Former Cashmere man faces charges in Georgia murder
Friday, March 30, 2012
SAVANNAH, Ga. — A former Cashmere man is among four soldiers charged Tuesday with premeditated murder and other crimes under military law.
If convicted by a court martial, Pvt. Isaac Aguigui and the three others could be sentenced to death or life in prison. The four are already facing charges in civilian court.
The military action comes nearly fourth months after fishermen found the bodies of 19-year-old Michael Roark and his girlfriend, 17-year-old Tiffany York. Both had been shot in the head before they were discovered Dec. 5 not far from Fort Stewart, where Roark had served in the Army until being discharged just three days before he was killed.
A Serving the Nation news item in The Wenatchee World in August of 2010 said that Aguigui was a 2009 home-school graduate, and is the son of Annette and Edward Aguigui of Cashmere. Edward Aguigui said Thursday that he had no comment on the charges.
A week after the killings, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation announced it had arrested the four soldiers who, like Roark, served in the 4th Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division at Fort Stewart. They are jailed on the civilian charges.
In the civilian court, Army Sgt. Anthony Peden and Pvt. Christopher Salmon both face charges of malice murder. Pfc. Michael Burnett and Aguigui are charged with being party to a murder.
Because the slayings occurred outside the boundaries of Fort Stewart, but the suspects are all soldiers on active duty, the civilian and military courts can both claim jurisdiction.
The military charges against each soldier also include conspiracy to commit murder and a federal firearms charge, which the military did not immediately explain in detail this week.
In December, federal authorities said they were looking into why the four soldiers were collecting military-grade weapons, said Richard Coes, a spokesman for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives in Georgia.
After search warrants at two of the soldiers’ homes found a total of 16 guns, ATF agents were called into do ballistics checks on the weapons, Coes said. None of the weapons was the murder weapon, he said.
“They were expensive weapons, mostly military-grade, long guns like rifles,” he said. “They (the soldiers) appear to be a loosely-knit group of individuals that collaborated to purchase the guns.”
Coes said agents do not know why the soldiers had so many guns.
“It doesn’t look like they were trying to distribute them,” Coes said. “Whatever it was, it was extremely odd to gather that collection of guns.”
Neither military nor civilian authorities have given a motive for the killings, or provided many details on what happened. Preliminary hearings for the four soldiers in state court were postponed earlier this month.
The exact relationship between the victims and suspects remains hazy. Fort Stewart officials have said only that Michael Roark and the suspects all served in the same brigade of about 4,000 soldiers. The Georgia Bureau of Investigation has said only that both victims and the four suspects all knew each other.
It’s also unclear why the Army discharged Roark on Dec. 2. His service record shows he enlisted in March 2010 and trained as a cavalry scout before being assigned to Fort Stewart earlier this year. The Army Human Resources Command said only that Roark’s discharge was not dishonorable.
Roark’s father said his son arrived at Fort Stewart last year as an eager private who was disappointed he didn’t get to deploy to Iraq with the 4th Brigade, which returned from a yearlong tour last summer.
A few months later, the young soldier complained of disagreements with superiors and told his father he wanted to leave the Army. Brett Roark said his son visited him the weekend before he was killed and didn’t act distressed or give any sense he was in danger.
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