June 11, 2005 in Nation/World

Sergeant guilty of murder

Associated Press

FORT RILEY, Kan. – A military jury found an Army sergeant guilty Friday of premeditated murder in the shootings of two fellow soldiers last year.

Sgt. Aaron Stanley, 23, of Bismarck, N.D., faces a sentence of life in prison. He took the stand during the sentencing phase to read an apology to the victims’ families.

“I’m so sorry,” he said. “I hope that you will find it in your hearts to forgive me and I hope that this brings peace.”

Closing statements were to be presented Saturday morning.

Stanley was convicted of killing Staff Sgt. Matthew Werner, 30, and Spc. Christopher Hymer, 23, at his rural farmhouse near Fort Riley in September.

Stanley argued he acted in self-defense and to protect another soldier who was there, but prosecutors said he shot the two men to keep hidden an illegal drug trafficking operation, believing the victims to be informants for Fort Riley police.

Stanley and the other soldier, Sgt. Eric Colvin, 23, had acknowledged manufacturing methamphetamine and growing marijuana at the farmhouse.

Stanley testified Thursday that Werner had accused him of having an affair with his wife and threatened to “cut a chunk out” of his face.

Stanley said he shot Hymer after the soldier opened fire on him first. He said he shot Werner after finding him and Colvin wrestling in the kitchen, with Werner trying to stab Colvin. But Colvin, a key prosecution witness, testified he watched Stanley stand over the two victims and shoot.

Stanley pleaded guilty at the start of his court martial to drug use, drug possession, being absent without leave and adultery. The adultery charge did not involve Werner’s wife. He faces up to 37 years in prison on those charges.

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