A 22-year-old U.S. soldier pleaded guilty Wednesday to the murders of three Afghan civilians, telling a military judge "the plan was to kill people" in his coordinated conspiracy with four fellow soldiers.
Spc. Jeremy Morlock of Wasilla, Alaska, was court-martialed at Joint Base Lewis-McChord south of Seattle, where he pleaded guilty to three counts of murder, and one count each of conspiracy, obstructing justice and illegal drug use in exchange for a maximum sentence of 24 years in prison.
Morlock is a key figure in a war crimes probe that implicates a dozen members of his platoon and has raised some of the most serious criminal allegations to come from the war in Afghanistan.
He was accused of taking a lead role in the killings of three unarmed Afghan men in Kandahar province in January, February and May 2010.
Asked by the judge what his intent was, Morlock replied, "The plan was to kill people."
Morlock is the first of five soldiers from the 5th Stryker Brigade to be court-martialed - something his lawyer Geoffrey Nathan characterized as an advantage.