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Court martial set for remaining Marine charged in Iraq killings

December 18, 2011 |  8:45 am

Wuterich2American troops have left Iraq but there is a chapter yet to be written at Camp Pendleton from that long and destructive war: the trial of the last of eight Marines charged in the 2005 killing of 24 Iraqis in Haditha.

The court martial of Staff Sgt. Frank Wuterich is set to begin Jan. 4 on charges of manslaughter and assault.

Wuterich, now 31, was the squad leader on the day a roadside bomb exploded beneath a Marine convoy, killing one Marine, injuring two others.

In a futile search for the insurgents who planted the bomb, Marines killed five young men standing next to a car and then swept through three houses killing 19 more people, including  three women, seven children, and a 76-year-old man in a wheelchair.

"I am looking forward to being able to present my case and help everyone understand what happened that day, and why I'm not guilty of the charges I'm facing," Wuterich told Mark Walker, military reporter for the North (San Diego) County Times in a story published Sunday.

Of the other seven Marines charged in the case, one was found not guilty and six had the charges against them dropped. Three senior officers, although not criminally charged, were censured by Marine brass for not investigating the killings more thoroughly until the incident was reported by Time magazine.

Recent news stories have suggested that continuing Iraqi anger over the Haditha killings made it impossible for the Iraqi government to allow U.S. troops to remain.

-- Tony Perry in San Diego

Photo: Staff Sgt. Frank Wuterich. Credit: Associated Press