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US soldier: Guilty of murder in Iraq

13 June 2012, 08:32

 Fort Stewart - A US soldier was found guilty on Tuesday of killing his two Army room mates in 2010 at a US base camp in Iraq, where prosecutors said he opened fire hours after complaining that the victims had let their room get too messy.

A court-martial found Spc Neftaly Platero guilty of two counts of premeditated murder and one count of attempted premeditated murder after a week long trial. The verdict was reached by a five-member jury of Army officers and non-commissioned officers after 90 minutes of deliberations on Tuesday.

The case moved directly to the sentencing phase. Platero faces life in prison with or without the possibility of parole. Fort Stewart commanders earlier decided not to pursue it as a death penalty case.

Prosecutors said 34-year-old Platero shot his roommates as they readied for bed at Camp Fallujah on 23 Sept 2010. Pfc Grebrah Noonan was fatally shot in the side and the back after having just returned to their room from a shower. Spc John Carrillo Jr was felled by the gunfire while rummaging through his backpack.

A fourth soldier who shared the room, Spc Jeffrey Shonk, survived after a bullet creased his skull while he was lying on his bunk. But he testified that he can't remember the shootings, including who pulled the trigger.

No one else witnessed the shootings. Staff Sgt Jhamaal Martin, who testified he was one of the first to rush into the room, said Shonk was able to speak and told him: "Platero shot us". None of the medics who treated the wounded soldier could recall him speaking. Platero's defence attorneys insisted Martin's account was a fabrication.

Platero didn't testify during his trial. His attorney, Guy Womack, said Army investigators rushed to focus on Platero as their only suspect even after forensic evidence failed to point to him as the shooter. Eighteen spent bullet casings were recovered from the room, and several matched Platero's assault rifle. But skin samples taken from his right hand soon after the shootings tested negative for gunshot residue.

Womack said prosecutors also had a flimsy motive. Platero's supervisors testified he came to them twice hours before the shootings to complain that his room mates were letting their room get too dirty. Prosecutors said Platero got angry after all four room mates, including Platero, were told they would be subjected to extra room inspections.

- AP


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