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Murdered officer”s parents testify about their grief

Estes Thompson Associated Press

FORT BRAGG, N.C. – The parents of an officer killed by a soldier’s grenade and rifle attack on a 101st Airborne Division camp in Kuwait testified Tuesday that their son’s death created a hole in their lives that they can’t fill.

“When you think about all the plans you were going to carry out … that’s not going to happen now,” said Richard Stone, father of Air Force Maj. Gregory Stone of Boise, Idaho.

“With Greg, there’s not a day that goes by that I don’t think about him,” Stone said.

Gregory Stone and Army Capt. Christopher Seifert were killed and 14 other service members were injured when Sgt. Hasan Akbar attacked his fellow soldiers the night of March 22-23, 2003, as the unit was preparing to join the invasion of Iraq.

Stone’s testimony represented part of the prosecution’s case arguing in favor of the death sentence for Akbar, 34.

The 15-member jury convicted Akbar last week of premeditated murder and attempted premeditated murder in the attack at the Army’s Camp Pennsylvania in Kuwait.

The defense is expected to present evidence in the sentencing phase today.

Akbar’s lawyers have not disputed his role in the attack.

Instead, they have chosen to focus on the argument that he was too mentally ill to have premeditated the attack and therefore should not be sentenced to death.

Prosecutors have said that Akbar was trying to prevent the killing of fellow Muslims during the U.S. invasion.

Stone “was the heart of our family. He was our hero,” said his mother, Betty Lenzi. “And that grenade tore him away from us.”

Stone was assigned to the 1st Brigade Combat Team of the 101st as an Air Force liaison officer, coordinating air support for ground troops.

On Monday, 15 survivors of the attack testified about physical and emotional damage they suffered.

Capt. Gregory Holden said he had shrapnel wounds to at least 13 parts of his body, including dozens of pieces of shrapnel in his left arm and a bone-mangling wound to his left leg that required him to wear a painful external brace for months.

“There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t put my foot down without some sort of pain,” Holden said.

Lt. Col. Kenneth Romaine, who was wounded in the hands and thigh, sobbed on the witness stand as he spoke of taking Seifert’s 1-year-old son for a haircut, and recalled attending Seifert’s funeral in Pennsylvania and giving a medal to the officer’s widow, Terri.

When he talked to Terri Seifert about the attack later at Fort Campbell, Ky., Romaine said, “It was obvious she had spent many hours going over in her mind what had happened.”

Akbar was the first soldier since the Vietnam era to be prosecuted on charges of the murder of fellow soldiers at wartime.

If he is sentenced to die, Akbar would become the sixth person on the military’s death row.

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