JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD — During the second day of a sentencing hearing for Army Staff Sgt. Robert Bales, who has pleaded guilty to killing 16 Afghan civilians, a jury heard more wrenching testimony from witnesses who survived the March 11, 2012, massacre in the Kandahar province of Afghanistan.
Bales, a married father of two, shot and killed 11 members of Wazir’s family, including his mother, wife, and six children. The children’s bodies were also set on fire.
“I had a good life, a happy family life,” Wazir told the court. Bales, he said, took that all away.
The American soldier, who turned 40 in June, has admitted going into two Afghan villages of Balandi and Alkozai and murdering 16 civilians, including several children.
“I don’t think anyone can say with a rational mind that Bob Bales didn’t snap,” said John Henry Browne, Bales’ attorney. “I just don’t think you can argue that.”
Browne blamed that breakdown on post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), caused by four separate deployments to war zones.
Prosecutors contend Bales was frustrated with his life, was in a bad marriage, passed over for promotion, and drowning in debt before he took an assault rifle into those two villages.
On Wednesday, jurors also heard from witnesses who knew Bales before his time in war. They described a high school football star and class president who loved people and loved having a good time. Bales’ older brother, William Bales, told the court, “He loved people … no better father.”
Bob Durham, who lived next to Bales as he grew up in Nebraska, said Bales was like another member of the family. Durham broke down in tears on the stand describing Bales’ compassion and how, as a teenager, he helped him care for his developmentally disabled son.
Browne later said, “Bales did things when he was 14, 15, 16 that are amazing.”
That’s a far cry from what the adult Bales admitted doing last year in Afghanistan.
Bales is expected to take the stand Thursday or Friday and offer an apology to his victims.
He will be sentenced to life in prison, but the six-member Army jury could change that to life with the possibility of parole.