A Marine facing charges in a fatal stabbing incident at an infantry school aboard Camp Pendleton, California, appeared before a military court on Thursday.
Pfc. Raymond W. Begay was present for a preliminary hearing known as an Article 32 while facing charges of murder and obstruction of justice ― articles 118 and 134 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, according to Marine spokesman Capt. Joshua Pena.
The March 22 hearing was the first time the Marine accused of killing fellow Marine Pfc. Ethan Barclay-Weberpal in a January 16 stabbing incident at the School of Infantry-West was identified by name.
The defense at the preliminary hearing argued the incident was the result of two Marines playing around with a knife, a mere tragic accident, according to the Orange County Register.
Lance Cpl. Gavin Shorter testified that he was behind Begay when the stabbing occurred. “No one thought he was seriously wounded,” Shorter said. “There was no scream or anything.”
Shorter testified that he saw Begay reach over Barclay-Weberpal’s right shoulder and place the knife into the left side of his chest but “I don’t believe it was intentional, sir,” he told Maj. Nelson Candelario, one of three members of Begay’s defense team. “There was no anger, no argument, no conflict. We were all good friends.”
The prosecutor argued Begay had a history of threatening to stab other Marines based on sworn testimony from witnesses.
Preliminary Hearing Officer Maj. Christian Hur will recommend the type of court-martial Begay ultimately will face. That recommendation will go to the convening authority Lt. Col Dennis Hager, the commanding officer of the headquarters battalion at SOI-West, according to Pena.
The most serious of courts-martial Begay faces is a general court-martial. A general court-martial has the authority to impose punishments ranging from a dishonorable discharge to death. A less severe route would be a special court-martial, which is generally reserved for minor offenses.
Begay has remained in confinement since the mid-January incident.
Barclay-Weberpal was buried with full military honors on Jan. 29 at his hometown of Janesville, Wisconsin.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.