Bales to Be Arraigned in Afghan Massacre Case

Army Staff Sgt. Robert Bales

Staff Sgt. Robert Bales is scheduled to appear in court Thursday at Joint Base Lewis-McChord for an arraignment on charges that he murdered 16 Afghan civilians and wounded six more last March.

It is to be his first court appearance since the Army announced last month that it intends to pursue the death penalty against the soldier.

The Army's prosecution of Bales is still in its early phases, and Bales does not have to enter a plea.

The married father of two and former Lake Tapps resident allegedly slipped out of a Special Forces combat outpost in Kandahar province twice in the early hours of March 11 and slaughtered Afghan civilians in two villages. Nine of the murder victims were children.

The Army in November presented evidence over a two-week pretrial hearing suggesting that Bales was the only soldier missing from his outpost that night, that DNA evidence from blood samples on his weapon matched a sample from one of the killing scenes, and that he appeared to confess when his fellow soldiers took him into custody that day.

The soldier's defense attorneys have not conceded Bales' guilt. They have suggested that Afghan witnesses appeared confused and could have seen multiple shooters on the night of the killings. Bales' attorneys have also said the Stryker infantryman was dogged by an undiagnosed post-traumatic stress disorder that should have kept him from deploying for what was his fourth combat tour.

Bales, 39, served his entire Army career at Lewis-McChord with the 3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division. His unit was broken into small components and assigned to Special Forces detachments throughout southern Afghanistan last year.

Bales was well-regarded among peers before his final deployment and was on the path to a coveted promotion, his company first sergeant testified in November.

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