Army forensic examiners identified blood from at least four people on the clothes Staff Sgt. Robert Bales wore and the weapons he carried when he turned himself in to fellow soldiers after an alleged massacre in southern Afghanistan, an Army DNA expert testified Thursday.
However, the Army was able to match DNA from only one woman whose blood was on Bales’ gear to one of the blood samples taken from one of the homes the Joint Base Lewis-McChord Stryker soldier allegedly attacked in the early hours of March 11.
Bales’ attorney made note of that discrepancy in Thursday’s court action.
All together, Army DNA examiner Christine Trapolsi identified the blood of nine people from evidence the Army gathered either from Bales’ equipment or from the four houses in which he allegedly murdered 16 Afghans during two forays from his outpost in Kandahar Province.
Trapolsi testified at the fourth day of an evidence hearing that could lead to a death-penalty court-martial for Bales, a 39-year-old soldier who used to live in Lake Tapps with his wife and two children.
The hearing is set to resume tonight with live testimony broadcast from Kandahar. Two of Bales’ alleged victims are on the witness list, as are four relatives of victims and two Afghan National Army guards.
Two experts who analyzed evidence in the case at the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Laboratory rounded out this week’s testimony at JBLM, giving a sense of the evidence soldiers were able to collect in a volatile part of Kandahar Province that grew increasingly hostile to Americans after the March 11 massacre.
On Wednesday, Army Criminal Investigation Command Special Agent Matthew Hoffman testified that his team could not reach the homes Bales allegedly attacked for three weeks because of security concerns.
By the time investigators reached the villages of Alkozai and Najiban on April 2, residents had cleaned up their homes, removed belongings and generally abandoned their compounds.
Hoffman’s team worked with a heavy security detail amid fear they could be attacked at any moment. NATO surveillance cameras had observed insurgents laying bombs on the roads to Najiban after the killings.
“We were fully expecting to be attacked at any time,” he said.
They gathered shell casings, fabrics and samples from blood smatterings that remained on walls and floors weeks after the killings. That material went to the Criminal Investigation Command, along with the clothes and weapons soldiers collected from Bales at his outpost.
Trapolsi said DNA from two women and two men appears only on swabs taken from the two villages. DNA from one woman and two men shows up only on the weapons Bales allegedly carried on the night of the killings or on the clothes he allegedly wore.
Blood from one woman matches samples that appear both on Bales’ gear and in one of the homes.
Prosecutors and defense attorneys did not ask Trapolsi to describe evidence collected regarding someone known as Male No. 5.
Trapolsi also had DNA samples from the five Afghans Bales allegedly wounded in Alkozai. None of the samples matched the DNA blood stains she tested on Bales’ clothing and weapons.
Defense attorney Emma Scanlan highlighted the gaps between the DNA collected on Bales’ gear and the evidence collected in the villages.
Prosecutor Maj. John Riesenberg noted Trapolsi has tested only a fraction of the blood stains she has identified on Bales’ equipment.