FORT SILL, Okla. (AP) _ A sergeant in Arkansas' 39th Infantry Brigade stands accused of shooting another Arkansan to death in Iraq following an argument in February.
At a special hearing at Fort Sill, Okla., Monday, Sgt. David Freyaldenhoven, 25, of Morrilton was formally charged with murder, aggravated assault and consuming alcohol in a war zone following a four-month military investigation.
Witnesses detailed how Freyaldenhoven argued with Staff Sgt. Terry Robbins, 31, of North Little Rock on Feb. 10 about drinking at the Iraqi national guard training base where they worked, then shot Robbins to death.
Freyaldenhoven sat in a cold military courtroom Monday and listened to hours of testimony and arguments on the charges against him by the prosecution and his defense lawyers, according to a report by Amy Schlesing of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, who had been embedded with the brigade in Iraq.
Investigating officer Maj. Mark LaFlamme oversaw the hearing and will decide if the case goes forward to a court-martial trial. He instructed witnesses not to talk to anyone about their testimony, but details of Monday's testimony were reported by the Little Rock newspaper in Tuesday's editions.
Several witnesses testified that the soldiers had been joyriding with a female soldier from the brigade's support battalion and that Robbins had a tendency to pull his pistol out of its holster during card games on the base at Camp Taji, Iraq.
The woman soldier, Sara Parker, took the stand first Monday, wearing a sleeveless blue, midriff-revealing top that made her stand out from the other uniformed soldiers in the courtroom.
She testified that Robbins, who was 11 days shy of completing his tour in Iraq, was about to drive her back to her barracks when he ``said he was going to grab another drink.''
He left Parker in the Humvee, she said, and went to the vehicle behind them, in which Freyaldenhoven, Staff Sgt. Gene R. Coffren and Sgt. Timothy Newman, had been joyriding and carrying alcoholic punch. That's where the argument unfolded, she said.
Newman testified otherwise, saying it was Parker, not Robbins, who came to the vehicle for the drink and when she told Robbins the booze was all gone, he began shouting at Freyaldenhoven.
``He was raising his pistol as he yelled,'' Newman testified. ``He had both hands on it.''
And as Robbins approached, Freyaldenhoven loaded his own pistol, opened fire and hit Robbins in the chest.
Prosecutors argued that Freyaldenhoven had an opportunity to diffuse the situation and walk away from Robbins, but didn't.
LaFlamme asked witnesses about Robbins' demeanor, and one said Robbins had threatened to shoot the Iraqis they were training if they didn't listen or perform better.
Coffren was the only person who saw the whole argument and the shooting, the Democrat-Gazette reported. He stepped between Freyaldenhoven and Robbins to calm them down and was injured in the crossfire, but couldn't attend Monday's hearing because he was receiving physical therapy. The aggravated assault charge against Freyaldenhoven is for Coffren's injury.
The hearing was continued to Thursday.