BACKGROUND: According to the military, five soldiers Sgt. Paul E. Cortez, Spc. James P. Barker, PFC Jesse V. Spielman, PFC Steven D. Green and PFC Bryan L. Howard planned to rape a a 14-year-old girl named Abeer Qassim Hamza. PFC Howard was told to monitor a radio as the others entered the victims' house. Green ordered the father, mother and younger daughter into a bedroom. Shots were fired and Green emerged and reportedly said, "I just killed them, all are dead.
" Green and at least one of the others proceeded to sexually assault Abeer and when they were finished, Green fired two or three shots into her head, killing her.
The March 2006 killing of the family was originally reported to be the work of insurgents. Later, soldiers told their superiors of their suspicion that U.S. soldiers were involved. The deaths are considered among the worst in a series of alleged atrocities by U.S. military personnel in Iraq.
On Tuesday, Sgt. Paul E. Cortez, 24, pleaded guilty to four murders, rape and conspiracy to rape. If the judge approves his plea agreement, he could avoid the death penalty.
Cortez recounted the day's events and said that at one point that "it wasn't the first time anybody had talked about having sex with an Iraqi female". He broke down in tears during the description and the judge briefly recessed the hearing.
Cortez's plea agreement saus tjat he, Spielman and Barker went into the home of the girl's family in Mahmoudiya, and Cortez held her while Barker raped her. Then, while Cortez was raping her, Green shot and killed the girl's parents and younger sister. Cortez then acted as a lookout while Green raped the girl and then shot her. Cortez then helped burn the girl's body, the family's home and then burned his own clothes.
It also says that Spielman threw the AK-47 used to kill the family into a canal. Cortez also admitted to drinking whiskey before going to the home. The Army has rules against drinking alcohol.
Barker, 24, pleaded guilty in November to rape and murder and was sentenced to 90 years in military prison. Spielman, 22, and Bryan L. Howard, 23, await courts-martial. Green, 22, is charged in federal court in Kentucky, accused of being the ringleader. He is being tried as a civilian because he was discharged from the Army before his superiors were aware of his suspected involvement.