(MILITARY TIMES) -- An airman who left his post in Augsburg, Germany, nearly three decades ago recently contacted Air Force investigators from Sweden, the country he has called home since he went AWOL in February 1984.
David A. Hemler, 49, who was with the 6913th Electronic Security Squadron at the time of his disappearance, sent an email to the service's Office of Special Investigations about two weeks ago, agency spokeswoman Linda Card said. OSI has verified the email did come from Hemler.
But unless Hemler turns himself in or returns to the U.S., "our hands are tied. We can't touch him," Card said. That's because Sweden's extradition treaty with the U.S. does not cover military or political crimes.
"Everybody's working with the U.S. embassy in Sweden, trying to encourage him to turn himself in," she said. So far, "he's made no attempt to do that."
Hemler, whose rank at the time he deserted was not made available, is on OSI's list of most-wanted fugitives.
Card described his letter to OSI as "long and convoluted." He attempted to explain why he deserted 28 years ago and also asked for forgiveness.
Card said OSI had long suspected Hemler was hiding out in Sweden but simply had no recourse. "He could be on the books for 100 years and if he's caught or turns himself in, he's going to face charges for desertion."
Then it would be in the hands of a military judge, she said.