PLYMOUTH, Mass – To those from Marine Sgt. Lawrence G. Hutchins III's hometown, he is remembered as the kind of guy who stood by his friends, fending off bullies and being a team player on and off the field.
But it is for his alleged role on a team of troops accused of killing of an Iraqi civilian that his name is known across the country.
Hutchins is in jail at Camp Pendleton in San Diego awaiting trial on charges including murder in the April death of 52-year-old Hashim Ibrahim Awad in Hamdania.
He was one of eight servicemen charged. In recent weeks, two fellow Marines and a Navy corpsman cut deals with prosecutors and testified that their 22-year-old squad leader, the likable kid with the Boston accent, was the ringleader.
Prosecutors claim the troops took Awad from his home, tied him up, put him in a hole and shot him. They say the squad placed an AK-47 in Awad's hands and put a shovel in the hole to make it appear Awad was an insurgent planting explosives.
Forty miles south of Boston, family members, childhood friends and former Plymouth South High School teammates paint a different picture. They recall Hutchins entertaining his family on the piano, working as a lifeguard on the beach and sticking up for friends.
Michelle Huxley remembers Hutchins coming to her defense when bullies picked on her and her brother.
"Larry didn't hit anybody, but he told them 'leave him alone,'" Huxley said.
John Balchunas, who was on Hutchins' baseball team, recalled Hutchins getting into "a couple of scraps" but was shocked to hear of the accusations.
"He definitely wasn't the type of kid in high school to fly off the handle," Balchunas said.
He was no pushover, though. In high school, he got into a fist fight with another teenager who had insulted his girlfriend, his family and a friend said. That girlfriend, Reyna Griffin, is the mother of his 2-year-old daughter, Kylie.
Hutchins, a 2002 graduate, signed up for the Marines as part of the delayed entry program shortly after the Sept. 11 attacks. He came from a family of Marines, and by his senior year, he decided college wasn't in his immediate future.
Larry and Kathy Hutchins had to approve because their son was 17 years old. After graduation, he was off to recruit training at Parris Island, S.C.
He seemed to volunteer and complete every training program, including a school that teaches survival, evasion, resistance and escape techniques. He was quickly elevated to sergeant.
"Every school that he could go to, he went to," said his 21-year-old brother, Kurt Hutchins. "He was a typical gung-ho Marine."
Larry Hutchins said he didn't think it was a good idea for his son to enlist, but he didn't try to talk him out of it.
"Who wants to see their son or daughter go to war?" he said. "Was I crazy about the idea? No. Did I ever try to deter him or talk him out of it, tell him it's crazy? No. It was his life to do with as he wished, and that's what he wanted to do."
Prosecutors claim Hutchins orchestrated the plot in Iraq. Last week, Lance Cpl. Tyler A. Jackson, a fellow Marine, testified that the squad shot Awad, thinking he was an insurgent, on Hutchins' orders.
In their testimony last month, Marine Pfc. John J. Jodka III and Petty Officer 3rd Class Melson J. Bacos, the Navy medic on patrol with the Marines, also singled out Hutchins as hatching the plan to kidnap the insurgent.
Hutchins' attorney, Rich Brannon, has said he does not believe his client did anything wrong. Brannon did not return calls seeking comment.
Defense lawyers question the credibility of the Iraqis who reported the incident to U.S. military officials, suggesting they may have been motivated by money or sympathy for the insurgents. The Pentagon paid Awad's family an undisclosed amount as compensation for the death, a common practice when noncombatants are killed.
Hutchins has "grown up quick" in the past few years, said his father, who recently returned from visiting his son at Camp Pendleton. Hutchins and Griffin became engaged, and she recently moved close to the brig.
Kurt Hutchins recalled his brother's words of assurance to his family before he was deployed to Iraq in January.
"He said `Don't worry about it. The eight guys that I have are the best eight guys I could have asked for,'" he said.
Kathy Hutchins said her son isn't interested in a plea deal. "He said, 'I'll stand alone,'" she said.
Her son was "so proud to be a Marine," she said. She still looks at the dress blues uniform hanging in his closet.
"I wonder, will he ever wear it again?"