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AWOL Fairbanks-based Stryker soldier arrested in Fla. seeking mental health treatment

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Posted: Wednesday, November 16, 2011 11:56 pm | Updated: 1:35 pm, Wed Jan 16, 2013.

FAIRBANKS — A Stryker soldier arrested while undergoing mental health treatment in Florida was returned to Fort Wainwright on Wednesday. His commanders will decide whether to prosecute him for deserting.

Pfc. Devon Ritchie, 25, was home on a 15-day leave from his deployment to Afghanistan last month when he became agitated as his Oct. 11 return date approached, his mother, Barbie Boynton, said.

Ritchie deployed twice to Iraq before leaving for Afghanistan in August with the 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division. He had a history of mental health problems dating back to his first deployment, she said. Instead of returning to Afghanistan, he went to get mental health help Central Florida Behavioral Hospital in Orlando.

On Nov. 8, U.S. Marshals and local police arrested Ritchie and took him to a local jail. Boynton was not at the medical center when the arrest took place but said it took her by surprise because she had been in communication with her son’s commanders.

U.S. Army spokesman Lt. Col. Bill Coppernoll in Anchorage confirmed Ritchie was arrested last week and was returned to Alaska Wednesday.

At Fort Wainwright, Ritchie will be given mental health care and will be given legal counsel if his commanders decide to prosecute, Coppernoll said.

Commanders have already decided not to return Ritchie to Afghanistan, Coppernoll said.

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