JOINT BASE LEWIS-McCHORD, Wash. — Army prosecutors on Tuesday asked an investigative officer to recommend a death penalty court-martial for an Army staff sergeant accused of killing 16 Afghan villagers in a predawn rampage, saying that Staff Sgt. Robert Bales committed heinous and despicable crimes.
Prosecutors made their closing arguments after a week of testimony in the preliminary hearing, known as an Article 32. Prosecutors say Bales, 39, slipped away from his remote base at Camp Belambay to attack two villages early on March 11. Among the dead were nine children.
The slayings drew such angry protests that the U.S. temporarily halted combat operations in Afghanistan, and it was three weeks before American investigators could reach the crime scenes.
Terrible, terrible things happened, said Maj. Rob Stelle, the prosecutor who delivered closing arguments in the preliminary hearing. That is clear.
Several soldiers testified that Bales returned to the base alone just before dawn, covered in blood, and that he made incriminating statements such as, I thought I was doing the right thing.
An attorney for Bales argued there's not enough information to move forward with the court-martial.