HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The U.S. military is taking over the investigation of the murder of Ivanice "Ivy" Harris and the Marine Corps wants to prosecute the case, sources told Hawaii News Now.
Honolulu police released Marine Master Sgt. Nathaniel Cosby, 38, June 7 without charges and he's been temporarily assigned to the Marine Corps Base Hawaii in Kaneohe since then.
Sources said Cosby admitted to police he picked up homicide victim Harris, 28, who was visiting from the mainland, and spent the night with her in a Waikiki hotel, but he claimed he did not kill her.
Sources said the Marine Corps wants to take over jurisdiction from city prosecutors take the case through the court martial process. Spokesmen from both the prosecutor's office and the U.S. Marines said they could not comment on an investigation.
The Navy Criminal Investigative Service, known as NCIS, has taken the lead from Honolulu police in the investigation, law enforcement sources said.
"The conviction rate is extremely high in military courts martial," said Honolulu defense attorney Eric Sietz, who has represented many members of the military in courts martial and says there are several advantages for military prosecutors to take the case.
Civilian trials have 12 jurors and verdicts must be unanimous. But military courts martial can have as few as five jurors and need just two-thirds of those jurors voting for a conviction, or three-fourths in a death penalty case.
"They're banking on the fact that military officers who serve as jurors are much more likely to convict somebody than a jury out in town that might have reasonable doubts," Sietz said.
Unlike Hawaii courts, military cases allow the death penalty, which can be an important bargaining chip for military prosecutors, he added.
"Often, they use the death penalty or the threat of a death penalty to compel a plea in cases where they can wield the threat of that credibly," Sietz added.
Sources said surveillance video showed Cosby and Harris walking into a Waikiki hotel together the night she disappeared. The next morning security video showed Cosby struggling to carry a large piece of luggage out of the hotel, a source said.
Cosby voluntarily turned over his piece of luggage for DNA testing but refused to take a lie-detector test, sources said. The DNA results have not yet been received, sources said.
Cosby had been stationed at Kaneohe before for several years and is an avid hunter who would have been familiar with the rugged Waianae coast where Harris' decomposed body was found May 20 near Yokohama Bay.
The medical examiner has not determined a cause of death and may never be able to because Harris' body was so badly decomposed, a source sad She had been missing for four days.
Cosby – who was stationed in Iwakuni, Japan -- is an explosive ordnance disposal technician who has been in the Marines since 1998. The Jefferson, Ala. native was deployed to both Iraq and Afghanistan. His last combat tour was in 2011, the newspaper Stars and Stripes reported.
Harris had traveled to Hawaii with friends and her boyfriend from Portland to celebrate her 29th birthday, friends said. Harris, who grew up in Oregon, had recently been living in Las Vegas.
Her mother, Patricia Harris, said Ivy had recently learned she was pregnant.
"Oh, she would've been the best mother in the world," Patricia Harris told Portland television station KPTV.