Seven Pendleton Marines Charged In Slaying Of Iraqi Civilian

Seven Camp Pendleton-based Marines and a Navy corpsman Wednesday were charged with murder, kidnapping and other counts in connection with the April 26 slaying of an Iraqi civilian in Hamdania.

The eight servicemen were charged with premeditated murder, larceny, kidnapping, assault, making false statements, housebreaking and conspiracy in connection with the death of Hashim Ibrahim Awad.

The Marines charged were Sgt. Lawrence G. Hutchins III, Cpl. Trent Thomas, Lance Cpl. Tyler A. Jackson, Cpl. Marshall L. Magincalda, Pfc. John J. Jodka, Lance Cpl. Jerry Shumate Jr. and Lance Cpl. Robert Pennington.

Also charged was Navy hospital corpsman 3rd class Melson J. Bacos.

The men allegedly entered Awad's home with the intention of kidnapping him, then forced him to the ground and bound him before shooting him to death, officials said.

The men are also accused of stealing an AK-47 rifle and a shovel, which they allegedly planted near the body to make it appear that the victim was an insurgent setting a roadside bomb.

The suspects were infantrymen attached to Kilo Company, 3rd Battalion and 5th Marine Regiment.

"Local Iraqis brought the incident to the attention of Marine leadership at a regularly scheduled meeting on May 1, 2006," Marine Col. Stewart Navarre said at a news conference at Camp Pendleton. "A preliminary inquiry into the incident ... found that sufficient information existed to recommend a criminal investigation."

Navarre said the Marines and sailor were informed of the charges Wednesday morning.

But an attorney for Magincalda said afterward that he had not received a complaint sheet for his client.

Long Beach-based attorney Joseph Low said it seemed "amazing" to him that the news media would know of the charges against his client before he did.

Low said someone called him to tell him a news conference had been called on the base.

Following the announcement, Low said, "How can it be murder to kill an enemy combatant?"

The accused Marines and Navy corpsman are all in the base brig on "medium-in" confinement, which allows them to move through the jail without restraints and also to eat their meals with other inmates.

Jodka's father has established a defense fund to assist in his son's case.

The next step in the case is an Article 32 hearing, or a grand jury-type hearing in which evidence will be heard to determine whether the case should move forward to general court-martial.

Four other Marines originally implicated in the Hamdania case were placed on pretrial restriction but eventually released.

"They are performing appropriate duties here at Camp Pendleton," Navarre said.

Navarre said the Marines and corpsman have all retained private counsel but will also be represented by Marine attorneys should the case go forward.

The case is one of two in which Marines are alleged to have committed war crimes. Other Camp Pendleton-based Marines are alleged to have killed 24 Iraqi civilians at Haditha last November after a fellow Marine was killed in combat.

Investigations related to that case were continuing, and no charges have been filed and no pretrial arrests have been made.

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