Attorneys for a Camp Pendleton Marine say their client accidentally stabbed a fellow recruit, and never meant to kill him.
Pfc. Raymond Begay appeared in a military court Thursday morning at the Marine Corps base, where prosecutors argued that Begay should be charged with second-degree murder and obstructing justice.
The prosecution said Begay showed callous and wanton disregard for the life of the victim, Pfc. Ethan Barclay-Weberpal. In interviews with investigators after the Jan. 16 incident, Begay admitted he stabbed the victim, who was also his good friend.
But Begay’s attorneys argued that the two Marines were horsing around at an early-morning muster at Camp Pendleton.
Witnesses at Thursday's hearing said Begay often played around with knives and pretended to stab his friends. The witnesses said Begay sometimes toyed with a knife that had a retractable blade, which would move harmlessly back into the knife handle when it touched something.
According to the witnesses and Begay’s attorneys, Begay was sitting close to Barclay-Weberpal, and told the victim, “in a joking fashion” that “I should stab you”, to which the victim reportedly responded “Do it. I hate Lima Company (the unit to which they were assigned).”
Begay then allegedly reached around Barclay-Weberpal’s right side and stabbed him in the chest. The sharp blade penetrated his heart, and cut his left ventricle. According to the prosecutor, Barclay-Weberpal immediately lost a significant amount of blood. He was pronounced dead shortly thereafter.
The prosecutor said Begay also obstructed justice because he allegedly tried to hide the knife after he stabbed Begay.
But Begay’s attorneys said their client panicked and never tried to hide the evidence. They noted that he quickly returned to the scene with a roll of toilet paper to help staunch the bleeding from his friend’s wound.
Witnesses at the Article 32 hearing included Pfc. Rhett Glubka, who testified that Begay was like a “little brother” to him. Glubka said the stabbing was a terrible, tragic, and unintended accident. Glubka testified that Begay was “not thinking with his brain, and was playing with a knife. I think he was just being a dumb kid, doing dumb things, and not thinking about what could happen.”
In their closing argument, the defense said Begay is devastated by his friend's death, and argued that the proper charge would be the lesser crime of involuntary manslaughter, due to negligence.
A ruling is expected next month, by the Marine Corps command.