CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Federal prosecutors accused a former U.S. soldier Monday of raping and murdering a young Iraqi woman and gunning down her family, all of whose bodies were found burned in an apparent cover-up.
Steven D. Green, a 21-year-old former Army private first class who was recently discharged because of a "personality disorder," appeared in a federal magistrate's courtroom in Charlotte Monday.
The murder and rape charges against him grew out of a military investigation involving up to five soldiers in the March rape and killing of the woman in Mahmoudiya and three of her relatives, one of them a young girl believed to be about 5 years old.
Prosecutors said Green and others entered the home of a family of Iraqi civilians, where Green shot the three relatives, and he and another soldier raped the woman and killed her. According to an accompanying affidavit, photos taken by Army investigators in March showed a burned body of "what appears to be a woman with blankets thrown over her upper torso."
FBI agents arrested Green on Friday in Marion, N.C. He is being held in Charlotte without bond pending a transfer to Louisville, Ky.
The case is being handled by federal prosecutors there because Green, who served 11 months with the 101st Airborne Division, based at Fort Campbell, Ky., is no longer in the military. According to an affidavit filed with the criminal complaint, he was given an honorable discharge "before this incident came to light. Green was discharged due to a personality disorder."
He faces a possible death sentence if convicted of murder.
In Baghdad, a U.S. military spokesman, Maj. Joseph Breasseale, said "at this time" no other charges have been filed in the Mahmoudiya case.
The mayor of Mahmoudiya, Mouayad Fadhil, said Monday that Iraqi authorities had started their own investigation. He said U.S. Army officers were also seeking permission to exhume one of the bodies; the U.S. military declined to comment on the report because the investigation is ongoing.
The age of the rape victim was also unclear. U.S. officials close to the case have described her as a young woman, and FBI documents estimated her age at 25, but a neighbor of the family said the rape victim was 14 and her sister was 10.
The affidavit filed in Green's case by FBI special agent Gregor J. Ahlers of Louisville said Green and three other soldiers from the 101st's 502nd Infantry Regiment were working a traffic checkpoint in Mahmoudiya on March 12 when they conspired to rape a woman who lived nearby.
According to the affidavit's account, the soldiers changed their clothes before going to the woman's residence to avoid detection. Once there, the affidavit said, Green took three members of the family — an adult male and female, and a girl estimated to be 5 years old — into a bedroom, after which shots were heard from inside.
"Green came to the bedroom door and told everyone, 'I just killed them. All are dead,"' the affidavit said.
The affidavit is based on interviews conducted by the FBI and investigators at Fort Campbell with three unidentified soldiers assigned to Green's platoon. One of the soldiers said he witnessed another soldier and Green rape the woman.
"After the rape, [the soldier] witnessed Green shoot the woman in the head two to three times," the affidavit said.
Ahlers said in the affidavit that he also reviewed photos taken by Army investigators in Iraq of bodies found inside a burned house, including photos of an Iraqi man, woman and young girl who all appear to have died of gunshot wounds. He said he also reviewed a photo of a burned body of "what appears to be a woman with blankets thrown over her upper torso."
An official familiar with details of the investigation in Iraq has told The Associated Press that a flammable liquid was used to burn the rape victim's body in a cover-up attempt. U.S. officials have said they believed the victims were killed in sectarian violence.
On Friday, the U.S. military acknowledged that Maj. Gen. James D. Thurman, commander of the 4th Infantry Division, had ordered a criminal investigation into the alleged slaying of a family in Mahmoudiya.
Four members of the 502nd have had their weapons taken away and were confined to a U.S. base near Mahmoudiya, officials said.
The suspects belong to the same unit as two soldiers kidnapped and killed south of Baghdad last month, a military official said on condition of anonymity because the case was under way.
The military has said that one and possibly both of the slain soldiers were tortured and beheaded. The official said the mutilation of the slain soldiers stirred feelings of guilt and led at least one member of the platoon to reveal the rape-slaying on June 22.
According to the affidavit filed Monday, investigators learned of the March 12 attack during a combat stress debriefing that occurred around June 20.
Green will have a preliminary hearing and a detention hearing on July 10 in Charlotte, and will then be brought to Louisville, said Marisa Ford, chief of the criminal division for the U.S. Attorney's Office in Louisville.