JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. – An American soldier was sentenced to life in prison without parole on Friday after he plead guilty to killing over a dozen Afghan civilians, most of whom were women and children.
As previously reported, Staff Sergeant Robert Bales appeared in court this past June and entered a guilty plea to over 30 criminal charges, including multiple counts of murder, in order to avoid the death penalty.
According to reports, on the night of March 11, 2012, Bales left his base with two firearms and a grenade in tow and headed to the village of Alkozai. Following a struggle with an older woman, he decided to “murder anyone that he saw.” After killing a number of civilians, prosecutors state that he returned to the base and told a fellow soldier about the bloodshed, who did not believe him.
Bales then left a second time and went to attack the village of Najiban, where he carried out another massacre. Reports state that the deceased from the two attacks were mainly women and children.
As he spoke in court, Bales was asked if he set the bodies of civilians on fire. He replied that he did not recall doing so, but stated that he remembered seeing a lantern in the room, and that he had matches in his pocket that night.
“It’s the only thing that makes sense, sir,” he told Judge Colonel Jeffery Nance.
Several Afghan children also appeared via video during the June hearing recounting to the court that when they realized that Bales had the intent to kill civilians, they hid behind curtains as others ran, yelling, “We are children!” One girl said that she took refuge behind her father as he was shot to death by the soldier.
However, Bales’ attorneys advised those present that the solider had been drinking alcohol and snorting valium the night of the massacre, and that he struggled with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and a traumatic brain injury. He was also taking steroids.
They reiterated their defense on Friday, stating that Bales was a family man who loved his children, but made poor decisions after suffering a breakdown.
Following legal argument, a jury comprised of six fellow soldiers deliberated for just under two hours in deciding Bales’ fate. When they emerged, the jury announced that Bales will now spend the rest of his life behind bars without parole.
However, some of the family members of the victims remain unsatisfied with the decision.
“This murderer jumped into my house in the middle of the night, killed 11 members of my family and then burned them,” Hajji Mohammad Wazir, whose wife and six of his seven children died in the lethal assault, told reporters, noting that Bales’ family can at least visit him in prison. “Our family members are actually 6 feet under, and there’s no way that we can visit them at all. They’re dead.”
“I’m truly, truly sorry to those people whose families got taken away,” Bales told the court during the hearing. “I can’t comprehend their loss. I think about it every time I look at my kids.”