Conflict & Justice

Robert Bales, accused in Afghan murders, had troubles at home, reports say


A man identified as Robert Bales appears in this Defense Department photograph published in High Desert Warrior, a publication at the National Training Center and Fort Irwin in California.

Robert Bales, the US soldier accused of killing 16 Afghan civilians in a shooting rampage March 10, had been bypassed for a promotion and was struggling to pay for his house, according to records and interviews cited by US media.

(GlobalPost reports: Robert Bales is identified as the alleged Afghanistan shooter)

He had also had numerous brushes with the law, according to Fox News, including charges that he assaulted a girlfriend and a hit-and run incident after which, dressed in military clothing, he ran bleeding into the woods.

He told police he fell asleep at the wheel and paid a fine to get the charges dismissed, Fox reported, citing court records.

The 10-year military veteran —  who served four tours in Iraq and Afghanistan — had also joined the Army after struggling in a Florida investment job.

And he'd had a Seattle-area home condemned, and struggled to make payments on another.

His wife, Karilyn Bales, hinted at the family's stresses  in blogs posted with names like The Bales Family Adventures and BabyBales, the New York Times reported.

In March 2011, she wrote on her blog that her husband had not received a promotion to E-7, sergeant first class, leaving the family disappointed "after all of the work Bob has done and all the sacrifices he has made for his love of his country, family and friends,"

However, she also wrote of her relief, thinking that the Army might allow the family to choose its next posting: her top choices, according to the Times, were Germany ("best adventure opportunity!"); Italy ("2nd best adventure opp"); Hawaii ("nuff said"); Kentucky ("we would at least be near Bob’s family"); and Georgia ("to be a sniper teacher, not because it is a fun place to live"). 

Other reports painted glowing picture of Bales, as a person and as a professional soldier.

The Wall Street Journal interviewed Nita Pertuset, who lives three doors from the house in the community of Norwood, Ohio, where Staff Sgt. Bales, now 38, grew up, as saying he was "one of the nicest kids in the neighborhood."

He walked her granddaughter home from school, tossing a football on Ivanhoe Avenue with the other neighborhood boys, and was "very good-natured, very quiet, not big-mouthed or loud or boisterous or anything like that."

The WSJ also quoted Steven Berling, 37, a teammate on Bales' Norwood High School varsity football team as saying he was a: "popular guy, captain, big smile. He was always very personable." 

Fox quoted his former platoon leader, meantime, as saying Bales was a model soldier inspired by the 9/11 attacks on the US to serve.

"He's one of the best guys I ever worked with," said Army Capt. Chris Alexander, who led Bales on a 15-month deployment in Iraq. "He is not some psychopath. He's an outstanding soldier who has given a lot for this country."

Bales is now at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, awaiting charges. 

(GlobalPost reports: Staff Sgt. Robert Bales to be charged as early as Saturday)

His attorney Emma Scanlan said in a statement late Saturday, reported by CNN, that she and two other members of Bales' defense team planned "to spend several days meeting" with him next week.

She said Bales had been accurately described "as a level-headed, experienced soldier."

"Sgt. Bales' family is stunned in the face of this tragedy, but they stand behind the man they know as a devoted husband, father and dedicated members of the armed services," Scanlan said.

(More from GlobalPost: Tough times for Australian billionaires)