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Marine avoids prison in slaying

December 15, 2007|Tony Perry | Times Staff Writer

CAMP PENDLETON — A military jury Friday sentenced a Marine lance corporal to a bad-conduct discharge but no jail time in the stabbing death of an Iraqi soldier.

The jury could have sentenced Delano Holmes, a 22-year-old reservist, to eight years in prison and a dishonorable discharge after convicting him Thursday of negligent homicide and lying to superiors. Holmes has been in the brig since May.

"We feel quite blessed," said his former foster mother, Jenni Crowley, an ordained minister. "We have prayed incessantly, as have people around the world. I'm sure it made a difference."

To rally public support, Crowley has maintained a website, www.helpdefenddelano.com.

The military jury found Holmes not guilty of unpremeditated murder, which carries a maximum sentence of life in prison.

Crowley said Holmes probably would return to Indiana University, where he was a student when he volunteered to be part of a contingent from the Michigan-based 1st Battalion, 24th Regiment deploying to Iraq.

Holmes was convicted in the Dec. 31, 2006, death of Iraqi Pvt. Munther Jasem Muhammed Hassin. They were on sentry duty in downtown Fallouja, west of Baghdad, before dawn.

Holmes stabbed Hassin multiple times with his bayonet. An autopsy found 17 stab wounds, 26 cuts and one chop that nearly severed Hassin's nose.

Holmes did not testify during the trial, but told Naval Criminal Investigators Service agents shortly after the incident that he feared Hassin was trying to signal insurgent snipers by lighting a cigarette and using a lighted cellphone. He claimed that Hassin tried to reach for his AK-47 during the fight.

Prosecutors sought to portray Holmes as a remorseless killer who immediately tried to cover up his crime by lying to investigators. Within minutes of arriving at the 6-foot-by-6-foot sentry post, Holmes and the Iraqi were fighting. Neither spoke the other's language.

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tony.perry@latimes.com

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