updated 1/18/2007 3:53:02 PM ET 2007-01-18T20:53:02

A Marine corporal pleaded guilty Thursday to kidnapping and murdering an unarmed Iraqi civilian last year, and said his sergeant made sure the victim was dead by firing a burst of gunfire into the man's head.

Cpl. Trent Thomas, 25, is the first of seven Marines and a Navy medic accused in the case to plead guilty to murder. Four others have pleaded guilty to reduced charges in exchange for their testimony.

Prosecutors said the eight-man squad kidnapped 52-year-old Hashim Ibrahim Awad in Hamdania, took him to a roadside hole and shot him to death, placing an AK-47 and shovel by his body to make it look as if he was an insurgent caught planting a bomb.

Thomas, a St. Louis-area native who was on his second tour of Iraq during the April 26 killing, said that he and other squad members seized Awad from a house, walked him to the hole, cuffed his hands and threw him to the ground.

The Marine said someone fired a shot, and then he and others in the squad opened fire. Sgt. Lawrence G. Hutchins III went up to the victim to make sure he was dead, Thomas said.

"Sgt. Hutchins shot Mr. Awad with a three-round burst to the head to do the dead check," Thomas said.

Hutchins is awaiting trial on murder and other charges.

Thomas is to be sentenced in the coming weeks.

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