By Sharna Johnson: Freedom New Mexico
CANNON AIR FORCE BASE — After 3 1/2 years of suspicion, investigation, allegations and military court proceedings surrounding the 2004 death of his wife, Airman Basic Edward Novak II walked out of the Cannon Courthouse on Friday a free man.
He was beaming from ear-to-ear, a smile etched on a face that had been, until Friday, solemn and stoic.
“Words cannot express the relief and the joy I feel with the verdict in my court-martial. I have been waiting for this day for three years and three months,” Novak said in a written statement.
“All the time, I’ve been under a cloud of suspicion, unable to leave Cannon AFB or Clovis, New Mexico. Everyone abandoned me. Only my family supported me. The whole process was very hard. Finally, though, the truth is known, and it took the members of this court-martial panel to clear my name. I thank the members of this court-martial. I am forever indebted to them.”
“In the end, all of this comes back to Kimberly, my wife. I love her. I miss her,” he said.
If convicted, Novak could have faced life in prison.
The verdict came around 3:30 p.m. in the small courtroom packed with military personnel and family members anxiously awaiting the news after four days of deliberation.
As the senior officer on the member panel read the verdict of not guilty, a moment of shocked silence was followed by gasps. The victim’s family began sobbing as they consoled one another.
Kimberly Novak, 20, was found dead Oct. 28, 2004, in military housing unit the couple shared on base.
During the three-week trial, conflicting causes of death were introduced. The prosecution said Kimberly Novak was killed by blunt force trauma to the head and neck. The defense said she died from a viral infection in the heart.
Due to base regulations media were not allowed to talk to the parties in the case while on base.
In his statement, Edward Novak, 25, expressed disgust for the Air Force Office of Special Investigations for focusing their investigation solely on him and presuming his guilt.
“I know I’m just an Airman Basic and one who is on the way out of the Air Force, but please investigate what happened to me. Investigate it and make sure no one ever gets treated the way I did,” he said in his written statement.
Kimberly Novak’s parents, Don and Patricia Bollman, attended the trial.
“The Bollman family is saddened by the jury’s verdict of not guilty,” Don Bollman read from a prepared written statement. “It is felt that justice was not served in the murder of our dear daughter and loved one. Although the following weeks and months will be difficult, we remain united in our deep faith in God.”
Edward Novak’s mother, who attended the trial and all the hearings in the case, said she never doubted her son’s innocence.
“This has all been a terrible, tragic mistake and, as a result, countless lives were affected,” Vette Novak said Friday in a prepared statement.
“Everyone and anyone who truly knows my son, Edward Novak, knows that he is not … nor was he in October 2004 … capable of harming his wife,” she said. “This happy family was torn asunder on October 28, 2004; lives were destroyed and none of us will ever be the same. Your support and well wishes were integral to our maintaining our sanity in what, for us, was a world gone mad.”
Vette Novak did not to talk to media in the more than three years since her daughter-in-law’s death. She said in Friday’s written statement her “family has been maligned and violated in ways I never dreamed possible.”
In May 2005, Edward Novak II’s daughter was removed from his care by the New Mexico Children Youth and Families Department, and he was charged with child neglect. She remains in foster care.
Novak pleaded guilty of child neglect in April 2007 and was ordered to serve 15 months of a two-year, five-month sentence of imprisonment and received a bad conduct discharge from the military. Novak has satisfied his sentence.
“The military justice system works and worked for me. I now plan to move away from Cannon AFB and start a new, free life,” Edward Novak said.