Neftaly Platero, who was convicted Tuesday of two counts of premeditated murder and one count of attempted premeditated murder during court-martial proceedings, learned his fate late Wednesday afternoon when the military court passed a sentence of life in prison.
The former specialist received the maximum sentence possible. Prosecutors had earlier decided to not seek the death penalty. The punishment includes confinement for life without any possibility for parole, reduction in grade to E-1, forfeiture of all pay and allowances and a dishonorable discharge.
“For me, there’s a little bit of closure,” said Desiree Carrillo, mother of Pfc. John Carrillo, one of Platero’s victims. She paused for a breath before continuing. “But my son is still gone.”
Carrillo’s widow, Reylene Carrillo, lamented that she is still a widow and her children will never get their father back.
“After all this, (my children) still don’t have a dad,” she whispered.
A petite woman, she rarely spoke much louder than a whisper, even when she was on the witness stand, except when she was questioned by defense attorney Maj. Paul Butler.
Both the government and the defense presented the court with a series of witnesses to determine the sentence.
The prosecution called Arial and Sheminith Noonan, Pfc. Gebrah Noonan’s brother and sister. Spc. Jeffrey Shonk, who previously testified he couldn’t recall anything from the night of the shooting when he suffered severe wounds to his left leg and forehead, told the court he wished he could stay in the Army but suspects his career is over.
He said he is in pain every day and has frequent nightmares. Most of all, he can no longer do most of the things he once enjoyed.
Desiree Carrillo testified that when her son deployed to Iraq, she never thought he’d die at the hands of a fellow American soldier.
During his cross-examination, Butler attempted to question the character of the deceased as a loving, supporting son, husband and father. Reylene Carrillo admitted their marriage had its problems, but said all marriages have problems. Butler’s questioning elicited an outburst from Reylene Carrillo.
“That’s enough, ma’am,” military judge Lt. Col. Tiernan Dolan said.
“Please dismiss this outburst,” the judge said to the five-member jury. “There’s no place for that in this court.”
After the sentence was read, Reylene Carrillo explained her outburst.
“The (government legal team) did what they had to do,” she said. “The defense lawyer asked some questions they didn’t need to ask, and he got me upset.”
The defense called a series of character witnesses, including three former Marines, who served with Platero, and two soldiers, one a close friend and one a former squad leader. None had served with him in Iraq. They also called his mother to testify with the help of an interpreter, and his older sisters.
Defense attorney Maj. Greg Malson concluded by reading an unsworn statement by Platero. In addition to recounting a rough childhood in Honduras, Platero singled out the Carrilllos, Noonans and Shonks, telling them, “I see your pain and pray for you every day.”
Ling Noonan, mother of Pfc. Noonan, noted that Platero’s statement admitted no guilt nor any remorse.
“The verdict and the sentence went the way it did because the government did such a good job with its case,” Ling Noonan said. “He is a depraved individual. You can’t get passed that. He showed no allegiance to his country’s flag or fellow soldiers. Still, you have to try to live on. You have to find a way to live with it.”