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Officials Questioning U.S. Soldier Thought To Have Defected

March 5, 1989

FRANKFURT, West Germany (AP) _ U.S. military officials questioned an American soldier Sunday whose 11-day disappearance led to speculation he had defected to communist East Germany.

The officials refused to say what may have prompted the absence of Spec. 4 Michael A. Peri, who they say had access to classified information. They said he returned a portable computer that was missing from the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment intelligence office where he worked.

Peri, 21, of Laguna Niguel, Calif., ″returned voluntarily to his unit″ about 5 p.m. Saturday, according to Lt. Col. Dennis Gauci, a spokesman for the U.S. European Command headquarters in Stuttgart.

Gauci said Peri was in military police custody in Fulda, 65 miles northeast of Frankfurt.

Peri made no statement about where he had been, said Lt. Col. Jake Dye, a spokesman for the U.S. Army’s 5th Corps in Frankfurt. ″He (Peri) is being questioned. He has been given legal counsel,″ Dye said.

Dye said Peri returned to his unit in civilian clothes and appeared to be in good health. Peri disappeared Feb. 21 from the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment in Fulda.

The disappearance baffled military officials, and speculation on his absence ranged from possible foul play to defection to East Germany.

Some officials speculated he had defected after a military vehicle he signed out was found Feb. 23 near the town of Obersuhl, at the East German border. Obersuhl is in a remote rural area 35 miles northeast of Fulda.

U.S. officials said Peri had an excellent record as a soldier, and they did not rule out foul play or illness as the reason for his absence.

Peri worked as an electronics warfare signal specialist. He was responsible for operating equipment that detects enemy radar and other signals. He has been stationed in West Germany since March 1988.

Gauci said Peri’s relatives in California had been notified of his return.

In March 1987, U.S. Army Pvt. Wade E. Roberts, 22, of Riverside, Calif., defected with his West German girlfriend to the Soviet Union. Roberts returned to the United States in November 1987 and was court-martialed as a deserter.

He was given a bad conduct discharge after being found guilty of a lesser charge of being absent without leave.

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