Marine's Father Defends Son in Haditha Killings Probe

The father of a Marine being investigated in the deaths of two dozen civilians in Haditha, Iraq, said Monday he does not believe his son would have intentionally killed innocent people.

"I just don't believe that he would do something like that," said Dave Wuterich, the father of Staff Sgt. Frank D. Wuterich. "He is a very caring kid, always trying to help somebody out, very smart, and I don't think he would do something like that. I really don't."

Frank Wuterich's lawyer, Neal A. Puckett, told The Associated Press in an interview Sunday that the event was tragic, but he denied innocent people were killed intentionally and said troops followed military rules of engagement.

No one has been charged in the Haditha case, which centers on allegations that a small number of Marines from Camp Pendleton's 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment killed 24 Iraqi civilians, including unarmed women and children, on Nov. 19 after a roadside bomb killed a fellow Marine.

Haditha residents have said innocent civilians were executed, including some who pleaded for their lives.

Puckett quoted the sergeant as describing a house-to-house search that went wrong and resulted in unintended civilian deaths.

It was "certainly a tragic result and (Frank Wuterich) understands that it's tragic and he feels extremely badly about the fact that innocent civilians were killed," Puckett told the AP. "But he was following what he understood to be the rules of engagement and standard protocol."

An investigation has been examining whether Marines tried to cover up the shootings and whether commanders were negligent in failing to investigate the deaths when they were reported.

Dave Wuterich said his son had been told not to talk about the case, even to family members. He said his son liked the Iraqi people.

"It's kind of hard," Dave Wuterich said. "He's a good Marine. He's a good dad."

Puckett said it was possible none of the Marines would be charged with murder and instead some commanders could be charged with dereliction of duty for failing to properly investigate the incident at the time. Frank Wuterich remained at Camp Pendleton and had been promoted to staff sergeant since the incident, he said.