It seems there are some strange folks coming out of Wasilla, Alaska…
Jeremy Morlock, the Army specialist made notorious in a grisly photograph showing off a dead Afghan civilian like a hunting trophy, pleaded guilty to three murders and faces up to 24 years in prison. Morlock’s friends from Alaska tell Shushannah Walshe about his Army experience, his father’s death—and his temper.
Spc. Jeremy Morlock looks into the camera and smiles, lifting the hair of a dead Afghan man, in a gruesome photograph. The image, along with others published this week by Der Spiegel, sparked an international outcry and triggered an apology from the U.S. Army, which called them “repugnant to us as human beings and contrary to the standards and values of the United States.”
At a court-martial at Joint Base Lewis-McChord on Wednesday, Morlock pleaded guilty to the murders of three unarmed Afghan civilians in Kandahar province in 2010 and one count each of illegal drug use, obstructing justice, and conspiracy. In exchange for the guilty plea, the military judge gave the Wasilla, Alaska, native a maximum sentence of 24 years, but his defense attorney says he will be eligible for parole in as little as seven.
The judge asked the 22-year-old if the plan was to shoot at civilians to scare them, or if the plan was to kill. Morlock replied, “The plan was to kill people.” He is the first of five soldiers to be court-martialed for the war crimes, and his attorney said he will testify against the other five members of his platoon. The men have been described as a “kill team” and “rogue platoon,” and Morlock is accused of being their leader in the killings.
Hockey coaches, friends, and others in Wasilla in close contact with Morlock, who joined the Army after graduating from high school in 2006, are stunned. In conversations with The Daily Beast, they describe a boy who always wanted to follow in his father’s footsteps into the military, a hardworking hockey player from the age of 6, and a son completely devastated by his father’s death, by drowning, in July 2007. But a cold-blooded killer? It’s hard for the small suburb of Anchorage to imagine, even as some describe him as an aggressive guy with a temper.