Soldier charged in Afghan killing out of solitary

AP News
Posted: Oct 29, 2010 3:11 PM
Soldier charged in Afghan killing out of solitary

A soldier who tried to blow the whistle on an alleged plot to kill Afghan civilians for sport has been removed from protective solitary confinement at his own request, his father said Friday.

Spc. Adam Winfield had been jailed on his own for about a month after he reported being threatened by co-defendant Pfc. Andrew Holmes, but he's now back in the general population at the Joint Base Lewis-McChord detention facility with Holmes and another defendant, Spc. Michael Wagnon.

"He could not stand another day in solitary," father Chris Winfield wrote in an e-mail to The Associated Press. "We are a little nervous having him back in the same area as Holmes and Wagnon, but Adam said he would rather be there than solitary confinement."

In all, five soldiers are charged with murder and conspiracy to commit murder in what prosecutors describe as random attacks on three Afghan civilians during patrols in January, February and May. The charges are among the most gruesome to emerge from the Afghan war, with allegations that some in the unit collected fingers from Afghan corpses as war trophies.

The alleged ringleader and highest ranking defendant, Staff Sgt. Calvin Gibbs, has been held at a civilian jail nearby to keep him separated from the other defendants, and the soldier described as his closest collaborator in the killings, Spc. Jeremy Morlock, is being detained at a Navy brig in Washington state.

Base spokeswoman Maj. Jenny Willis said she could not immediately confirm Winfield's transfer from protective pretrial custody, but said earlier this week that he had been treated humanely and that "everything that's been done has been for his security and his safety."

Winfield sent troubled Facebook messages home to his parents after the first killing, telling them that soldiers in his unit had deliberately killed one civilian _ "some innocent guy about my age just farming" _ and planned to kill more. He was being warned to keep his mouth shut, he told them.

The day he received the messages from his son, Chris Winfield made several calls from the family's home in Cape Coral, Fla., to military officials at Lewis-McChord, his phone records show. He said he relayed his son's warning in voice mail messages and in a 12-minute conversation with someone at the Lewis-McChord incident command center, and begged military officials to intervene.

No suspects in the case were arrested until three months later. By then, two more civilians were dead.

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The Army is investigating how Chris Winfield's calls were handled.

Spc. Winfield is accused of directly participating in the third killing. He told investigators in a videotaped statement that he shot as Gibbs threw a grenade at the alleged victim, and he feared that Gibbs might kill him if he didn't take part.

He also identified Holmes as a participant in one killing and said he had seen Holmes with a finger he claimed to have cut from an Afghan corpse.

Gibbs insists that all three killings were appropriate engagements.

Initially Winfield, Wagnon and Holmes had their own cells at Lewis-McChord but shared a common area with several defendants in unrelated cases.

About a month ago, around the time of the first hearing in the case, Holmes allegedly told Winfield, "By the power of Christ you will not mention me at your hearing." Winfield reported it as a threat, prompting his voluntary separation from the others.

Holmes' attorney, Daniel Conway, said he does not believe he client made a threat and Holmes has not been charged with doing so.