailor accused of stabbing another Sailor near Naval Medical Center Portsmouth last Friday will remain in pre-trial confinement at the Naval Consolidated Brig in Chesapeake, according to the Navy.

Petty Officer 3rd Class Wilbur Harwell is accused of stabbing Petty Officer 2nd Class Justin Powell outside a barracks on June 6. Navy officials say Harwell had left the installation minutes before the perimeter gates were closed off, and agents believe another service member helped him escape. Agents say they believe the service member drove Harwell to Virginia Beach, where he was later caught.

Harwell appeared at a custody hearing Thursday in Federal Court in Norfolk, where civilian charges were dropped before he was turned over to the Navy. He now faces court martial.

Friday, Harwell appeared at a different hearing and is now being held in temporary administrative segregation, which the Navy says is the typical procedure for new detainees. His court date has not been decided.

A Navy Initial Review Officer decides if there is probable cause to confine a service member, considering factors such as whether or not the officer believes the accused person committed a serious offense or is considered to be a flight risk.

Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) agents confirmed that another service member is being questioned in connection to the stabbing.

Navy officials say NCIS has not yet completed its investigation of the incident, and Harwell has not yet been charged. The service member being questioned by NCIS agents has also not been charged.

Navy officials say Powell remains in good condition, recovering from multiple stab wounds.

Harwell, 26, is assigned to the Transient Personnel Unit in Norfolk and resided in the barracks at the Portsmouth Annex. Navy officials say he and the victim are active-duty Sailors who know each other. Family members of the victim say they were not close friends.

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