Three more soldiers from Joint Base Lewis-McChord have been charged in the alleged premeditated murders of three Afghan civilians this year – crimes that were committed using grenades and rifles, according to military authorities.
Two other soldiers, who were previously charged in the killings, also stand accused of beating a fellow Stryker soldier in connection with the civilian deaths.
That means a total of five soldiers with the 5th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division are now charged in a string of killings that reportedly started in January and ended in early May.
Four of the five are being held in pretrial confinement at Lewis-McChord, with the fifth scheduled to return there soon, officials said Wednesday.
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All five soldiers are assigned to B Company, 2nd Battalion, 1st Infantry Regiment. They deployed to Afghanistan last summer.
Pfc. Andrew H. Holmes, Spc. Michael S. Wagnon II and Spc. Adam C. Winfield were charged Tuesday evening with one count each of premeditated murder under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, according to a news release. Each is accused in separate killings.
Staff Sgt. Calvin R. Gibbs, 25, was charged in Kuwait on June 8 with three counts of premeditated murder and one specification of assault. The infantryman from Billings, Mont., should be at Lewis-McChord within the next several days, the base reported. He was on his third deployment.
Spc. Jeremy N. Morlock, 22, a native of Wasilla, Alaska, was charged June 4 with three counts of premeditated murder and one count of assault. He’s being confined at the base. It was his first deployment.
According to charge sheets in the case released Wednesday by the Army, Morlock and Gibbs are charged with murdering Gul Mudin near Forward Operating Base Ramrod by throwing a fragmentation grenade at him and shooting him with a rifle sometime between Jan. 1 and Jan. 31.
The two also are charged with murdering Marach Agha by shooting him with a rifle on or about Feb. 22 near the same base.
And on or about May 2, they are charged with murdering Mullah Adahdad by throwing a grenade at him and shooting him with a rifle, also near FOB Ramrod.
It was unclear Wednesday how the three killings in three months were connected. I Corps spokeswoman Lt. Col. Tamara Parker said the circumstances will come out in the investigation.
Holmes, 19, from Boise, is charged with participating in the murder of Mudin, according to his charge sheet. Holmes was on his first deployment.
Winfield, 21, from Cape Coral, Fla., is charged with participating in the murder of Adahdad. He was also on his first deployment.
Wagnon, 29, a Las Vegas native, is charged with participating in the murder of Agha. He was on his third deployment.
Wagnon also was charged with impeding a criminal investigation “by obtaining a hard drive which contained evidence of murders and asking another soldier to erase said hard drive,” according to his charge sheet.
The assault charge against both Morlock and Gibbs stems from an assault using their hands and feet to beat on a fellow soldier May 5 at FOB Ramrod, according to their charging sheets.
Winfield’s mother, Emma Winfield of Cape Coral told the Fort Myers (Fla.) News-Press said that her son has retained an attorney but declined further comment.
Parker said she didn’t know whether the other soldiers have retained attorneys or had them appointed for them yet.
She said the investigation is continuing, adding that she didn’t know if any more soldiers would be charged in the case.
She said the Stryker Task Force commander at Lewis-McChord has appointed an Article 32 investigating officer in Morlock’s case. An Article 32 is similar to a grand jury investigation in civilian courts, she said.
“First there will be a hearing,” she said, although no date has been set.
The investigation will take some time, she added.
The investigating officer eventually will recommend to the task force commander whether to go to a court-martial and whether it should be handled as a capital case.
The maximum sentence for conviction on a premeditated murder charge is life in prison or death.
The five cases are expected to be handled separately, Parker added.
The 5th Brigade is returning from overseas. Parker said advance parties already have arrived, with more units arriving this month and in July.
The news about Winfield came as a shock to his friend Hanna Harding, 22, who met Winfield through a friend while he was stationed at Lewis-McChord. Harding told the Fort Meyers News-Press that Winfield was excited to finally deploy from the base.
“I want to cry,” Harding told the newspaper. “I can’t believe it. It’s not like Adam at all.”
Harding said Winfield is very shy until you get to know him.
“He’s a really nice guy, genuine, funny. Adam is probably one of the smartest people I know,” she told the News-Press.
Mike Archbold: 253-597-8692