A sailor pleaded guilty Monday to abducting and killing a Marine corporal he thought had been involved in a gang rape. The rape turned out...

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NORFOLK, Va. — A sailor pleaded guilty Monday to abducting and killing a Marine corporal he thought had been involved in a gang rape.

The rape turned out to be a lie, but the truth surfaced too late.

Petty Officer 3rd Class Cooper Jackson, 23, pleaded guilty Monday to premeditated murder, kidnapping, impersonating a Naval Criminal Investigative Service agent (NCIS) and obstruction of justice in connection with the death of Cpl. Justin L. Huff, 23.

Federal agents had testified at his Article 32 hearing, the military equivalent of a grand-jury investigation, that Jackson had fallen in love with a woman who called herself Samantha and made up a story about being raped by servicemen.

“Samantha” turned out to be Ashley Elrod, 22, a hotel clerk in North Carolina, who testified that she lied about being raped. She said she “might have” told Jackson that one of the Marines was named Huff or Huffman, and she said Jackson called her after Huff was killed. Elrod has not been charged.

During his court-martial, Jackson told the Navy judge how he posed as an NCIS agent and took Huff to North Carolina to get information about the purported rape. He said he then slit Huff’s throat and buried the body.

“I’d broken several laws and I had a missing Marine with me,” Jackson said at Monday’s hearing. “Quite frankly, I was scared of the consequences … of being caught, more so than I was of the consequences of taking his life.”

If the judge accepts the plea, Jackson could be sentenced to life in prison.