An Army private accused of bludgeoning a fellow soldier to death with a baseball bat went on trial Tuesday, with military prosecutors saying for the first time that the victim was killed because he was thought to be gay.
Pvt. Calvin Glover, 18, of Sulphur, Okla., is charged with premeditated murder in the slaying of Pfc. Barry Winchell, 21, in July.
Before the start of the court-martial, Glover admitted to a lesser charge of unpremeditated murder in hopes of receiving a lighter sentence. But prosecutor Capt. Gregg Engler pressed on with the court-martial, seeking to prove the more serious charge.
Engler said he would show premeditation by introducing evidence that Glover hates gays and suspected that Winchell was homosexual.
"The overall feelings of hatred toward these classes or groups shows the motive," Engler said in describing racial and anti-gay comments attributed to Glover.
Premeditated and unpremeditated murder carry the same maximum sentence: life in prison without parole, plus a dishonorable discharge.
Glover sobbed while recalling the killing to the judge, Col. Gary Holland. He said he did not know why he hit Winchell "at least two or three times" with a bat during the July 5 attack in their Fort Campbell barracks.
In his opening statement, Engler said Winchell received up to five blows, which came with such force that blood spattered on the ceiling and on a wall 15 feet away. The first strike came as Winchell slept on a cot.
Glover said that he had been drinking before the attack and that another intoxicated soldier, Spec. Justin Fisher, encouraged him to use the bat to avenge a punch Winchell gave Glover at a party.
"I wasn't really mad at him, sir. It was just a mistake, sir. I was really drunk," Glover told the judge.
Capt. Thomas Moshang, a member of Glover's defense team, said Fisher wanted Winchell dead but Glover merely wanted to hurt Winchell.
Winchell was perceived as gay by some soldiers in his unit.
Fisher, 25, of Lincoln, Neb., who was Winchell's roommate, will be court-martialed Monday. In addition to allegedly goading Glover into attacking Winchell, Fisher is accused of lying to investigators.