The Navy SEAL and Marine Raider accused in the murder of a Green Beret in Africa could face life in federal prison without the possibility of parole when they each head to general court-martial, Navy officials announced Friday.
Dates for the court-martial hearings have not been set at this time, according to the release from Navy Region Mid-Atlantic’s public affairs office.
The charges were referred to general court-martial on Thursday for Navy Chief Special Warfare Operator Tony E. Dedolph and Marine Corps Gunnery Sgt. Mario A. Madera-Rodriguez by Rear Adm. Charles W. Rock, the commander of Navy Region Mid-Atlantic.
Both Dedolph and Madera-Rodriguez face charges including felony murder, involuntary manslaughter, obstruction of justice, hazing and burglary.
The two service members made their initial appearances in court for an Article 32 preliminary hearing on Aug. 5.
If they’re found guilty of felony murder, Dedolph and Madera-Rodriguez could face life in federal prison without parole, reduction in rank to E-1, forfeiture of all pay and allowances and either dishonorable or bad conduct discharges.
Army Staff Sgt. Logan Melgar, a 34-year-old Green Beret assigned to 3rd Special Forces Group, died by strangulation on June 4, 2017, while deployed to Bamako, Mali.
Another Marine, Staff Sgt. Kevin Maxwell Jr., already pleaded guilty and was sentenced in June to four years in military prison for his role in Melgar’s death. Maxwell was charged with negligent homicide, hazing and making false official statements.
Navy SEAL Adam Matthews was also sentenced in May to a year’s confinement and a bad conduct discharge. Matthews, formerly a member of SEAL Team 6, pleaded guilty to charges including conspiracy, unlawful entry, hazing, obstruction of justice and assault with battery.
During his hearing in May, Matthews explained that he, alongside Maxwell, DeDolph, Madera-Rodriguez and an unnamed British special operator schemed together to break into Melgar’s room as he slept, subdue him, duct tape him and video the incident to embarrass him.
Melgar was strangled to death while he was in a chokehold during the hazing incident.
The plan was hatched during a night of bar-hopping and was in response to a perceived snub. Melgar had apparently driven by some of the men while on his way to a party at the French Embassy without stopping to pick them up, Matthews previously said in court documents.
The group broke into Melgar’s room near 5 a.m., awakening him. DeDolph, who is a former professional mixed martial artist, is accused of putting Melgar into a chokehold while the other men duct taped him, according to charge sheets.
Melgar stopped breathing during the assault. The group attempted to perform CPR, followed by a field expedient tracheotomy to try to revive him before taking him to a nearby clinic where he was ultimately pronounced dead.
The men are accused of attempting to cover up their roles and the manner in which the hazing incident unfolded immediately following Melgar’s death.
Melgar and the SEALs were in Mali as part of a counter-terrorism mission related to the U.S. Embassy there.
The military justice system is based on the principle that the accused are innocent until proven guilty, Navy Region Mid-Atlantic officials cautioned in their latest press release.
Kyle Rempfer is an editor and reporter whose investigations have covered combat operations, criminal cases, foreign military assistance and training accidents. Before entering journalism, Kyle served in U.S. Air Force Special Tactics and deployed in 2014 to Paktika Province, Afghanistan, and Baghdad, Iraq.