News: Accused Murderer heads to trial
Spc. Michael R. Noggle
CFLCC PAO/11th PAD
A Soldier with the 42nd Infantry Division accused in the murders of two superior officers in Iraq will face a general court-martial recommended by Col. Patrick Reinert, investigating officer.
Staff Sgt. Alberto Martinez, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 42nd Inf. Div., was charged with two counts of premeditated murder in the deaths of Capt. Phillip Esposito, 30, HHC, 42nd Inf. Div., commander, and 1st Lt. Louis E. Allen, 34, HHC, 42nd Inf. Div., operations officer.
Reinert ruled that reasonable grounds existed to recommend the Martinez case to a general court-martial.
In addition, he found reasonable grounds to believe four aggravating factors existed in the case that warranted consideration by the General Court-Martial Convening Authority to refer the case to Capital Court.
The four aggravating factors outlined by the investigation are:
The offense was committed in such a way or under circumstances that one or more persons, other than the victim were unlawfully and substantially endangered.
The offense was committed in a time of war.
The accused knew that the victims were in execution of their offices as commissioned officers.
The accused could be found guilty in the same case of another violation of Article 118 (Murder); multiple murders occurred in the same incident.
If Martinez is found guilty of a violation of article 118(1) of the Uniformed Code of Military Justice, the mandatory sentence is life in prison with eligibility of parole or could receive a death sentence, said Maj. Matthew P. Ruzicka, chief of military justice, Multi-National Corps-Iraq, Camp Victory, Iraq.
During the proceedings, the prosecution and defense called nine witnesses to testify. The witnesses were from the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Division detectives investigated the scene, an explosive ordnance disposal technician who examined the scene and Soldiers from the unit.
There wasn't a consideration of a direct-fire attack, said Air Force Senior Master Sgt. Kevin Fitzgerald, 184th Ordnance Battalion. It was only after more evidence was gathered that it was apparent what happened.
The incident occurred in Esposito's office on Forward Operating Base Danger in Tikrit, Iraq, June 7. Their deaths were initially thought to have resulted from a mortar round that struck the window at the "Water Palace."
It is believed to be a "fragging" incident, a term that refers to Soldiers killing their superiors.
Capt. Carl Prober, HHC, 42nd Inf. Div., said there were occurrences when Martinez approached him and stated how much he hated Esposito and was going to "frag" him.
Staff Sgt. David Wentzel testified that Martinez and Esposito didn't work well together and heard Martinez state, "I can't wait for him to get his."
The day of the incident, Wentzel witnessed Martinez walking up the stairs into the palace on his way to the shower trailers. While in the shower, he heard three explosions nearby and exited the trailer.
"I saw a Soldier standing in the middle of the street," he said. "I notice he was scared shaking â?¦ but he looked like he knew what had happened."
Staff Sgt. Ashvin Thimmaiah, HHC, 42nd Inf. Div., was with Esposito playing a board game at the Morale, Welfare and Recreation tent on the night of the incident.
"He was a good officer and a good Soldier," he said.
He added, "He followed the standards, and enforced them to the letter."