In November 2010, Boise Weekly traveled to Joint Base Lewis-McChord, outside of Seattle, Wash., to listen to testimony in the case of Idaho native and Army Private Andrew Holmes. Inside a military courtroom on the base, prosecutors accused the then-19-year-old of murder, conspiracy and possessing body parts, saying he was part of a "kill team" while stationed in Afghanistan's Kandahar Province in January of that year.
Witness after witness linked Holmes to the shooting of an Afghan civilian and alleged he kept a finger from the slain man. Two Army special agents testified that then-commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, Gen. Stanley McChrystal, had been updated on the alleged crimes and, in turn, briefed Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai.
Two other soldiers, Spc. Jeremy Morlock and Spc. Adam Winfield, reached plea deals to avoid a full trial. Morlock pleaded guilty to murder and was sentenced to 24 years behind bars. Winfield was sentenced to three years in prison for involuntary manslaughter. Both were prepared to testify for the prosecution in Holmes' pending trial. Meanwhile, Holmes maintained he was an unwitting participant in the crimes.
A full court martial was averted, but Holmes was sentenced in September 2011 to seven years in prison at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. Army Judge Lt. Col. Kwasi Hawks said he understood Holmes was a "junior" soldier in a "difficult situation," but he said it did not excuse the murder.
"You aimed a fully loaded automatic weapon at a child that stood 15 feet away," said Hawks.
Now, more than four years later, Holmes' Idaho family has confirmed their son was granted early release from the prison for good behavior. The family added Holmes earned a barber's certificate during his incarceration.