The military trial of Spc. Neftaly Platero began its second week Monday with his defense attorney calling two of the Army’s own crime lab analysts to testify that they found no gunshot residue on the suspect’s hands and none of his fingerprints on the rifle and spent bullet casings fired in the killings of Pfc. Gebrah Noonan and Spc. John Carrillo Jr.
Both soldiers were found dead Sept. 23, 2010, in the room they shared with Platero, of Kingwood, Texas, at an Army base camp in Fallujah. Another roommate was shot in the head and leg, but survived the attack. Still, Spc. Jeffrey Shonk, who has a large scar behind his left ear where a bullet creases his scalp, testified only briefly Monday _ saying he remembers nothing about the shootings.
Platero’s defense attorney, Guy Womack, says the evidence points to the shooter being someone other than Platero. An Army gunshot residue expert, Mayat Wyatt, testified he found none on a skin sample from the suspect’s hands and only one microscopic particle of residue on the back of his shirt.
“That is consistent in a way with a theory that he heard gunshots, walked into the room and saw the carnage, then walked out?” Womack said the expert.
Wyatt said that’s true, but it’s also possible any gunshot residue was washed or wiped from Platero’s hands before the skin sample was taken. Evidence records show the suspect had been allowed to use the bathroom before the sample got collected.
“You’re not saying Spc. Platero did not fire a weapon, are you?” said Maj. Stefan Wolfe, the lead prosecutor.
“No, I’m not,” Wyatt replied.
Likewise an Army fingerprint expert, Shauna Steffan, testified she couldn’t identify any of Platero’s fingerprints on his rifle or the 18 shell casings fired from the gun. Previously, a firearms expert testified the rifle assigned to Platero was used to shoot all three soldiers. But the suspect’s attorneys say that doesn’t prove he pulled the trigger.
No other soldiers at the base witnessed the shootings. Platero’s supervisors say he came to them hours earlier blaming his roommates for filthy conditions in their room. And one soldier, Staff Sgt. Jhamaal Martin, testified last week that Shonk told him: “Platero shot us.”
No other witnesses have said they heard those words. Col. Jonathan Leong, the Army surgeon who helped treat Shonk’s wounds at the crime scene, said it’s normal for people with head wounds to stop talking as swelling increases and their condition worsens.
“I thought he was going to die,” Leong said of the wounded soldier. “He had lost a huge amount of blood from both the head wound and the leg wound.”