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Prison for soldier who crushed mistress to death

30 March 2016, 19:05

Panama City - A US soldier who murdered his young Panamanian mistress while stationed in the country was sentenced to 30 years in prison by a US court martial Tuesday, the Panamanian government said.

Army Master Sergeant Omar Velez-Pagan, aged 37, was given the punishment by the military court in Fort Bragg, North Carolina after being convicted on Monday of the June 2014 murder of Vanessa Rodriguez, 25, Panama's foreign ministry said in a statement.

He was found guilty of killing her by crushing her head with his car, as well as adultery, steroid use and obstructing justice by trying to hide her body in rural land near a river in southern Panama.

During sentencing, Velez-Pagan asked for forgiveness from his victim's family and the Panamanian people, the foreign ministry said.

Velez-Pagan last week admitted in court to all the crimes except murder. He was arrested in 2014 by Panamanian police and handed over to US officials, who sent him to the United States for detention and trial.

Rodriguez's parents previously said they feared Velez-Pagan would escape punishment, but reportedly expressed satisfaction with his conviction.

The US soldier was stationed in Panama on a one-year posting to help train a local police unit. While there he cheated on his American-based wife with Rodriguez, breaking military rules.

As well as the prison sentence, the Fort Bragg court ordered that Velez-Pagan be stripped of military pensions, have pay forfeited, be demoted to private and be dishonorably discharged.


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