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Bales hearing: Army forensic expert finds blood from nine people, connects one to SSG Bales’ gear

Post by Adam Ashton / The News Tribune on Nov. 8, 2012 at 12:05 pm |
November 8, 2012 3:47 pm

3:45 p.m. update: Today’s testimony concluded with a textile expert who said materials taken from a pillow in an Afghan house that Staff Sgt. Robert Bales allegedly assaulted matched fibers on the “cape” he wore the night he turned himself over to soldiers at his combat outpost.

The implication is that Bales was in the house and carried fibers with him back to Village Stability Platform Belambay.

Soldiers who took him into custody on the early hours of March 11 reported that Bales turned himself wearing a T-shirt, combat pants, a helmet, night vision goggles and what they described as a cape tied around his neck.

We received a witness list for tomorrow night’s live testimony from Kandahar Province. Two Afghan guards, two victims and four relatives of victims are scheduled to testify at the fifth day of Bales’ Article 32 hearing. The testimony will begin at 7:30 p.m. Pacific time.

*****

2:45 p.m. update: An Army DNA examiner found blood stains from nine different people in the evidence investigators gathered from Staff Sgt. Robert Bales and the two Afghan villages he allegedly attacked in March.

Only one DNA match from those nine unidentified people shows up both in an Afghan home and on what was reported to be Bales’ equipment.

DNA from two women and two men appears only on swabs taken from the villages of Alkozai and Najiban.

DNA from one women and two men shows up only on the weapons Bales allegedly carried on the night of the killings, and the clothes he allegedly wore.

Prosecutors and defense attorneys did not ask DNA examiner Christine Trapolsi to describe the person known as Male No. 5. Trapolsi works for the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Laboratory.

Trapolsi also had DNA from the five Afghans Bales allegedly wounded in Alkozai. It did not match the DNA blood stains she tested on Bales’ clothing and weapons.

Defense attorney Emma Scanlan highlighted the gaps between the DNA collected on Bales’ gear and the evidence collected in the villages. Prosecutor Maj. John Riesenberg noted Trapolsi has tested only a fraction of the blood stains she has identified on Bales’ equipment.

Trapolsi also tested small blood stains on clothing of a sergeant whom soldiers at Bales’ outpost speculated was involved in the killings. Trapolsi said the blood was the sergeant’s.

*****

So far, evidence of accomplice in killings appears weak

On Tuesday, we heard from a nervous specialist who acknowledged that he and three peers approached Army criminal investigators with a theory that a sergeant who was close to Staff Sgt. Robert Bales might have participated in the massacre of Afghan civilians in the village of Alkozai.

Their theory rested on a few facts:

1) Afghan National Army soldiers told Pfc. Derek Guinn that they saw two Americans walking into their combat outpost and one leaving on the night of the killings.* Bales allegedly left Village Stability Platform Belambay twice on March 11 to kill Afghans in two villages.

2) The sergeant who drew the suspicion of the junior soldiers appeared conspicuously clean and shaven about 3:30 a.m. when soldiers at Belambay realized Bales was missing. This stood out to the specialist because soldiers at Belambay had been growing beards. The sergeant should have had at least a month’s worth of facial hair, but he appeared to have a smooth face to the specialist.

3) Another soldier saw this sergeant dispose of a large garbage bag.

4) Soldiers in Bales’ platoon knew he was relatively close to this sergeant.

Yesterday, we heard from an Army criminal investigator who responded to the concerns of the junior soldier by gathering clothes from the sergeant. The clothes did not have blood on them.

Prosecutors also showed a photo of the sergeant taken two days after the killings. He had a full beard, one that looked like it had at least a month’s worth of growth.

We could hear more about multiple Americans being involved in the killings when Afghan witnesses start testifying Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Some have insisted in interviews with various media organizations that more than one American participated in the shootings.

U.S. and Afghan investigators have rejected the multiple-soldier theory so far. It persists, partly because the violence in Alkozai and Najiban is so hard to comprehend.

The fourth day of testimony is expected to resume this afternoon with Army forensic experts.

And here’s our final take from Day 3.

* An earlier version of this story had Guinn’s testimony reversed. He testified that Afghan guards saw two Americans walking into Village Stability Platform Belambay, and one leaving. I had two going and one arriving in my first post this morning.

*
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