A Georgia soldier was found guilty Tuesday of killing his two Army roommates in 2010 at a U.S. base camp in Iraq, where prosecutors said he opened fire hours after complaining that the victims had let their room get too messy.
A court-martial found Spc. Neftaly Platero guilty of two counts of premeditated murder and one count of attempted premeditated murder after a weeklong trial. The verdict was reached by a five-member jury of Army officers and noncommissioned officers after 90 minutes of deliberations Tuesday.
The case moved directly to the sentencing phase. Platero faces life in prison with or without the possibility of parole. Fort Stewart commanders earlier decided not to pursue it as a death penalty case.
Prosecutors said 34-year-old Platero, of Kingwood, Texas, opened fire on his roommates as they readied for bed at Camp Fallujah on Sept. 23, 2010. Pfc. Grebrah Noonan was fatally shot in the side and the back after having just returned to their room from a shower. Spc. John Carrillo Jr. was felled by the gunfire while rummaging through his backpack.
A fourth soldier who shared the room, Spc. Jeffrey Shonk, survived after a bullet creased his skull while he was lying on his bunk. But he testified that he can't remember the shootings, including who pulled the trigger. Noonan, 26, of Watertown, Conn., and Carrillo, 20, of Stockton, Calif., were both dead by the time help arrived.
No one else witnessed the shootings. Staff Sgt. Jhamaal Martin, who testified he was one of the first to rush into the room, said Shonk was able to speak and told him: "Platero shot us." None of the medics who treated the wounded soldier could recall him speaking. Platero's defense attorneys insisted Martin's account was a fabrication.
After the verdict was announced, Noonan's father, William Noonan, hugged prosecutors and soldiers from his son's unit. Other family members dabbed their eyes with tissues and cried.
"I'm really kind of numb," William Noonan said. "It's just the shock of it all. I'm still processing it."
Platero didn't testify during his trial. His attorney, Guy Womack, said Army investigators rushed to focus on Platero as their only suspect even after forensic evidence failed to point to him as the shooter. Eighteen spent bullet casings were recovered from the room, and several matched Platero's assault rifle. But skin samples taken from his right hand soon after the shootings tested negative for gunshot residue.
Womack said prosecutors also had a flimsy motive. Platero's supervisors testified he came to them twice hours before the shootings to complain that his roommates were letting their room get too dirty. Prosecutors said Platero got angry after all four roommates, including Platero, were told they would be subjected to extra room inspections.