US hearing ends in Afghanistan massacre case
Joint Base Lewis-McChord: The preliminary hearing ended Wednesday against the US soldier accused of killing 16 Afghan villagers during a pre-dawn rampage earlier this year a massacre that brought a temporary halt to US combat operations.
In the coming weeks, the investigating officer, Col Lee Deneke, will decide whether to recommend court-martial for Staff Sgt Robert Bales.
Prosecutors say Bales slipped away from his base to attack two villages in Kandahar province, killing 16 civilians, including nine children.
The US paused combat operations in Afghanistan after angry protests, and it was three weeks before American investigators could reach the crime scenes.
Testimony by villagers via video link from Afghanistan concluded late Sunday. The witnesses included a 7-year-old girl who described how she hid behind her father when a gunman came to their village that night, how the stranger fired and how her father died, cursing in pain and anger.
The ultimate decision on a court-martial will be made by the three-star general at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Robert Brown.
Bales, a 39-year-old father of two, could face the death penalty.
Bales has not entered a plea and did not testify at the hearing. His attorneys have not discussed the evidence, but they say he has post-traumatic stress disorder and suffered a concussive head injury while serving in Iraq.
The lead prosecutor has said that on the night of the killings, Bales watched a movie about a former CIA agent on a revenge killing spree while drinking contraband whiskey.
The lead prosecutor said Bales first attacked one village, returned to his base, then headed out again to attack a second village before returning to his base covered in blood.