Slain Amer­i­can GIs’ fam­i­lies tell Jor­dan court of an­guish

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - INTERNATIONAL - REEM SAAD AND SAM MCNEIL

AM­MAN, Jor­dan — The rel­a­tives of two of the three Amer­i­can sol­diers shot dead at a Jor­da­nian air base last year de­scribed the pain of their loss in let­ters Mon­day to a mil­i­tary court try­ing the man ac­cused of the killing.

The par­ents of one sol­dier and the sis­ter of a sec­ond at­tended a court hear­ing in Jor­dan’s cap­i­tal, Am­man, and will re­main un­til the ver­dict, ex­pected next Mon­day.

The de­fen­dant, a Jor­da­nian sol­dier, has pleaded in­no­cent. If con­victed, he faces life in prison. The U.S. mil­i­tary train­ers were killed when three ve­hi­cles car­ry­ing four U.S. ser­vice mem­bers came un­der fire at the gate of an air base in south­ern Jor­dan in Novem­ber.

The vic­tims were 27-yearold Staff Sgt. Matthew C. Lewellen of Kirksville, Mo.; 30-year-old Staff Sgt. Kevin J. McEn­roe of Tuc­son, Ariz.; and 27- year- old Staff Sgt. James F. Mo­ri­arty of Ker­rville, Texas.

Mo­ri­arty’s sis­ters, Melissa and Re­becca, and Lewellen’s par­ents, Charles and Cindy, de­scribed the pain of their loss in let­ters to the court.

They also crit­i­cized the Jor­da­nian au­thor­i­ties’ ini­tial han­dling of the shoot­ing, in­clud­ing claims that the U. S. troops had trig­gered the shoot­ing by dis­obey­ing gate pro­ce­dures. Jor­dan later with­drew such claims.

Re­becca Mo­ri­arty, who was in court Mon­day, wrote that she and her sib­lings had ex­changed mes­sages the day be­fore her brother’s Nov. 4 death to plan a Thanks­giv­ing get- to­gether later that month.

Cop­ing with the loss has been “ut­terly ex­haust­ing, es­pe­cially when I feel that jus­tice has not been served,” she wrote.

“The ini­tial days brought con­stant tears,” she wrote. “My face swelled up and ached from so much cry­ing. I couldn’t taste food. Ev­ery­thing re­minded me of him.”

Melissa Mo­ri­arty, who is to ar­rive in Jor­dan this week­end, wrote that she has en­dured “ex­treme an­guish and dark­ness” af­ter the death of her brother.

A key is­sue dur­ing the trial has been the pos­si­ble trig­ger for the shoot­ing.

The de­fen­dant, 1st Sgt. Marik al-Tuwayha, has said he had heard a pis­tol shot com­ing from the di­rec­tion of the U.S. con­voy and that he opened fire be­cause he feared the base was com­ing un­der at­tack.

Sev­eral gate guards tes­ti­fied that they heard a sound that might have been a pis­tol shot but that they held their fire be­cause they couldn’t iden­tify the ex­act source.

The de­fen­dant has said he ini­tially opened fire from in­side a guard house where he was at the time, be­liev­ing he was com­ply­ing with rules of en­gage­ment.

He has said he had “no in­ten­tion of killing any­one” and felt no re­sent­ment to­ward Amer­i­cans.

The pros­e­cu­tor said Mon­day that the de­fen­dant acted with in­tent, hav­ing fired dozens of rounds over sev­eral min­utes. He said the de­fen­dant did not com­ply with the rules of en­gage­ment be­cause he did not de­ter­mine the source of the al­leged pis­tol shot.

In an in­ter­view Mon­day, Re­becca Mo­ri­arty and the Lewellens ques­tioned why the court did not screen a se­cu­rity cam­era video of the in­ci­dent and why it did not ask a sur­viv­ing U.S. sol­dier to tes­tify. They said the sur­vivor was will­ing to take the stand.

“That is very dis­ap­point­ing to us as fam­i­lies but es­pe­cially to him who went through it and is the only key eye­wit­ness to what took place,” said Charles Lewellen, 53.

The be­reaved fam­i­lies said the sur­veil­lance video, shown to them by U.S. law en­force­ment, shows the de­fen­dant reload­ing and shoot­ing at Amer­i­cans who were wav­ing their hands and yelling: “We’re Amer­i­cans! We’re friendly.”

Re­becca Mo­ri­arty said the shoot­ing lasted for six min­utes.

“The last word my brother said was ‘ friend,’” she wrote. “He spent the last six min­utes of his life try­ing to defuse what was, at the very least, a mis­un­der­stand­ing.”


Cyn­thia and Charles Lewellen speak in Am­man, Jor­dan, on Mon­day af­ter at­tend­ing the trial of a Jor­da­nian sol­dier charged in the killing of their son, Matthew, and two other sol­diers out­side a Jor­da­nian air base last year.

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