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Military trial begins Wednesday for soldier accused of killing Afghan civilians

By Staff | Mar 22, 2011

A military trial will begin Wednesday for one of five U.S. soldiers, including a man from Cape Coral, accused of murdering Afghan civilians while deployed.
A general court-martial for Spc. Jeremy Morlock, 23, of Wasilla, Alaska, is being held at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington. He is implicated in the deaths of three Afghans, which occurred in the first five months of 2010.
Also implicated in the alleged murders is Cape resident Spc. Adam C. Winfield, 21, as well as Spc. Michael S. Wagnon II, Pvt. 1st Class Andrew H. Holmes and Staff Sgt. Calvin Gibbs. They will also undergo military trials.
Morlock is facing three specifications of premeditated murder — one for each death. Gibbs is the only other soldier accused in all three deaths.
Morlock is also charged with one specification of assault, conspiracy to commit premeditated murder, conspiracy to commit assault and battery, wrongfully endeavoring to impede an investigation, violating a lawful general order and wrongfully using a controlled substance.
“These charges are part of an ongoing investigation being conducted by the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command,” officials at the Public Affairs Office at Joint Base Lewis-McChord wrote in a prepared statement Tuesday.
“Joint Base Lewis-McChord officials emphasize that the charges are merely an accusation and that the accused is presumed innocent until prove guilty,” officials wrote.
If convicted of all charges and specifications, Morlock faces a maximum punishment of imprisonment for life without the possibility of parole.
In May, the U.S. military announced that the five soldiers had been implicated in the three deaths. They served together in B Company, 2nd Battalion, 1st Infantry Regiment, 5th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division.
Holmes, 20, of Boise, Idaho, killed Gul Mudin by throwing a grenade at him and shooting him with a rifle on or about Jan. 31, according to the charge sheets.
Wagnon, 30, of Las Vegas, Nev., is accused of fatally shooting Marach Agha with a rifle on or about Feb. 22. Wagnon later allegedly obtained a hard drive containing evidence of the murders and asked another soldier to erase it.
On or about May 2, Winfield killed Mullah Adahdad by throwing a grenade at him and shooting him with a rifle, according to the charge sheets.
Winfield is facing one specification of premeditated murder, committing an assault with a dangerous weapon, conspiracy to commit premeditated murder, conspiracy to commit aggravated assault with a dangerous weapon and wrongfully using a controlled substance.
Wagnon is charged with one specification of premeditated murder, conspiracy to commit premeditated murder, conspiracy to commit assault consummated by battery and committing assault with a dangerous weapon.
Holmes is facing one specification of premeditated murder, conspiracy to commit premeditated murder, conduct prejudicial to good order and discipline, violating a lawful general order and wrongfully using a controlled substance.
All three men face a maximum punishment of imprisonment for life without the possibility of parole if convicted of all charges and specifications.
Gibbs, 26, of Billings, Mont., has been labeled as the ringleader by some of those charged. Along with the three specifications of murder, he faces two specifications of conduct prejudicial to good order and discipline, wrongfully endeavoring to impede an investigation and dereliction of duty.
Other specifications include unlawfully striking another soldier, committing an assault with a dangerous weapon, conspiracy to commit premeditated murder, conspiracy to commit assault consummated by battery, conspiracy to commit aggravated assault with a dangerous weapon, wrongfully communicating a threat to injure and violating a general order.
If convicted of all charges and specifications, Gibbs also faces a maximum punishment of imprisonment for life without the possibility of parole.
According to the Associated Press, a military judge ruled last week that Winfield’s attorney could present evidence at his court martial that he tried to alert authorities about the murders taking place.
Prosecutors were seeking to deny evidence that Winfield had alerted his family early last year via a social networking site that some in his unit had “killed one civilian, planned to more more and were urging him to ‘get one of his own,'” AP reported.
His father told the base about the allegations, but nothing was done.
According to the AP, Winfield has maintained that he was threatened to not say anything about the murders and that he had been scared.