FORT HOOD, Texas – Army Maj. Nidal Hasan rested the sentencing phase of his case Tuesday without speaking in his own defense after his victims' loved ones spent the morning telling of the grief he caused in the 2009 Fort Hood shooting rampage.
The self-confessed "soldier of Allah" declined to make his own case for martydom as some expected. The judge then recessed the hearing until Wednesday.
Earlier, the Army psychiatrist who killed 13 people and injured at least 30 in the military base massacre sat mute at the defense table as relatives of victims gave emotional testimony about the toll the American-born Muslim took on their lives.
The list of witnesses at the sentencing phase of the trial varied, but a common thread of devastation and despair ran through their stories about how their lives changed in the aftermath of the Nov. 5, 2009 attack.
Sheryll Pearson, whose son, Pfc. Michael Pearson, 21, died in the shooting, recalled him as her best friend and tearfully remembered learning that he was shot three times and undergoing emergency surgery. At that point, the media was reporting 12 dead. Time passed, and while she was watching television, the death toll rose to 13.
"The phone rang and I knew that Michael was gone,"she said, emotion cracking her voice. "We always wanted to see who he was going to be, who he was going to become, and that was taken from us."
Joleen Cahill's husband of 37 years, Michael G. Cahill, 62, was a civilian physician assistant on the base. He was known for his close relationship with troops returning from combat and on their way to a war zone, The Wall Street Journal reported. It was not uncommon for Cahill to take time out to walk young soldiers to the right treatment room just to make sure they were placed in the right hands.
Cahill testified that she and her children still call his cell phone to hear his voice on the answering service. His favorite room in their home was the den and she said he has not touched a thing in the room since he died.
Phillip Warman told the court he started drinking and has to be checked into a rehab center after his wife, Lt. Col. Juanita Warman, died in Fort Hood. He had a friend take away any weapon in his home because, "I don't tend to be suicidal, but I didn't trust myself."
He now collects coins at his AA meetings that represent the days he's sober, and he pushes "them into the ground" at his wife's grave.
Mari Kay Decrow spoke about her husband, Staff. Sgt. Justin Decrow, and how they met in the second grade. They went to the prom together, got married right out of high school and had a baby. Their daughter has since shut down and is having difficulties in school.
"I miss the times with my husband...the little memories, the flowers, the calls," she said.
Evidence against Hasan was strong. He reportedly obtained the business cards over the Internet. In addition to listing his profession and contact information, the cards contain a discrete reference to his religion: "SoA(SWT)."
Watchdogs say the first letters are shorthand among militant Muslims to "soldier of Allah." The last letters refer to "Subhanahu Wa Ta'all," which means "glory to God."
The business cards were among numerous discoveries in Hasan's apartment of interest to investigators.
At the minimum, the 42-year-old Hasan, who was left paralyzed after being shot during his rampage, will spend the rest of his life in prison. A jury soon will decide if Hasan deserves a death sentence.