The story of how an Army Green Beret staff sergeant died at the hands of four fellow special operators while on a tour in Bamako, Mali two years ago has evolved over time as leaked information and finally official charges and a guilty plea from one of the defendants laid out details of the man’s death.
One of the remaining three co-defendants, a Marine Raider, is set to plead guilty to charges connected to what lead to the strangulation death of Staff Sgt. Logan Melgar. But documents obtained by The Washington Post add new details that were not previously revealed.
The Post reported Wednesday that through a stipulation of facts document it obtained and verified that not only were the two Navy SEALs and two Marine Raiders going to assault, duct tape and video record the illegal hazing of Melgar, but that they also planned to have a Malian man who was present sexually assault the 34-year-old staff sergeant on video.
Those details were revealed in a statement provided in the documents by Marine Staff Sgt. Kevin Maxwell, who is set to plead guilty Thursday to negligent homicide as part of a plea agreement made with government prosecutors.
The Post’s reporting indicates that the four men, the unidentified Malian man and a British man were in the room with Melgar when the assault and hazing that caused his death occurred.
The sexual assault allegation was never mentioned during a somewhat detailed retelling of the incident by Navy SEAL Chief Petty Officer Adam C. Matthews during his court-martial and plea on May 16.
Matthews’ version of events included nearly all of the same accounts, that the four had planned the assault as they drank alcohol at two separate locations in the hours preceding the attack.
The chief had just arrived in country to do a site visit and had learned from a fellow SEAL, Petty Officer Anthony DeDolph, Maxwell and Marine GySgt. Mario Madera-Rodriguez that they’d had problems with Melgar and wanted to teach him a lesson.
The foursome, according to Matthews, then got duct tape and a sledgehammer, awakened Melgar’s team leader, a Special Forces sergeant first class who lived with Melgar and the SEALs in shared housing to ask permission. The team leader granted permission but declined to participate and went back to sleep.
Others who testified in the May hearing told a different story, saying that Melgar was fed up with what he called “juvenile” behavior of the SEALs and Marines and couldn’t wait to conclude his deployment and return home.
The group used a sledgehammer sometime near 5 a.m. to break open Melgar’s door and surprise him. He awakened immediately, and DeDolph, a former professional mixed martial arts fighter, then pounced on Melgar and put him in a choke hold. The other men secured his arms and legs and began to duct tape him.
According to the Post reporting, the Malian man was to sexually assault him while the British man filmed the episode.
But in seconds Melgar stopped breathing.
The four then began attempts to use first CPR then a field expedient tracheotomy to try to revive him before taking him to a nearby clinic where he was pronounced dead.
The SEALs told investigators that they’d been practicing hand-to-hand combat in the residence and lied about anyone else being involved.
The story fell apart as autopsy reports revealed no alcohol or drugs in Melgar’s system and other accounts put the Raiders in the room as well.
Matthews pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit assault, obstruction of justice, unlawful entry and hazing in an agreement that helped him avoid facing a court martial on murder charges. He was reduced to E5, placed in one-year confinement and recommended for a bad conduct discharge.
Maxwell is expected to plead to lesser charges as well. DeDolph and Madera-Rodriguez do not yet have court dates set and their attorneys told Military Times last month that they had not yet sought to negotiate plea deals at that time.
Todd South has written about crime, courts, government and the military for multiple publications since 2004 and was named a 2014 Pulitzer finalist for a co-written project on witness intimidation. Todd is a Marine veteran of the Iraq War.