You’d think Coast Guard search-and-rescue crews have seen just about everything, but the case of Petty Officer 1st Class Russell Matthews was a new one.
Matthews pleaded guilty Tuesday to desertion and wrongful use of marijuana during a special court-martial in Honolulu before a Coast Guard judge, according to a report by Fox News.
Matthews, a helo rescue swimmer, explained that he left work on Oct. 9, decided never to return and spent the next three months camping in the mountains of Oahu. He went off the radar for three months.
"That's a long time to be camping," said Cmdr. Kevin Bruen, the judge presiding over the court-martial. "How did you sustain yourself?"
"I had $20 in my pocket," Matthews told the judge. "I did some ... stuff I try not to remember."
Matthews said he was emotionally hurt by the suicide of his first wife and the loss of four colleagues in a 2008 helicopter crash. He said he was supposed to be on that training flight off Hawaii.
Matthews resurfaced in January, apparently “incoherent,” according to a report at the time by ABC News.
Bruen sentenced Matthews to more than six months of confinement and a bad conduct discharge. In exchange for his guilty plea, the Coast Guard dismissed charges of being absent without leave and causing the Coast Guard to conduct a search when there was no need. The multiday search over 10,000 square miles is estimated to have cost $1 million.