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A former United States Marine is accused of killing his wife, a mother of three, in front of three young children at her home in Australia.
Police discovered the body of Kelly Wilkinson, 27, in an Arundel backyard on Tuesday during a welfare check, the Queensland police wrote in a press release. Neighbors had reported hearing screams and an explosion, Australian outlet 9News reports. An update from police specified that Wilkinson lived at the address and that a 34-year-old New Beith man had been arrested in connection with her murder and for breaching a domestic violence order.
The suspect has been identified as Brian Earl Johnston. While he lives in Australia now, he is a former Ohio resident and an ex-U.S. Marine, The Guardian reports. He left the Marine Corps in 2005 and married Wilkinson in 2012, according to The Australian.
Neighbors reported seeing Johnston fleeing from the scene, covered with blood, according to 9News. Investigators found him semi-conscious on a lawn a few blocks away. He is reportedly in a hospital in stable condition, recovering from burn injuries.
Johnston has been charged with murder, contravention of a domestic violence order and breach of bail condition, the Brisbane Times reports.
He allegedly set Wilkinson fire in front of the three children, all under the age of nine, according to The Guardian.
Johnston’s lawyer Chris Hannay told the Brisbane News that he spoke to his client two days before Wilkinson’s death.
“I saw him on Sunday in relation to family issues with a very good friend of his here and he gave no indication of any substantial indicators that would have explained the behavior that’s happened in the last couple of days,” the attorney told the outlet.
Wilkinson called the Queensland police three times for help with ongoing alleged domestic violence matters in the weeks and months leading up to her slaying, The Guardian reports. A protective order was put in place in March.
“It’s important that we examine to what extent it is a systemic failure,” Brian Codd, who heads a police domestic and family violence task force for the Queensland Police, said, according to The Guardian. “Ultimately it’s a failure. A woman has died. Somewhere along the line, she had engaged with the system, with us.”
Johnston is due back in court on June 4.
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