Two Navy SEALs and two Marines face murder charges in the June 2017 death of a Fort Bragg Green Beret in West Africa. The charges include felony murder, involuntary manslaughter, conspiracy, obstruction of justice, hazing and burglary in the strangulation of Army Staff Sgt. Logan Melgar in Bamako, Mali. An Article 32 preliminary hearing for all four is scheduled for Dec. 10, according to a release from Navy Region Mid-Atlantic public affairs.
None of those charged were named in the release. But previous reporting by The New York Times identified the two SEALs as Petty Officer 1st Class Tony DeDolph and Chief Petty Officer Adam Matthews. The Times cited a leaked an Army preliminary investigation document that it was DeDolph, a former professional mixed martial arts fighter, who choked Melgar to death.
Whereas previous accounts only noted that the two SEALs had assaulted Melgar, charge documents indicate that the two Marines identified only as a staff sergeant and a gunnery sergeant were also involved in the assault. Staff Sgt. Melgar, 34, was found dead in U.S. embassy housing in the Malian capital. It’s the same part of West Africa where four other Fort Bragg special operators were ambushed and killed while on a covert support mission in Niger.
The SEALs allegedly offered money to Melgar when he learned the others had stolen money from an informant fund. When Melgar declined, they allegedly broke into his bedroom while he was asleep, bound him with duct tape and strangled him. Rear Adm. Charles Rock, the commander of Navy Region Mid-Atlantic, approved the charges following the completion of an investigation into Melgar’s death. The Naval Criminal Investigative Service recently completed the investigation and turned it over to Rock, said Adam Stump, a spokesman for NCIS.
Pentagon officials had long declined to discuss the homicide on the record other than to acknowledge the soldier’s death. Melgar and the four accused service members were assigned to a secretive special operations team operating out of Mali to help French and Malian troops target terrorist cells aligned with al-Qaida and the Islamic State.
Investigative documents allege that the killers are also charged with conspiring to cover up Melgar’s death; that they performed a medical procedure on the victim’s throat to hide evidence of his fatal injuries. The men are also accused of making false statements to their commanders and, later, to military investigators from the Army and Navy.
The gunnery sergeant is said to have made up a story that Melgar and another individual mutually initiated a wrestling match in Melgar’s room during which he was accidentally killed, a claim described in the charging documents as “totally false.”
Melgar, a Texan, was an Afghanistan combat veteran twice. His hometown paper, The Lubbock Avalanche-Journal, reported that Melgar was a 2006 graduate of Texas Tech University. He enlisted in the Army in 2012 and graduated from the Special Forces Qualification course in 2016. At the time of his death, Staff Sgt. Melgar was assigned to Fort Bragg’s 3rd Special Forces Group (Airborne).
Photo: Army Staff Sgt. Logan Melgar