FORT HOOD — A hearing to determine if a Fort Hood soldier will stand trial on a charge of premeditated murder took place on post Wednesday morning with no decision yet about whether the case will move to court-martial.
Brett Marvin Wessel, 26, a sergeant in 1st Brigade Special Troops Battalion, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, was charged in connection with the Sept. 1 shooting death of former Sgt. Ryan F. Dickinson on West Fort Hood.
The shooting took place at a West Fort Hood home where residents were throwing a party.
Attorneys for the government called several witnesses who were at the party, which began during the day Aug. 31 as a children’s birthday party. Later that night, adults had their own party while the children were inside sleeping, according to witness testimony Wednesday.
The witnesses, including Dickinson’s wife and two other Fort Hood soldiers, testified that Wessel came and left the party multiple times. After being asked to leave in the early morning hours of Sept. 1, Wessel returned to the house between 3 and 3:30 a.m., and allegedly shot Dickinson in the chest with a semi-automatic handgun outside the home.
Sgt. Michael Cossick, who was at the party that night, said he saw Wessel shoot Dickinson. Before the shooting, he said Wessel said he felt “disrespected” by comments Dickinson made to him earlier that night.
“(Dickinson) made a couple of comments,” Cossick said. “I guess in his mind he felt disrespected about some of the things (Dickinson) said.”
A digital forensic investigator testified Wessel sent a text message to his wife about an hour before the shooting that stated, “I’ll kill him.”
Dickinson’s wife, Heather, was at the party that night. She testified she didn’t see her husband or Wessel arguing. Speaking by phone from New York, Heather Dickinson tearfully recounted the night her husband was shot. She said Wessel showed little emotion after the incident.
“(Wessel) just stood there, not saying a word, while (Dickinson) was bleeding out,” she said.
Most of the witnesses Wednesday said alcohol was consumed at the party that night, including drinking games. Many of them said Wessel appeared to be intoxicated.
Wessel’s government-appointed defense attorneys argued Wessel was too intoxicated to premeditate the shooting. They presented a blood-alcohol analysis that showed Wessel had a blood-alcohol level of 0.16 about three hours after the shooting. The legal limit in Texas is 0.08.
“He was too intoxicated to form the intent required for premeditated murder,” said Capt. C. Nicole Cooper, one of Wessel’s attorneys.
Capt. Charles Wedin, an attorney for the government, said the text messages and other evidence indicate the murder was premeditated. “Sgt. Wessel thought about what he was going to do. He planned it and calmly executed it.”
Maj. Greg McLean, who presided over Wednesday’s hearing as the investigating officer, did not make any recommendation on charges against Wessel, or whether he will face a court-martial. A Fort Hood spokesperson said a recommendation is expected within a week.
Contact Chris McGuinness at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7568. Follow him on Twitter at ChrismKDH.