Staff sergeant charged in deaths of his officers

Army men were killed in barracks while in Iraq

June 17, 2005|By CHICAGO TRIBUNE

A 37-year-old staff sergeant was charged in the deaths of two of his superior officers in the first alleged case of its kind in Iraq, the military announced yesterday.

Staff Sgt. Alberto B. Martinez of the 42nd Infantry Division was charged Wednesday with two counts of premeditated murder for the June 7 attack that killed Capt. Phillip T. Esposito, 30, and Lt. Louis E. Allen, 34.

Martinez, a National Guardsman from Troy, N.Y., was a soldier in the division's Headquarters and Headquarters Company. Esposito and Allen were that unit's top two commanders. U.S. military officials refused to comment on reports that Martinez was facing disciplinary action that could have motivated him to act.

"We don't have an idea as to any motive at this time," said Maj. Patrick Swan, a spokesman for the Multi-National Force in Iraq. Swan said charges against additional soldiers would not be ruled out.

Martinez was being held late yesterday under military confinement in Kuwait and has been provided an attorney from the U.S. Army Trial Defense Service. Swan could not say whether the soldier had turned himself in or whether he had been implicated in the attack by evidence found after an extensive investigation.

The Army's Criminal Investigation Division had been looking into the deaths of Esposito and Allen for more than a week. The two officers died about 10 p.m. on June 7 inside a former palace that had been converted to barracks for U.S. soldiers on the lush grounds of one of Saddam Hussein's former compounds in Tikrit.

It was initially believed the men died from injuries in a mortar attack, but forensic evidence soon ruled that out. Within days, the Army announced the officers' deaths were being investigated as crimes.

The palace where the men were killed - dubbed the "water palace" by troops - is on a manmade lake.

Swan would not say what evidence had pointed to Martinez in the attacks.

The Chicago Tribune is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

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