In this April 29, 2009, file photo, former 101st Airborne Division Pfc. Steven Dale Green is escorted to the courthouse on the third day of his trial in Paducah, Ky. Green, convicted of raping and killing a teenage Iraqi girl and using a shotgun to kill her family, died Saturday, Feb. 15 in prison in Arizona, likely of suicide. (Mark Humphrey / AP)
LOUISVILLE, KY. — Facing life in federal prison with no chance at parole while carrying a conviction of raping and killing a 14-year-old Iraqi girl, a former U.S. soldier hanged himself in his cell in Arizona.
Steven Dale Green, 28, of Midland, Texas, did not leave a note explaining the reason for taking his own life over the weekend. He died five years after a federal jury spared him a death sentence in the attack on the teenage girl and the shotgun slaying of her mother, father and younger sister near Mahmoudiya, Iraq, in 2006.
One of his attorneys, Darren Wolff, said the prospect of spending the next four to five decades in prison with no possibility of getting out while three co-conspirators have a chance at parole in the coming years took its toll on the former soldier. Also wearing was the prospect of a transfer to another facility because of a recent altercation with other inmates, although Wolff didn’t have details about what happened.
“I think I’d have a hard time living with that,” Wolff told The Associated Press on Wednesday. “Who knows what a guy’s thinking when he does something like that.”
Prison officials found the 28-year-old ex-soldier’s body on Saturday at the federal penitentiary in Tucson, Ariz.
Green, of Midland, Texas, was a private in the 101st Airborne Division based at Fort Campbell on the Kentucky-Tennessee state line when he deployed to Iraq.
In March 2006, he and the three other soldiers went to the home of an Iraqi family in Mahmoudiya, near a traffic checkpoint. At the home, Green shot and killed three members of the al-Janabi family before becoming the third soldier to rape 14-year-old Abeer Qassim al-Janabi before killing her. He was convicted and sentenced to multiple life terms in 2009.
Jesse Spielman, Paul Cortez and James Barker are serving lengthy sentences in the military prison at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., for their roles in the attack. Each is eligible for parole in 2015.
Green was the first American soldier charged and convicted under the Military Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act. Signed in 2000, that law gives the federal government jurisdiction to pursue criminal cases against U.S. citizens and soldiers for acts committed in foreign lands.
Green was discharged from the military in May 2006 after being found to have a personality disorder.
In multiple interviews and letters from prison with AP, Green frequently expressed regret at taking part in the attack and frustration that he was tried and convicted in the civilian system, which does not afford inmates parole. He noted that the others involved went through the military justice system and have a chance to be released from prison.
During the interviews, Green also talked about getting regular visits from family and friends and said prison life was difficult because of the nature of his conviction.
“I was made to pay for all the war crimes. I’m the only one here in federal prison,” Green said in an October 2013 interview. “I think they plan to throw away the key in my situation.”
Associated Press reporter Jacques Billeaud in Phoenix, Ariz., contributed to this report.