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The ex-wife of the man accused of scaling a security fence and charging the White House with a knife says that he suffers from mental illness as a result of a "terrible" incident during a tour of duty in Iraq and needs treatment, not jail.
"I wish there was something I could have done to help him, he's not a bad guy," Samantha Murphy Bell, told Indianapolis NBC affiliate WTHR in a telephone interview on Monday. "He didn't go to the White House to hurt Obama."
Bell said she met her ex-husband, Omar Gonzalez, 42, in 2005 or 2006, and they were married in 2006. They separated in 2010 and were officially divorced in July of this year.
She said that life with Gonzalez — who is charged with unlawfully entering a restricted building or grounds while carrying a deadly or dangerous weapon — was fine until a second tour of duty where something bad happened in Iraq.
The Army says Gonzalez first enlisted from July 1997 to September 2003, then reenlisted in July 2005 and served until his retirement in late 2012, serving in Iraq from October 2006 to January 2008.
"It was his second tour and I noticed that he was doing a lot of things that were making me uncomfortable — I knew he would never harm me (but) I know whatever happened in Iraq, it affected him," said Bell.
She said it was difficult if not impossible to talk to Gonzalez about the traumatic incident that had scarred his psyche, but once she asked, how bad it was and, "he said, 'It was terrible.’ he said, ‘Sam, the only thing I could tell you is it involved little children.'"
Bell said that Gonzalez started walking around their home with a .45-caliber pistol on his hip at all times. "It never left him, and he had a gun or a shotgun behind every door," said Bell, who claimed that her ex had been diagnosed with obsessive-compulsive disorder, schizophrenia and post-traumatic stress disorder.
"He needs to get treatment," she said. "I think he needs to get proper help — throwing him in a jail is not helping him."
According to the affidavit from when Gonzalez was first detained after busting onto White House property on Friday, he told a Secret Service agent that "the atmosphere was collapsing and needed to get the information to the president of the United States so that he could get the word out to the people."
On Monday Gonzalez was ordered held without bail until Oct. 1. It was also revealed that he had been detained near the White House with weapons at least two other times in the past three months.