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Missing Colorado Marine gets small fine, no jail

Kevin Vaughan
Rocky Mountain News

Missing Marine Lance Hering was sentenced today by a military judge to a small fine and no additional jail time after he pleaded guilty to committing an unauthorized absence of more than 30 days.

The judge in the case, Marine Capt. William J. Ryan, ordered Hering to forfeit $1,166 in back pay. Hering was given time for time already spent in jail and his case was referred to a board that will determine his discharge status.

Hering, 23, had faced up to 30 days in the brig, loss of pay, and discharge from the Marine Corps. He avoided the potential of lengthy imprisonment that could have come with a charge of desertion.

The sentencing ended a more than two-year saga that began when the young lance corporal went on the run after he and a buddy alarmed concocted an elaborate disappearance involving him injuring himself during a rock-climbing fall near Boulder in 2006.

The bogus story alarmed Hering’s family and friends and triggered an intense search by hundreds of volunteers.

During today’s the emotional hearing, Hering said that he fled Colorado in 2006 after experiencing mental trauma during combat in Iraq.

At one point the judge asking him whether anything prevented him from returning to Camp Pendleton when he was due back from leave on Sept. 18, 2006.

“Yes, sir,” Hering responded.

“What was that?”the judge asked.

“Not physically, but the mental state that I was in,” Hering said.

The young Marine’s parents, Lloyd and Ellyn Hering, sat in the front row of the courtroom just a few feet from their son.

The fugitive Marine, who had shoulder-length hair when arrested last month in Port Angeles, Wash., again sported a high-and-tight Marine buzz cut and green camouflage uniform in court.

Lloyd Hering took the witness stand and detailed his shock at his son’s disappearance, the month of anguish that followed and then a surprise e-mail that arrived on Mother’s Day 2007.

It said: “Happy Mother’s Day. I love you.”

The father talked about sporadic e-mail contacts with his son over the ensuing months, and their first face-to-face meeting at the Burning Man Festival in the Nevada desert.

At one point Lloyd Hering, wiping tears from his eyes, turned toward his son.

“You are the best possible Christmas present that your mom and I could ever have,” the father said.

Hering’s long, strange odyssey being Aug. 30, 2006, when his friend went for help, telling authorities Hering had fallen while rock climbing – suffering a head injury that left him disoriented.

Hundreds of searchers walked and climbed in the area for several days, looking for Hering.

The story was soon exposed as a lie.

Hering, who was home on leave between tours of duty in Iraq, was captured on videotape boarding a Greyhound bus in Denver after he had went missing.

For nearly two years, investigators had no solid leads on his whereabouts. They filed charges against him for violating the terms of his probation in a Boulder burglary case.

Then, on Nov. 16, someone tipped Boulder County investigators that Hering might be getting onto a plane piloted by his father in Port Angeles, Wash., a small town along the north coast of the Olympic Peninsula.

Hering’s father, Lloyd, said he was planning to fly him to the East Coast to consult with a forensic psychiatrist with expertise in post-traumatic stress disorder and then to Texas to meet with his attorney, James Culp. By the time of his arrest, Culp had been in negotiations with Marine Corps lawyers for several weeks, arranging for Hering’s surrender.


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