By Mollie Miller
Killeen Daily Herald
FORT HOOD Pretrial motions for a 4th Infantry Division soldier charged in connection with the shooting death of an Iraqi detainee will be heard today at this Central Texas post.
Staff Sgt. Shane Werst, 31, formerly a member of the divisions 3rd Bri-gade Combat Team, has been charged with murder and obstruction of justice in connection with a Jan. 3, 2004, incident during which Naser Ismail was killed during a raid conducted by Wersts unit in Balad, Iraq.
Fourth Infantry commander Maj. Gen. James Thurman re-ferred Werst to trial by general court-martial Feb. 23 following an Article 32 investigation conducted by Maj. Kim Bevin.
During the Article 32 hearing on Jan. 21, prosecutors said the death of a 4th Infantry company commander earlier in the week may have been a factor in the Jan. 3, 2004, incident.
Lead prosecutor Capt. Steve Fuller said that in the early hours of the day in question, Capt. Eric Paliwoda, a company commander with Wersts 4th Engineer Brigade, was killed when a mortar hit the base where he was assigned. That evening, house-to-house searches were initiated to locate those responsible for the attack and Ismail was identified as a possible target.
Criminal Investigation Division Special Agent Matthew Elliott, the lead investigator on the case, testified that a written statement by Pfc. Nathan Stewart, a member of Wersts squad, indicated that during these Jan. 3 raids, Ismail was located in one of the houses and moved to an isolated area by him and Werst. Once the two men had the detainee alone, Stewart claimed that Werst said to him, We are going to kill this (expletive).
Elliott said Stewarts statement went on to say that he and Werst proceeded to punch and beat Ismail. Werst then told Stewart to get the Iraqi to his feet. As he stepped away from Ismail, Stewart claims Werst fired at the Iraqi several times. When Ismail fell to the ground, Stewart claims Werst fired on him again because he was still breathing.
Once the Iraqi was on the ground, Stewarts statement said Werst pulled a 9mm handgun out, fired a few rounds and planted it on the dead man to make the shooting look like a case of self-defense.
If convicted of all offenses, Werst will face a maximum punishment of life imprisonment without chance of parole, reduction in rank to E-1, forfeiture of all pay and allowances and a dishonorable discharge.
Contact Mollie Miller at email@example.com