SAVANNAH, Ga. (AP) _ A soldier has been charged with murder in the September shootings of a superior and a fellow team leader at their Army patrol base in central Iraq, the military said Friday.
Sgt. Joseph Bozicevich, 39, of Minneapolis has been returned to the U.S. from Iraq and is being held in pretrial confinement at an undisclosed location in southern Georgia, said Maj. Lee Peters, spokesman at Fort Stewart where the soldiers' unit is based.
Bozicevich is charged with the Sept. 14 slayings of Army Staff Sgt. Darris Dawson, 24, of Pensacola, Fla., and Sgt. Wesley R. Durbin, 26, of Dallas. Written charges filed Thursday against Bozicevich say he shot both soldiers with a rifle.
Maxine Mathis, Dawson's stepmother in Florida, said she wasn't rushing to judgment.
"I don't want to condemn him," Mathis said. "I don't know what state that child was in. He's somebody's son, too."
Bozicevich's father, who lives near Albany, N.Y., said he hadn't heard from his son much since his unit deployed to Iraq last year. He said he was unaware his son faced criminal charges until a reporter contacted his family Friday evening.
"We just have to wait and see what the circumstances were," said Joe Bozicevich Sr., the soldier's father. "In a combat zone, where people are highly stressed, who knows what happened?"
The soldiers were serving a 15-month deployment to Iraq with the 4th Brigade Combat Team of the Army's 3rd Infantry Division.
Bozicevich and Durbin were both four-man team leaders who reported to Dawson, their squad leader, in Alpha Company, 3rd Battalion, 7th Infantry Regiment.
The Army has released little information about the slayings. A Defense Department official in Washington has told The Associated Press the suspected shooter had been in a meeting with Dawson and Durbin to discuss his leadership performance. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because details have not been made public.
Fort Stewart officials said Bozicevich was serving his second combat deployment in three years on active duty. He had previously served 15 years in the Army Reserves in Minnesota.
Peters said Bozicevich has been appointed a military lawyer, but he was not immediately able to provide the attorney's name.
The next step will be for Bozicevich to face an Article 32 hearing, similar to a civilian grand jury, to determine if the Army has sufficient evidence to pursue a court-martial. No hearing dates had been set Friday.
Durbin's wife, Brandy Durbin, declined to comment when reached at her home Friday.
Fort Stewart commanders said they plan to dedicate memorial trees to Dawson and Durbin on Oct. 16 at Warriors Walk, where the Army post has planted an eastern redbud tree for each of its soldiers killed in Iraq since 2003.