WATERTOWN, N.Y. – A Fort Drum military policeman admitted stabbing to death two Army buddies at their apartment near the northern New York military post and will be sentenced to 45 years to life in prison.
Spc. Joshua Hunter, who was raised in Ona, W.Va., repeatedly stabbed Waide James, 20, of Cocoa, Fla., and Diego Valbuena, 20, of Port Saint Lucie, Fla., last November in a duplex the three men shared near Fort Drum's main entrance.
The three friends had returned in spring 2009 from a yearlong tour in Iraq with the 10th Mountain Division, Hunter as a military policeman and the other specialists as drivers. Hunter's wife and parents say he returned from Iraq a changed man plagued by flashbacks.
The 20-year-old Hunter had Valbuena's car when he was arrested in southern Ohio on Dec. 2, the day after the bodies were found. Detectives said he confessed to the killings, which happened either Nov. 29 or Nov. 30.
Hunter pleaded guilty Monday in Jefferson County Court to two counts of second-degree murder and waived his right to an appeal. He will draw consecutive terms at sentencing on Oct. 29. Hunter has to serve 45 years before being eligible for parole, prosecutor Cindy Intschert said Tuesday.
Hunter has not offered a motive for the killings, Intschert said.
In pleading guilty, Hunter avoided the possibility of being sentenced to life in prison without possibility of parole. The victims' families were satisfied with the plea agreement, which removes the uncertainties of a trial.
Hunter's wife, Emily Hunter, told The Associated Press last year that he claimed to have seen his best friend "blown to pieces" in Iraq. But Maj. Fred Harrell, a spokesman for Fort Drum, said there were no casualties in Hunter's unit during the yearlong tour.