Tacoma resident Marla Menold didn't get the justice she wanted. But she says she can move on with her life now that she has a legitimate divorce -- not the phony one her ex-husband allegedly cooked up.
A Pierce County Superior Court judge this week approved the divorce of Menold and Army Staff Sgt. Zachariah Siemers. With the divorce finalized, she can use her maiden name for the first time in 20 years.
Such proceedings replay hundreds of times in local courtrooms, but one thing made this hearing unusual: A rural Eastern Washington judge had purportedly already approved their divorce more than five years ago, unbeknownst to Menold.
The Army later charged Siemers for allegedly filing a bogus divorce degree and then marrying another woman in 2008 after he transferred to Fort Knox, Ky., from Joint Base Lewis-McChord. He's now stationed in South Korea.
The News Tribune first wrote of the couple's strange case in May.
Menold, 48, said the revelation of the bogus divorce was emotionally devastating and left her with thousands of dollars in unpaid medical bills because Siemers had dropped her from his military health insurance. The couple had separated in May 2007 and had four children together.
She wanted to bring her husband to justice but the Army wouldn't listen until her lawyer presented them with the forged decree and the marriage certificate for Siemers and the other woman.
The Army charged Siemers, 39, in March with seven violations of military law, including bigamy, adultery and forgery. But last week, as Menold was preparing to testify at his court-martial later this month, an Army prosecutor dropped a bombshell: It was dismissing the charges.
Menold said they never gave her an explanation. Lt. Col. Joseph Scrocca, a spokesman for the division Siemers is assigned to, wrote in an e-mail to The News Tribune that prosecutors determined they didn't have sufficient evidence to prove his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
"That's just crazy to me," said Menold, when a reporter told her of the Army's explanation. "What more do you need to prove?"
Scrocca said Siemers received a letter of reprimand on Aug. 22, but the action is still pending because the soldier is contesting it. The reprimand goes into Siemers' personnel file but carries no punishment, Scrocca explained.
Menold said she has mixed feelings after getting the real divorce finalized shortly after learning of the Army's decision not to prosecute him.
"I feel that I can move on now, but what upsets me is that he got away with it," she said.
Thursday's divorce proceeding lasted less than an hour; neither Siemers nor a representative showed up.
Judge Stephanie Arend signed court orders making Menold eligible to receive half her former husband's retirement pay, nearly $43,000 for military housing subsidies she never benefitted from, payment of $4,000 for the unpaid medical bills, $37,500 in alimony and about $20,000 in attorney fees.
Menold doesn't know if she'll receive any of the money. Siemers is due to retire from the Army in December, she said.
Menold and her boyfriend have discussed marriage but for now she's looking forward to a vacation in October and putting this part of her life in the rearview mirror.
"It's been a long journey," she said.