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Accused Solder Held at German Base

January 18, 2000

HEIDELBERG, Germany (AP) _ The U.S. Army has transferred a soldier charged in the death of an ethnic Albanian girl in Kosovo to the military’s chief European confinement center in Mannheim, officials said today.

Staff Sgt. Frank J. Ronghi was admitted Sunday to Mannheim, where he is being held in investigative custody facing charges of murder and indecent acts with a child.

Ronghi, 35, is accused of killing an 11-year-old ethnic Albanian girl whose body was found in the countryside last Thursday near Vitina, in southwestern Kosovo. It is the first time a peacekeeper from any country has been accused of such serious crimes since the 50,000-strong NATO-led peacekeeping force entered the province on June 12.

The Army statement said an investigating officer is being appointed to conduct a pretrial investigation that is similar in some respects to a grand jury.

The suspect is a weapons squad leader assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment from Fort Bragg, N.C., but was assigned with U.S. forces from Germany serving in Kosovo. No decision has been made yet on where he would be court-martialed, if such a trial is recommended, said Maj. Scott Slaten, a spokesman at U.S. Army Europe headquarters in Heidelberg. A decision could take weeks, he said.