At a Tuesday preliminary hearing Army prosecutors asked an investigative officer to suggest the death penalty for Staff Sgt. Robert Bales for “heinous and despicable crimes.”
According to prosecutors, Bales, a 39-year-old father of two from Lake Tapps, Wash., left his remote base in southern Afghanistan before dawn on March 11 and went on a murderous rampage, killing 16 unarmed Afghan civilians, among them, nine children.
Fellow soldiers testified that Bales returned to the base alone, covered in blood, and made incriminating statements like, “I thought I was doing the right thing.”
Other witnesses claimed Bales had been drinking the evening of the massacre. He also tested positive for steroids three days after the killings, according to an Army criminal investigations command special agent.
"We've heard that Sgt. Bales was lucid, coherent, and responsive," attorney Emma Scanlan said in her closing argument. "We don't know what it means to be on alcohol, steroids, and sleeping aids."
Bales faces 16 counts of premeditated murder and six counts of attempted murder. He has yet to enter a plea and did not testify at the hearing. His attorneys say he has post-traumatic stress disorder.
Bales' wife, Kari, and her sister, Stephanie Tandberg, met briefly with reporters after the hearings, sharing that they are sorrowful for those who lost loved ones, but that they don't believe the entire truth has been told.
"We know Bob as bright, courageous, and honorable," Tandberg said in a statement. "As a man who is a good citizen soldier, son, husband, father, uncle, and sibling. We and Bob's family are proud to stand by him."
It is unclear how long it will be before a decision is reached on whether to proceed to a court-martial trial.