updated 3/24/2009 5:44:31 PM ET 2009-03-24T21:44:31

A one-time Army paratrooper was sentenced to life in prison Tuesday for killing a fellow soldier and wounding nearly 20 others in a sniper attack at a North Carolina base more than a decade ago.

Sgt. William Kreutzer of Clinton, Md., had pleaded guilty earlier this month to one charge of premeditated murder and 18 other charges to avoid a possible death sentence. As a result, the sentence the 39-year-old received was expected Tuesday at Fort Bragg.

Kreutzer apologized in a two-page statement read by his attorney during the sentencing hearing, offering his "most heartfelt, sincere apology to each of you."

"Words are inadequate to express the deep sense of shame and remorse that I feel for the harm that I caused," Kreutzer's statement said.

Kreutzer's victims were preparing for a morning run on Oct. 27, 1995, at the massive Army base in eastern North Carolina when he opened fire with a rifle from a concealed position.

He hit and wounded 16 soldiers from the division's 325th Airborne Infantry Regiment as they left an athletic field. He also shot three other soldiers who tried to stop him, wounding two and killing Maj. Stephen Badger.

Widow: 'I pray for him'
Badger's widow, Dianne Badger, of Lehi, Utah, told the court at Tuesday's hearing that her husband loved his soldiers.

"He was kind. He was gentle," Badger said. "He also had an inner strength."

After the sentence was handed down, Badger said that as much as she misses her husband, she forgives Kreutzer for his crimes.

"I am at peace. I forgave him years ago and I still have that forgiveness today," she said. "I pray for him."

Kreutzer was originally convicted and sentenced to death in 1996, but a military appeals court overturned the sentence after concluding his defense lawyers provided ineffective counsel.

Earlier this month, Kreutzer agreed to plead guilty to one charge of premeditated murder and 18 counts of aggravated assault. The assault charges were elevated to attempted murder last week after military judge Col. Patrick Parrish heard witnesses who testified Kreutzer had talked about an attack, was obsessed with weapons and made threats in the months before the shooting.

As part of his sentence, Parrish also reduced Kreutzer's rank to private, ordered him to forfeit all future pay and be dishonorably discharged. He denied a defense request that Kreutzer be given credit for time served in the event his sentence is ever reduced from life in prison.

"I think he got what he deserved. He's going to have to live with what he did," said Christa Griffith, of Henderson, Nev., whose husband, Sgt. John Griffith, was wounded in the attack and later died while fighting in Afghanistan. "I don't think he could comprehend what he did."

Kreutzer's parents, William Sr. and Kathleen Kreutzer, left without comment.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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