Camp Pendleton Stabbing Suspect Claims Incident Was 'Horseplay'

Scott Weberpal, right, shared this photo of his son, Pfc. Ethan Barclay-Weberpal, left, on Facebook. (Facebook photo)
Scott Weberpal, right, shared this photo of his son, Pfc. Ethan Barclay-Weberpal, left, on Facebook. (Facebook photo)

Despite providing evidence that he never intended to stab to death a fellow Marine at Camp Pendleton’s School of Infantry, a student there has been charged with murder.

According to the military court docket, Pfc. Raymond W. Begay was arraigned last week on murder and manslaughter charges tied to the Jan. 16 death of Ethan Barclay-Weberpal, 18, of the school’s Lima Company, Headquarters and Services Battalion. Marine Corps Combat Development Command spokesman Capt. Joshua Pena confirmed the charges.

In late March, Begay appeared before an Article 32 hearing -- which functions like a grand jury in civilian criminal courts.

Led by Marine Maj. Nelson Candelario, his defense team highlighted witnesses who said the death was caused by horseplay, not intentional murder.

Prosectors countered that there was evidence Begay threatened to stab other Marines before Barclay-Weberpal died.

Messages left for Candelario and other senior court officials at Camp Pendleton were not returned.

Under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, there are four types of murder.

A Marine is guilty of murder if he or she had a premeditated design to kill the victim, but the crime also could turn on an intention to inflict great bodily harm or any other action that is inherently dangerous to another person and "evinces a wanton disregard for human life."

A Marine also can be charged with murder if a victim dies while the suspect is committing another very serious felony, like rape.

A Marine is guilty of manslaughter if he or she slays another in the heat of passion or if the perpetrator never intended to kill the victim but was recklessly negligent in the actions leading to the death.

Barclay-Weberpal was buried on Jan. 29 at his hometown of Janesville, Wisconsin.

The court-martial is being convened by Virginia-based Marine Corps Training Command -- called "TECOM" by the troops -- although the homicide case will play out in a Camp Pendleton courtroom.

On Jan. 22, The San Diego Union-Tribune filed a request under the federal Freedom of Information Act to identify the Marine suspect being held in pretrial confinement in the case without charges.

TECOM officials never responded. After more than a month, the Union-Tribune filed an appeal with a special internal court at the Navy Yard. The Navy remanded the case back to TECOM, but only after Begay’s Article hearing 32 began and made Begay’s identity public -- making the Union-Tribune’s efforts irrelevant.

The Union-Tribune tried to obtain basic information on Begay’s arraignment and service history from TECOM officials on Tuesday and Wednesday, including directly calling commander Maj. Gen. Kevin Iiams in Virginia. No one responded to numerous messages.

The Begay case isn’t the only disciplinary headache bedeviling Iiams’ TECOM.

Over the past two weeks, authorities have arraigned three other Marines at Camp Pendleton’s School of Infantry on criminal conspiracy, drug possession and other charges.

The Naval Criminal Investigative Service also continues to probe another suspicious death there. Pfc. Michael Michael Philomeno Giannattasio, 22, of Armada, Mich., was found unresponsive during land navigation training on the Basic Reconnaissance Course in August.

Both TECOM and NCIS have rebuffed multiple Union-Tribune Freedom of Information Act requests in his case.

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This article was written by Carl Prine from The San Diego Union-Tribune and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

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