Until Steven D. Green was charged with raping an Iraqi woman and killing her family, his life seemed as unremarkable as the flip-flops and Johnny Cash shirt he wore to court. He was a high-school dropout from a broken home who joined the Army to get some direction, yet was sent home due to an "anti-social personality disorder."
Now, the 21-year-old could get the death penalty if convicted in the horrific crime that has strained the U.S. military's already troubled relations with the Iraqi people and sent shock waves around the world.
He was to be transported Thursday from North Carolina, where he was arrested, to Louisville, Ky., according to Assistant U.S. Attorney Marisa Ford, chief of the criminal division for the Western District of Kentucky. Fort Campbell, where Green's former unit is based, is within that federal court jurisdiction.
Ford declined to provide other details.
Steven Dale Green grew up in the west Texas oil town of Midland, which claims President Bush as a native son. Green's parents divorced when he was 4, and his mother remarried four years later.
His upbringing was not without complications. His mother pleaded no contest in 2000 to a drunken driving charge and was jailed for six months.
Midland school officials said Green attended classes from 1990 to 2002 but only made it through 10th grade, suggesting he might have been held back at least once.
After dropping out, Green moved about 80 miles north to Denver City, the former oil town along the New Mexico state line that is listed as his official hometown. He got his high school equivalency degree in 2003.
According to a report in the Midland Reporter-Telegram, Green was arrested for misdemeanor possession of alcohol on Jan. 31, 2005. Days later, just a few months shy of his 20th birthday, he enlisted in the Army. Click here to read the latest on the story from the Reporter-Telegram.
He was deployed to Iraq from September 2005 to April 2006 as an infantry soldier in B Company, 1st Battalion of the 502nd Infantry Regiment, which is part of the 101st Airborne Division, based at Fort Campbell, Ky.
It was there that he was sent to patrol the so-called "Triangle of Death," an area southwest of Baghdad known for its frequent roadside bombings. Military officials say more than 40 percent of the nearly 1,000 soldiers in the region have been treated for mental or emotional anxiety. Green was apparently one of them.
He was given a discharge May 16 for what military officials in Iraq told The Associated Press was an "anti-social personality disorder." The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the case.
A psychiatric condition, anti-social personality disorder is defined as chronic behavior that manipulates, exploits, or violates the rights of others. Someone with the disorder may break the law repeatedly, lie, get in fights and show a lack of remorse.
Military officials said the accusations of Green's involvement in the rape and killings, on or about March 12, came to light during a counseling session for soldiers following the June 16 abductions of two fellow soldiers who were killed and reportedly mutilated by insurgents.
According to a federal affidavit, Green and other soldiers targeted the young woman after spotting her at a traffic checkpoint near Mahmoudiya. On the day of the March attack, the document 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. The young woman's body was found burned; the other bodies were found in a house that had been burned, the document said.
Under Army regulations, a soldier can be discharged only if a personality disorder "is so severe that the soldier's ability to function effectively in the military environment is significantly impaired." The diagnosis must be made by a psychiatrist or doctoral-level clinical psychologist who is authorized to conduct mental health evaluations for the military.
Loren Thompson, a military analyst at the Washington-based Lexington Institute, said it is standard practice to discharge soldiers whose profiles suggest they are incapable of maintaining military discipline.
"Despite all the stories about the military having trouble recruiting, it is considered anathema to retain somebody like that," said Thompson. "It isn't Army policy to retain somebody who isn't dependable. I'm certain this person slipped through the cracks. ... The whole point of boot camp is to find people who can't hold up under stress and get them out before they get in the field."
Scott L. Silliman, a military law expert at Duke University and retired Air Force colonel, said Green's diagnosis does not make it easier for his attorneys to plead insanity.
"That may be something that a federal court, in punishing upon conviction, might consider extenuating," Silliman said. "But is it in any way a legal excuse for what he's been charged with? No."
Green had a tired expression this week as he was led into a court wearing his baggy shorts, flip-flops and T-shirt.
Greg Simolke, Green's uncle, told The Washington Post that his nephew had visited relatives in North Carolina last week on his way from a funeral at Arlington National Cemetery for a member of his platoon who was killed in Iraq. He said Green seemed to have found "direction in his life." Green was charged Monday.
"He thought it was a good thing to be serving his country," Simolke said. "When he was here for this visit, he seemed like the same old Steve. I don't understand what happens in a war, so I don't know how these things happen."