Charges against a Marine officer accused of failing to investigate the killings of 24 Iraqi civilians in the town of Haditha should be dismissed, the investigating officer in the case has recommended.

Capt. Randy W. Stone, 34, is one of four officers accused of failing to report and investigate the deaths of the men, women and children in a deadly sweep on a chaotic day of battle in the village.

His attorney, Charles Gittins, said Saturday that investigating officer Maj. Thomas McCann concluded in a report to the commanding general overseeing the case that Stone should not face trial and the matter should be handled administratively.

The recommendation is non-binding. A final decision will be made by Lt. Gen. James Mattis, the commanding general overseeing the case.

Stone faces up to 2 1/2 years in prison and dismissal if his case goes to trial and he is convicted.

Camp Pendleton spokesman Lt. Col. Sean Gibson declined to comment until Mattis makes his final decision.

Stone is one of four officers charged with dereliction of duty. Three enlisted Marines are charged with murder. All belonged to the Camp Pendleton-based 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment.