Tucson CitizenTucson Citizen

Airman held stepdaughter by throat, wife testifies

Mom, who took plea to testify, admits not getting toddler help

The state’s key witness in an attempted first-degree child murder case told a jury Wednesday she saw her husband holding her daughter in the air with his hand wrapped around the 20-month-old’s throat.

The husband’s attorney said the husband was under stress and didn’t have the skills to cope with the child’s behavior.

Opening arguments in the case began Wednesday in Pima County Superior Court Judge Jane Eikleberry’s courtroom.

Melanie Gamble said Gregory Brian Gamble, 20, was holding her daughter “in the air by her neck” at eye level. He is 6 feet tall.

Gamble said she examined the girl but didn’t take her to a doctor.

“It looked like the vessels had been punctured around her neck,” Gamble, who said she is a nurse, testified.

Her husband left the room, took off his wedding ring, threw it down and left the house, she testified.

Gamble said she went to a neighbor at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base where they lived and told her what happened.

The neighbor called police.

One of the officers who answered the 911 call in June 2008 said he saw the bruising around the child’s neck and arrested Gregory Gamble.

Melanie Gamble was indicted along with him by a grand jury on attempted murder and multiple child abuse charges but made a plea deal with the county attorney in exchange for her testimony.

She pleaded guilty Dec. 16 to one count of child abuse with death or serious physical injury likely for failing to remove the child from the home after an earlier alleged incident of abuse last year.

In May, Gregory Gamble was found holding the toddler’s face underwater in the bathtub when she walked in, Melanie Gamble testified Wednesday.

She didn’t call police after that incident either, she said.

She faces a sentence of at least seven years probation or from one to 3.75 years in prison. She will be sentenced after Gregory Gamble’s trial.

He was an Air Force weapons loader when the incidents, including the alleged attempted murder, occurred in military housing on the Air Force base.

The couple married when her child, from a previous relationship, was 8 months old.

Melanie Gamble said her husband struggled with the couple’s financial problems, the stress of boot camp and the duties of stepfatherhood.

He could not tolerate the child’s crying, she said, and was angry she preferred her mother.

Gregory Gamble was discharged from the Air Force in December and has been unemployed and living with his parents in New York.

The couple are divorcing.

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