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8 face courts-martial on murder charges

EVANSVILLE, Ind. – Eight soldiers from the 101st Airborne Division were ordered Wednesday to be court-martialed on murder charges stemming from their service in Iraq, and two could get the death penalty for allegedly raping a 14-year-old and killing her and her family.

The Fort Campbell, Ky., soldiers facing the death penalty are Sgt. Paul E. Cortez and Pfc. Jesse V. Spielman. Both are accused of raping Abeer Qassim al-Janabi in her family’s home in Mahmoudiya, about 20 miles south of Baghdad, then killing the girl, her parents and younger sister.

Spc. James P. Barker and Pfc. Bryan L. Howard are also accused in the rape and murders but will not face the death penalty, the military said in a statement.

Barker’s attorney, David Sheldon in Washington, D.C., said that Barker has agreed to cooperate with prosecutors in their case against others, including former Army Pvt. Steven Green, who was discharged for a personality disorder and arrested in North Carolina.

Green, who has pleaded not guilty to one count of rape and four counts of murder, will be tried in federal court in Kentucky.

Military prosecutors have said the five – all from the division’s 502nd Infantry Regiment – planned the attack from a checkpoint near the family’s home, changed their clothing to hide their identities and set the girl’s body on fire to destroy evidence.

Because their unit suffered months of bombings and shootings that felled dozens of comrades, defense attorneys have argued that soldiers of every rank were emotionally ragged and strained.

Pfc. Corey R. Clagett, Spc. William B. Hunsaker, Staff Sgt. Raymond L. Girouard and Spc. Juston R. Graber are accused of murdering three Iraqi men taken from a house May 9 on a marshy island outside Samarra, about 60 miles north of Baghdad.

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