A court-martial found Spc. Neftaly Platero guilty of two counts of premeditated murder and one count of attempted premeditated murder after a weeklong trial. The verdict was reached Tuesday by a five-member jury of Army officers and noncommissioned officers after 90 minutes of deliberations.
“We’re happy that he was found guilty,” said Desiree Carrillo, the mother of one of the slain soldiers, 20-year-old Spc. John Carrillo Jr. “We’ll never get our son back. It’s some closure, but he’s still gone.”
The sentencing was scheduled to resume today. Platero faces an automatic sentence of life in prison, but the jury must decide whether he will ever be eligible for parole. Fort Stewart commanders last year decided not to pursue the death penalty in Platero’s case.
Prosecutors said the 34-year-old soldier from Kingwood, Texas, opened fire on his roommates as they readied for bed at Camp Fallujah on Sept. 23, 2010. Pfc. Gebrah Noonan was fatally shot in the side and the back after having just returned to the room Carrillo was felled by the gunfire while rummaging through his backpack.
“He waited for the perfect opportunity to squeeze off these rounds and made a choice to kill his roommates,” Capt. Frank Kostik, an Army prosecutor, told the jury in his closing argument.
Platero didn’t testify during his trial and members of his family declined to comment after the verdict.
His defense attorney, Guy Womack, had argued that Army investigators rushed to focus on Platero as their only suspect even after forensic evidence failed to point to him as the shooter. Eighteen spent bullet casings were recovered from the room, and several matched Platero’s assault rifle. But skin samples taken from his right hand soon after the shootings tested negative for gunshot residue.
“The government lost their objectivity at the very start,” Womack said in his closing arguments. He declined to comment on the verdict, saying he preferred to wait until the jury had decided on a sentence.
A fourth soldier who shared the room, Spc. Jeffrey Shonk, survived after a bullet creased his skull. But he testified that he was unable to remember the shootings, including who pulled the trigger. Noonan, 26, of Watertown, Conn., and Carrillo, 20, of Stockton, Calif., were both dead by the time help arrived.
No one else witnessed the shootings. Staff Sgt. Jhamaal Martin, who testified he was one of the first to rush into the room, said Shonk was able to speak and told him: “Platero shot us.” None of the medics who treated the wounded soldier could recall him speaking.