Updated: Tuesday, November 12, 1:00 p.m.
Witnesses and survivors recounted a horrific scene following a massacre at two villages in Kandahar Province March 11 that killed 16 civilians and wounded six. They testified via a live video link from Afghanistan during a pretrial hearing for Army Staff Sgt. Robert Bales at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington state.
Prosecutors say Bales slipped away from his camp twice in the early morning hours to commit the murders.
Bales stared intently at the video feed but showed no emotion as witness Khamal Adin, speaking through a translator, recounted finding the bodies of 11 family members. Adin said he found most of them piled up in one room. Many had been shot in the head and partially burned in the family compound in Najiban, in Kandahar Province.
Adin said seven of the dead were children. He recalled that some had boot prints on their faces, as if they had been stomped.
In other testimony, an Afghan soldier who stood patrol the night of the killings said he was shocked to see an American soldier walking down the main road toward the camp around 1:30 a.m. When the Afghan asked him to stop the American soldier greeted him in Farsi and kept walking.
The hearings from Afghanistan are being held overnight to accommodate the Afghan witnesses.
The proceedings at Joint Base Lewis-McChord are also known as an Article 32 hearing. They will determine whether the case will advance to Court Martial. If the case moves forward the government has stated it plans to seek the death penalty.
Attorneys for Bales say he has post-traumatic stress disorder and suffered a concussive head injury while serving in Iraq. They’ve also tried to make the most of contradictory statements made by witnesses that suggest Bales was not alone the night of the murders.