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Trial begins in soldier's death
Court-martial begins for one of two Fort Bragg soldiers charged in connection with the stabbing death of Spc. Morganne McBeth

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Date published: 4/3/2011


The first of two soldiers charged in connection with the stabbing death of a fellow soldier who grew up in Spotsylvania County faces a military trial tomorrow at Fort Bragg, N.C.

Spc. Tyler Cain, 21, of North Carolina is charged with conspiracy to obstruct justice and three counts of giving false statements to investigators in the death of Spc. Morganne McBeth.

Another soldier, Spc. Nicholas Bailey, 23, of Pflugerville, Texas, is facing a more serious charge of negligent homicide, along with charges of conspiracy to obstruct justice and giving false statements to investigators. His court-martial is scheduled for May 31.

McBeth, a 19-year-old paratrooper and medic, was stabbed in the heart July 1 at a base in Iraq. She died early the next day in what Army investigators at first said was a tragic accident.

The defendants said in sworn statements shortly after the incident that McBeth was stabbed as the trio were throwing knives at a dartboard in a tent.

In testimony in preliminary hearings earlier this year, medical experts and investigators cast doubt on that scenario, and Cain later changed his story.

Bailey was initially charged with involuntary manslaughter, but that charge was elevated to negligent homicide.

Leonard and Sylvia McBeth, the victim's parents, said Army investigators gave them several different versions of what happened, including the dartboard account and a report that she had accidentally stabbed herself.

They said Friday they still don't know what happened to their daughter, but reject the notion that it was an accident. They will be among those in the courtroom tomorrow.

A court-martial is similar to a civilian trial, with a military judge presiding and a jury of at least five members to hear evidence. The jury can include officers and enlisted personnel. A defendant can also choose to be tried by a judge alone.

Cain is a motor transport operator assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Co., 1st Brigade Special Troops Battalion, 1st Brigade Combat Team at the North Carolina Army base.

He joined the Army in July 2007 and completed two combat tours in Iraq. The current charges are related to his second tour.

McBeth joined the Army in 2008 and was stationed at Fort Bragg. The Army initially reported that McBeth died in Al Asad, Iraq, of wounds sustained in a non-combat-related incident in Khan Al Baghdadi. Al Asad is an air base in western Iraq; Al Baghdadi is a city on the Euphrates River.

McBeth attended Salem Elementary School and Faith Baptist School. Later the family moved to Stafford County, where she left high school early to join a Job Corps nursing program.

Rusty Dennen: 540/374-5431
Email: rdennen@freelancestar.com