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Soldier accused of killing 5 comrades faces charges at JBLM

Post by Matt Misterek / The News Tribune on May 18, 2012 at 11:24 am |
May 18, 2012 11:24 am

An Army sergeant accused of killing five other U.S. service members in the deadliest act of soldier-on-soldier violence in the Iraq war is being held at Joint Base Lewis-McChord and faces murder charges there.

Army officials said this morning that Sgt. John Russell has been referred to a general court martial at the base south of Tacoma and is being held in pre-trial confinement there.

Russell did not train at Lewis-McChord and was not stationed there at the time of the murders, but his unit was attached to a Lewis-McChord unit on the ground in Iraq.

Russell is accused of opening fire at the combat stress center at Camp Liberty near Baghdad in May 2009. Four of the victims were fellow soldiers and the fifth was a Navy officer.

The charges referred against him this week include five specifications of murder, one specification of aggravated assault and one specification of attempted murder. No trial date has been set.

If convicted of all charges, Russell could face the death penalty.

A military investigator determined that Russell should not face death because he suffered from serious mental illness, but that decision is ultimately left to court martial authorities.

Russell deployed to Iraq with the 370th Engineer Company, 54th Engineer Battalion from Bamberg, Germany.  Once in theater, the 54th was assigned to a unit from Lewis-McChord.

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