CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. (KGTV) - A Camp Pendleton judge weighed in on Friday about evidence in the death investigation of a Southern California Navy corpsman in what the family alleges was a coverup.
Inside a courthouse on base, concerns over key evidence were called into question for one of the five Navy corpsmen who are being connected to the death of fellow corpsman HM3 Michael Vincent De Leon. A corpsman is a type of medic.
De Leon's parents were inside the courtroom for the hearing. Mother Sandra De Leon said tearfully, "It's not easy."
ABC 10News' cameras were not allowed inside where the defense argued that NCIS agents did not properly read HM3 Mason Williams his rights before interrogating him with psychological and physical tactics to manipulate him into making false admissions.
"The last thing that Sandra and I were expecting was to have NCIS drop the ball on this," said husband Jose De Leon.
It was two weeks ago when the military confirmed that a fifth corpsman could be charged in connection to the shooting at the Twentynine Palms Marine Corps base located northeast of San Diego.
In March, ABC 10News reported that four other corpsmen were officially charged, including Williams.
The De Leons said that their son captured Snapchat video about an hour before he was shot to death during a going away party with other corpsmen at a house on the base.
The prosecution has said that the corpsmen were drinking and dry-firing guns before the fatal round was fired.
The De Leons alleged a coverup after ABC 10News confirmed through sources with close military ties that their son's death was being investigated as a homicide, not a suicide like his parents said that they were first led to believe.
On Friday, the judge said that his preliminary finding was that NCIS agents failed to advise Williams of his rights at the interrogation, so that evidence may be inadmissible. The judge clarified that it was not his final ruling, which he'll make within ten days after both the defense and prosecution submit written arguments.
"It's very disappointing if [this is] going to affect the outcome as far as getting justice for our son," Sandra added.