A Navy SEAL charged with murder in the 2017 death of an Army Green Beret staff sergeant is scheduled for a special court-martial on Thursday in which he is expected to plead guilty to lesser charges in the case.
Chief Petty Officer Adam C. Matthews is set to face the court-martial and make his plea. Matthews is one of four men charged in the strangulation death of Staff Sgt. Logan Melgar on June 4, 2017.
Fellow Navy SEAL Anthony DeDolph, Marine Raiders Gunnery Sgt. Mario A. Madera-Rodriguez and Staff Sgt. Kevin Maxwell were also charged in the incident.
One SEAL and one Raider are negotiating plea deals in the case.
Attorneys for Matthews and Maxwell told Military Times in March that both were seeking a plea deal for lesser charges.
All four face charges of felony murder, involuntary manslaughter, conspiracy, obstruction of justice, hazing and burglary.
Matthews’ attorney, Grover Baxley, released the following statement last week following the announcement of the hearing by Navy Region Mid-Atlantic Public Affairs Office:
“On Thursday, SOC Adam Matthews will take full responsibility for his role in the tragic death of SSG Logan Melgar. He looks forward to detailing what happened that night in Mali almost 2 years ago and hopes that his explanation of events will assist the Melgar family in finding some semblance of closure. SSG Melgar’s death was an unforeseen accident that has dramatically impacted the lives of everyone involved. SOC Matthews is eager to assist with the Navy’s resolution of this case and then attempting to move on with his life.”
In an earlier statement to Military Times, Baxley said that his client never intended to put Melgar’s life in danger.
“I don’t believe any of these four men did. This was an avoidable tragedy, and SSgt Maxwell is deeply remorseful for his role in it,” Maxwell’s attorney Brian Bouffard wrote in an email.
Even though Melgar died in June 2017 while deployed with the defendants to Bamako, Mali, the Pentagon did not release any information regarding his death and news outlets broke the story months later.
Since the story broke, the Defense Department has remained silent publicly about the case, but leaks to media have filled in some details surrounding the events that led to Melgar’s death.
After the initial Article 32 for all four defendants was postponed in March, court documents leaked to The Washington Post known as “stipulations of fact” laid out a story from witnesses’ and defendants’ statements that painted a picture that included excessive alcohol drinking and prostitutes.
The staff sergeant’s death seems to have happened after what has been described in leaked documents as a botched hazing session that the four defendants initiated to retaliate against perceived slights by Melgar against the team and their behavior at the isolated posting.
Weeks before his death, Melgar brought foreigners to housing where he, DeDolph and another SEAL who was not charged, lived, according to statements provided to investigators. Melgar had engaged in “frat-like” behavior that had gotten both he and another soldier who also lived with Melgar uninvited from events at the U.S. Embassy.
The soldier mentioned in the statement also told investigators that they had been barred from the SEAL’s operations center due to the behavior.
Though multiple sources told investigators that Melgar did not drink alcohol, the same soldier said that he, Melgar and everyone implicated in Melgar’s death had done excessive drinking during the deployment.
Previous reporting by The Daily Beast stated that Melgar had accused the SEALs of bringing prostitutes to the off-site embassy housing they shared.
Statements to investigators obtained by The Post reported that the two SEALs and Raiders started planning the hazing session for Melgar while drinking at two local bars, Appaloosa and Byblos.
That was after Melgar had apparently driven by the SEALs while on his way to a party at the French Embassy without stopping to pick them up. While at the party the soldier said that Melgar drank two or three beers.
That perceived party snub was the last straw for the foursome and they decided to tape up Melgar when they got back to the residence. The Raiders went to their separate residence to get duct tape and a sledgehammer.
“The sledgehammer was not required for us to gain entrance to SSGT Melgar’s room, but we used it because we thought that the noise associated with it would further surprise him,” wrote Matthews, according to the Post.
DeDolph pounced on Melgar, locking him in a chokehold on the bed, two of the defendants told investigators. Matthews grabbed Melgar’s legs and the Raiders began to duct tape them, the Post reported.
Within seconds they noticed that Melgar had stopped breathing.
They went into rescue mode, trying to revive him, Matthews said.
“He remained unresponsive, so we laid him back down and I began rescue breaths while the tape was cut off of him,” Matthews said, according to the Post. They repeated CPR.
“His chest rose and fell from my rescue breaths, and during one of the breaths, I saw red-tinted spittle come out of his mouth and hit me in the face,” Matthews said, according to the Post.
They used a defibrillator and cut open his throat in an emergency procedure to establish an airway.
They took him to a nearby clinic themselves rather than call an ambulance.
Clinic staff pronounced him dead.
The four defendants then decided that the two SEALs would tell investigators what happened but not include any information about Raiders involvement, according to the Post.
The group cleaned up the area, throwing out all the alcohol they could find. A State Department security officer entered Melgar’s room with Madera-Rodriguez as a witness, not realizing the Marine would later be a defendant in the homicide case, the Post reported.
DeDolph, who also had blood on his hands, said they’d been wrestling and he was “pacing, in a state of shock, repeating himself and ‘not lucid,’” according to the Post.
A woman working with the U.S. government in Mali and who spoke with investigators told them she was with DeDolph after the incident and he told her he “kills people for a living, but not Americans.”
Court documents obtained by the Post showed text messages stating that Madera-Rodriguez told the same woman, who had been out with the four defendants drinking the night of the incident, that he thinks “about Logan’s family all the time” and that DeDolph was “out of his mind” after Melgar died.