Murder of Airman Curtis Eccleston in Okinawa: 48 Hours on ID, NCIS investigates

Curtis and Barbara Eccleston
Curtis and Barbara Eccleston had been married a year before he was murdered. Pic credit: Family photo

In 2009 Technical Sergeant Curtis Eccleston met his future wife Barbara Keiko while stationed at an airbase in Okinawa, Japan. In February 2011, approximately a year after their marriage, Curtis was murdered, his throat slashed in his apartment. His wife and her secret lover became suspects.

Their marriage was almost instantly in trouble, and Curtis had considered filing for a divorce. Barbara had begun an affair with Air Force Staff Sgt. Nicholas Cron, who was stationed at the same base as Curtis.

In February 2011, Cron went to the Eccleston apartment in the middle of the night armed with a hunting knife and a box cutter. As he stepped through the apartment door, he slashed Curtis’s throat.

The two men struggled for up to 90 minutes before Curtis finally collapsed. Cron phoned Barbara and held up the phone to Curtis so she could hear her husband’s final dying breaths.

Cron agreed to plead guilty to premeditated murder, and to testify against Eccleston provided he avoid the death penalty. He told investigators that he and Barbara had been planning her husband’s death for months, devising different ways of killing him, such as pushing him down stairs or off a cliff. They supposedly referred to the murder as a “gift.”

Cron was sentenced in a military court and given life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.

In a Japanese court, Barbara was accused of plotting to murder her husband. Prosecutors argued that she had manipulated Cron and pressured him into doing the killing.

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Chief Judge Hideyuki Suzuki told Barbara, “You erased two men who were close to you from this world and society. Your criminal responsibility is extremely grave.” She was sentenced to 20 years in prison with forced labor.

See the case on 48 Hours on ID: NCIS at 10/9c on Investigation Discovery.

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