Two Navy SEALs and two Marine Raiders will face murder charges in the June 2017 death of an Army Special Forces staff sergeant in Mali.
The four personnel face UCMJ charges that include felony murder, involuntary manslaughter, conspiracy, obstruction of justice, hazing and burglary in the strangulation death of Army Staff Sgt. Logan Melgar, according to a release from Navy Region Mid-Atlantic public affairs.
An Article 32 preliminary hearing for all four accused is scheduled for Dec. 10. None of those charged were named in the release.
Redacted charge sheet information reveals previously undisclosed details about the alleged incident.
Whereas previous accounts only noted that the two SEALs had assaulted Melgar, charge sheets indicate that the two Marine Raiders, identified only as a staff sergeant and a gunnery sergeant, were allegedly involved in the direct assault as well.
All four individuals are being accused of driving to the Marines' quarters to get duct tape, driving to the quarters shared by Melgar and the SEALs, then breaking down Melgar’s locked door, restraining him and binding him with duct tape and strangling him by using a chokehold.
Each has been charged with conspiracy for allegedly sharing information with each other about what they told investigators, omitting information such as the use of duct tape and the Marines’ presence in the room, and disposing of alcohol kept in the quarters.
Rear Adm. Charles Rock, commander of the Mid-Atlantic Region, preferred the charges Wednesday.
Though no defendants were named, numerous media outlets have reported that two members of SEAL Team Six, Petty Officer Anthony DeDolph and Chief Petty Officer Adam Matthews, who shared off-site housing in Bamako, Mali, with Melgar, as well as two Marine Raiders, were questioned as “persons of interest” or witnesses in the death investigation.
Navy Capt. Jason Salata shared a statement on behalf of U.S. Special Operations Command.
“We honor the memory of Staff Sgt. Melgar, our thoughts remain with his family and teammates. If these allegations of misconduct are substantiated, they represent a violation of the trust and standards required of all service members. We trust our service members to safeguard our nation’s most sensitive interests and to do so with honor," Salata said.
He added: “We will not allow allegations or substantiated incidents of misconduct to erode decades of honorable accomplishments by the members of U.S. Special Operations Command. Ours is a culture of professionalism and accountability, which prides itself in being a learning organization that uses critical self-examination in a relentless dedication to improvement.”
Just a week ago, it was reported that the more than year-long investigation had been concluded and handed over to Rock, who was appointed directly by Secretary of the Navy Richard Spencer.
Melgar’s June 4, 2017, death was initially investigated by Army officials but was later handed over to Naval Criminal Investigative Service.
Little information, other than acknowledgement of the death investigation, has been made public by military officials since Melgar’s death. Various media outlets have reported new details as the investigation progressed.
Melgar, DeDolph, Matthews and two Marine Raiders shared housing in Mali and were in the country on a mission supporting Malian and French counterterrorism units fighting al-Qaida factions in the region.
Initially, DeDolph and Matthews told investigators they found Melgar unresponsive in his room. They later changed their story to say the three were conducting hand-to-hand combat training at 4 a.m.
The pair said that Melgar was drunk, passed out and couldn’t be revived. But that raised further questions, as friends of Melgar knew he did not drink alcohol.
When that information, along with toxicology reports showing no drugs nor alcohol in Melgar’s system, DeDolph and Matthews again changed their stories.
They said they had ambushed Melgar in his room after a perceived slight, saying he had deliberately avoided them while driving to a party.
During the scuffle, Melgar became unconscious and stopped breathing. DeDolph and Matthews told investigators they attempted CPR and a field-expedient tracheotomy before taking him to a nearby medical facility. He could not be revived.
A later autopsy classified his death as “homicide by asphyxiation,” or strangulation.
Marine Corps Special Operations Command has previously declined to comment on the investigation.
Both DeDolph and Matthews were flown from Mali shortly after the incident and placed on administrative hold at SEAL Team Six headquarters in Dam Neck, Virginia.
Melgar had emailed his wife shortly before his death and told her had a “bad feeling” about some of his fellow troops. Other reports indicate that Melgar may have learned of cash skimming by fellow special operators.
The Daily Beast last year reported that Melgar had allegedly uncovered that the SEALs were skimming cash from operational funds. The funds are often used to pay informants for terrorist or arms trafficking information.
Melgar was nearly finished with his deployment to Mali when he died.
Melgar was assigned to 3rd Special Forces Group at the time of his death. A native of Lubbock, Texas, Melgar joined the Army in 2012 and served two tours in Afghanistan with 3rd Special Forces Group out of Fort Bragg, North Carolina.
He was awarded the Defense Meritorious Service Medal posthumously.
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.