OCEANSIDE, Calif. – Eager to see the world and looking for adventure, Jerry E. Shumate Jr. joined the Marine Corps straight out of high school. Now the 21-year-old lance corporal is in the brig.
Shumate is accused, with eight others, of kidnapping and murdering an Iraqi man in Hamdania, west of Baghdad. His preliminary hearing was scheduled to begin Tuesday.
Shumate, along with six other Marines and a Navy Corpsman are accused of entering 52-year-old Hashim Ibrahim Awad's house on April 26, kidnapping him and taking him to a roadside hole. There, prosecutors say, several troops shot him.
Shumate fired his M-16 at Awad, then lied to investigators about what had happened, according to charging documents. Shumate also is one of several Marines accused of assaulting a different Iraqi man in a separate incident April 10.
"We're devastated, we're just taking it day by day," said father Jerry Shumate Sr. who drove 1,200 miles from Matlock, Wash., with mother Diann Shumate.
Family members have previously said their sons are innocent, and defense attorneys have questioned the credibility of the Iraqis who reported the murder to U.S. authorities.
The troops could face the death penalty if convicted, although, during an earlier hearing, prosecutors said they would not pursue a capital sentence against that defendant.
Shumate's civilian attorney, Steve Immel, declined to comment on the case, but said he hoped his client would be treated fairly.
"We would ask everybody to let the process work itself out and let Jerry have the full protections of the Constitution," Immel said. "Especially because he was over there defending the Constitution. We ask everyone not rush to judgment."
The preliminary hearings form part of a so-called Article 32 investigation, where an officer determines whether to recommend that defendants face courts martial. The final decision rests with a commanding general.
Two Article 32 hearings were held Aug. 30 for Pfc. John J. Jodka III and Cpl. Marshall L. Magincalda, both accused in the Awad case. More hearings for the other accused troops are expected in coming weeks.
The Shumates said joining the Marine Corps was their son's dream after he graduated Mary M. Knight High School at the southeastern edge of the Olympic peninsula, where he played on the football team.
"We are glad we're finally getting to the next step of this process," Shumate Sr. said. "All we can do is trust in our counsel and trust in our government."