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Military mum on details about Pa. soldier

July 12, 2006|by JENNIFER FITCH

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - The military provided few additional details Tuesday regarding the charges against five American soldiers connected to an alleged rape-murder in Iraq on March 12.

One of those men, Pfc. Jesse V. Spielman, was remembered by a former Chambersburg Area Senior High School classmate as a funny person who enjoyed skateboarding.

Spielman, 21, could face the death penalty if convicted on charges that include premeditated murder, rape and arson.

The Chambersburg Area School District on Tuesday issued a press release confirming that Spielman attended the high school from 1999 until graduation in 2002.

"I just remember him from high school. That's when I really got to know him," Matt Thomas of Chambersburg said.

Thomas described Spielman as a "really funny kid" who liked to be the center of attention.

"(He) got into possibly the wrong crowd towards late high school and got into partying more. At some point, Jesse decided to change his life and go to the military," Thomas said.

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Calls regarding the pending Article 32 hearing in the case were directed from Fort Campbell to a base in Iraq. A spokeswoman there directed calls to the Secretary of Defense's office in Washington, D.C.

Those calls were routed to the duty officer with the U.S. Army, who did not return messages before presstime Tuesday night.

Spielman and the four other soldiers identified by the military Monday are members of the 101st Airborne Division based at Fort Campbell, Ky.

Sgt. Paul E. Cortez, Spc. James P. Barker and Pfc. Bryan L. Howard also are charged as participants in the rape and killing of an Iraqi woman, and the fatal shooting of her father, mother and sister at their home in Mahmoudiya, south of Baghdad.

Sgt. Anthony W. Yribe is charged with failing to report the attack but is not alleged to have been a direct participant. A sixth man, former soldier Steven D. Green, was charged last month with rape and four counts of murder in the case.

"I was advised by the Army not to speak," said a woman who answered the phone at the Chambersburg home of Spielman's mother, Nancy Hess.

She did say that "we're always going to defend Jesse."

A former classmate and a friend both said they hoped the allegations were untrue in remarks made on the popular social-networking Web site, www.MySpace.com.

Spielman maintained a page on the site, where another friend said he knows Spielman "had nothing to do with this" and encouraged him to call.

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