Pa. soldier accused in Iraq rape, slayings

July 11, 2006|by JENNIFER FITCH

CHAMBERSBURG, PA. - A 2002 graduate of Chambersburg Area Senior High School is one of five American soldiers charged in the alleged rape-murder of a young Iraqi woman and the killing of three of her relatives.

Pfc. Jesse V. Spielman is charged with a number of offenses, including premeditated murder, rape and arson. He could face the death penalty if convicted, the Associated Press has reported.

Eric Michael, assistant superintendent of the Chambersburg Area School District, confirmed Monday that Spielman is a graduate of the Franklin County high school.

The military is withholding the personal information of the five charged, Fort Campbell, Ky., spokeswoman Kelly Tyler said. The soldiers identified Monday are members of the 101st Airborne Division based at Fort Campbell.


More information is expected today, Tyler said.

Sgt. Paul E. Cortez, Spc. James P. Barker and Pfc. Bryan L. Howard also are charged as participants, while Sgt. Anthony W. Yribe is charged with failing to report the attack but is not alleged to have been a direct participant.

The men are in custody, but not incarcerated, Tyler said. Their weapons have been taken from them, she said.

A sixth man, former soldier Steven D. Green, was charged last month with rape and four counts of murder in the case. The charges stem from an investigation into allegations the soldiers from the 101st Airborne Division raped and killed the woman, then fatally shot her father, mother and sister at their home in Mahmoudiya, south of Baghdad.

The 101st Airborne Division was deployed to Iraq in September 2005, Tyler said.

Spielman maintains a profile on the popular social-networking site,, and last logged on Tuesday, July 4. Spielman is listed as a member of the 101st.

He posted that his heroes are "the men and women that serve our country, especially the Army and Marines, furthermore the grunts."

On the site, he said he joined the U.S. Army in March of 2005 and was serving in Iraq for a year.

In addition to working on his 2001 Honda Civic, other interests are listed as "shooting stuff, meeting people."

A Lancaster, Pa., television station said Spielman's mother, Nancy Hess, told a reporter she was shocked by the charges and hoped to speak with her son soon.

"I don't believe the charges and I'm still proud of him," said Hess, who did not appear on camera.

A man who answered the phone Monday night at Hess' home in Chambersburg refused to comment.

The five soldiers identified by the military Monday will face an Article 32 hearing, the military equivalent of a grand jury proceeding, to determine if they should stand trial, according to the Associated Press.

According to an FBI affidavit filed in Green's case, he and at least two others targeted the young woman and her family for a week before the attack, which was not revealed until witnesses came forward in late June.

The soldiers drank alcohol, abandoned their checkpoint, changed clothes to avoid detection and headed to the victims' house, about 200 yards from a U.S. checkpoint in the "Triangle of Death," a Sunni Arab area south of Baghdad known for its violence, the affidavit said.

The affidavit estimated the rape victim was about 25. But a doctor at the Mahmoudiya hospital gave her age as 14. He refused to be identified for fear of reprisals.

Green is accused of raping the woman and killing her and the three other family members, including a girl estimated to be 5 years old. An official familiar with the investigation told The Associated Press that Green set fire to the rape victim's body in an apparent cover-up attempt.

Iraqi authorities identified the rape victim as Abeer Qassim Hamza. The other victims were her father, Qassim Hamza; her mother, Fikhriya Taha; and her sister, Hadeel Qassim Hamza.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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