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U.S. soldier jailed after killing 5 fellow service members

By Mason White 10:39 AM May 14, 2013
Army Sgt. John Russell 

By: Ryan Lee Hall
(Scroll down for video) A U.S. soldier was arrested and charged with murder related charges after killing five fellow service members, according to military court proceedings in Washington.

Now, a military judge found Army Sgt. John Russell guilty of premeditated murder, which occurred at a combat stress clinic in Iraq.
Russell is now facing the sentencing phase of his court-martial to determine whether he will receive life imprisonment, with or without the possibility of parole.

The 14 year veteran of the military of Sherman, Texas, previously had pleaded guilty to murder in exchange for having the death penalty taken off the table. Under the agreement, prosecutors were allowed to try to prove to a judge that the murders were premeditated.

The judge, Army Col. David Conn, announced his decision Monday, after a court martial ended Saturday, military spokesperson Lt. Col. Gary Dangerfield said.

The shooting was one of the worst cases of soldier against soldier violence in the Iraq war and raised questions about mental health problems for soldiers caused by repeated periods of service.

Russell’s lawyers argued that he was overtaken by depression and despair at that time. A joint Army mental health evaluation revealed that Russell suffered from severe depression with psychotic symptoms and post-combat stress.

“This is a terrible tragedy for all those involved, as several service members were murdered not by enemy fire but by a fellow soldier. At least the families of the victims will see justice as the killer will be jailed for life,” Alison Hicks, 34, of Seattle, Washington told after learning about the charges against Russell.

Russell had long sought help with sleep problems, was babbling and asked for help in the days before the shooting.
Prosecutors argued that Russell was trying to paint himself as a mental patient in an attempt to gain early retirement, as he was facing a sexual harassment complaint that could have derailed his career and benefits.