JOINT BASE LEWIS-McCHORD, Wash. – Staff Sgt. Robert Bales, accused in the late-night massacre of 16 men, women and children in southern Afghanistan, was using both alcohol and steroids near the time of the murders, Army prosecutors alleged Friday.
A new charge sheet returned against the 38-year-old serviceman also accuses him of burning bodies of the victims and damaging a laptop computer in a purported attempt to impede the investigation into the March 11 attacks near a remote special operations post near the town of Belambay.
The new charge sheet reduces the number of alleged murders from 17 to 16, clearing up a continued point of confusion since the killings first were reported. Army officials said a detailed investigation revealed that one of the victims was originally named twice.
The charges also include six counts of attempted murder, with victims that included four children, and six counts of assault that also involved shooting, with four children among those victims. A seventh assault charge alleges that in February Bales beat an Afghan man with his hands and knees, striking him in the face and the body.
The new charge sheet is the first indication of possible drug use in connection with the attacks, though it does not allege that either steroids or alcohol prompted the killings.
Steroids have long been linked to cases of strong aggression, often popularly described as “roid rage,” though the product Bales was alleged to have used, stanozolol, is considered a milder form with fewer such side effects.
Bales’ defense lawyers had initially denied Bales had used alcohol at the outpost, but attorney Emma Scanlan said Friday that military prosecutors claim to have evidence that the sergeant was drinking before the shootings.