Army Staff Sergeant Charged With Murder
June 16, 2005 4:57 PM EDT
BAGHDAD, Iraq - A U.S. Army staff sergeant was charged with murder in connection with last week's shooting deaths of two Army officers at a base outside Baghdad, the military said Thursday.

Staff Sgt. Alberto B. Martinez, 37, a supply specialist with the Headquarters and Headquarters Company of the 42nd Infantry Division, New York Army National Guard, was charged Wednesday in connection with the June 7 deaths of the two officers at Forward Operating Base Danger, near Tikrit - Saddam Hussein's hometown 80 miles north of Baghdad.

The officers killed were Capt. Phillip T. Esposito, 30, of Suffern, N.Y., and 1st Lt. Louis E. Allen, 34, of Milford, Pa. Esposito was company commander and Allen served as a company operations officer.

The soldiers were killed in what the military first believed was an "indirect fire" attack on the base. An indirect fire attack involves enemy artillery or mortar rounds fired from a location some distance away.

The military initially concluded that a mortar round struck a window on the side of the building where Esposito and Allen were.

But a criminal investigation was launched after it was determined that the "blast pattern" at the scene was inconsistent with a mortar attack.

Martinez was charged with two counts of premeditated murder, said a statement by the Multinational Task Force in Iraq. Martinez currently is at a military detention facility in Kuwait.

U.S. military officials contacted by The Associated Press in Iraq declined to comment further.

The 42nd Infantry Division took over from the 1st Infantry Division in January and is responsible for a vast section of northern and central Iraq.

This is at least the second incident in which a U.S. soldier has been charged with killing his comrades. In April, a sergeant in the Army's 101st Airborne Division was convicted of murder and attempted murder for a grenade and rifle attack that killed two officers and wounded 14 soldiers in Kuwait during the opening days of the Iraq invasion in 2003.

Hasan Akbar, a 34-year-old Muslim who was sentenced to death, had told investigators he staged the attack because he was upset that American troops would kill fellow Muslims.