By Darrell Todd Maurina
Months after the body of Staff Sgt. Shelby Dawn Orelup was found in a ditch on Feb. 28 near Sheppard Air Force Base in Wichita Falls, Texas, a Cannon Air Force Base staff sergeant remains under federal hold in the Wichita County Jail without formal charges in connection with the pending investigation.
Family members on both sides said they are trying to remain patient, but both Orelup’s mother and the Cannon staff sergeant’s brother wish the process were finished.
Jail officials in Wichita Falls confirmed that Jason Philip Arindain, 30, from Clovis, was brought to their jail May 7 on a federal hold. Military public affairs staff at both Cannon and Sheppard said they could not comment on Arindain’s specific case.
Sheppard officials confirmed that a member of the armed forces is under investigation and being held at Wichita County Jail, but could not release a name until a formal “preferment of charges” by the military.
Reached at his home in Hawaii, Rocky Flores said his brother is innocent and wished the military would move more quickly to process his brother’s case and clear him.
“What I don’t understand about this is why they are holding him and not charging him,” Flores said. “To my understanding my brother did not do anything. In state law you are innocent until proven guilty, and if the could prove otherwise they would have charged him.”
“I want this to be over with, either go to trial or release my brother, and it shouldn’t be hard to figure out,” Flores said.
Shirley Orelup, mother of Shelby Orelup, said she has come to Texas a number of times from her home in Montana to get further information. While satisfied with the pace of the investigation, she also wishes it were over.
“I feel really confident that they have the right person. They took a long time but they made sure there was enough evidence,” Orelup said. “I respect what they’ve done, they’ve made sure before the arrest that they had all their ducks in a row.”
According to the Uniform Code of Military Justice, the penalties in murder cases that include sodomy or rape are death or life imprisonment. Orelup’s body showed indications of both sexual assault and sodomy, but since no charges have yet been filed, a lesser penalty may apply.
Orelup said she hoped the person who killed her daughter would receive the harshest possible penalty.
“I didn’t believe in capital punishment until it happened to me, (but) it’s such a waste what happened to my daughter,” said Orelup. “When people do such a horrendous thing like this, they don’t realize how many people they destroy. Shelby’s friends are just totally blown away.”
Flores said he wishes people would regard his brother as innocent until proven guilty.
“The media are saying my brother is the only one being held on this so everybody’s looking at my brother as that kind of person,” Flores said. “I understand what the mom’s going through, she lost her kid, but you can’t just jump on the first person who comes along.”
Flores said the family has tried to encourage his brother via telephone conversations.
“We’re all behind my brother 110 percent,” Flores said. “He sounded OK, like he’s dealing with this as best as he can and he’s trying to stay mentally and physically as strong as he can.”