News Column

Hasan Sentencing Jury Hears From Victims, Families

August 26, 2013

Jennifer Hlad

As she talked about the day two military officers arrived at her front door to tell her that her husband had died, Shoua Her paused, lifting both clenched hands to her face to cover her tears.

"I miss him, a lot. I miss his soft, gentle hands. How he held me. He made me feel safe and secure," Pfc. Kham Xiong's widow testified Monday. "Now, the other side of the bed is empty and cold. I feel dead, yet alive. He was my other half. He was my best friend. My husband and the father of my kids."

Friday, a jury of military officers found Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan guilty of the Nov. 5, 2009 shooting that left Xiong and 12 others dead and 31 more people injured. Monday, the jury began hearing from the family members whose lives were ripped apart by the massacre. They will consider that testimony when they decide whether Hasan will spend the rest of his life in prison, or die by lethal injection.

Angela Rivera, the widow of Maj. Librado E. Caraveo, said she didn't know how to tell their 2-year-old son that his father was dead. When they drove to the airport to pick up family for the funeral, the little boy recognized it as the last place he had seen his father, and asked if they were going to pick up daddy, she told the court.

Finally, Rivera said, she had to ask a therapist to help her explain "that we were not going to see him again."

Rivera's oldest daughter was so upset after her stepfather's death that she fell into a deep depression and nearly failed out of school. Rivera said she had to physically drag the 14-year-old out of the house each morning.

"She cut herself, and she said, 'Mom, life is not worth living anymore."

Gale Hunt said she cried for four hours after she learned that her son, Spc. Jason Hunt, was among those killed. Then she cleaned the house obsessively for two weeks, she said, though she wasn't sure why.

"I miss his voice, I miss his little half-crooked smile -- because he's too cool to smile all the way. I miss him standing at the end of my bed, telling me all about his day. Just everything," she said, wiping her eyes with a tissue.

Hasan, who is representing himself, asked to break for lunch after Hunt's testimony, but the judge, Col. Tara Osborn, allowed the prosecution to call more witnesses.

Cristi Greene became so emotional talking about her husband, Spc. Frederick Greene, that her Tennessee drawl became nearly impossible to understand.

"I can't explain how hard it's been," she said. "It hurts so bad."

Cristi Greene had the flu on Nov. 5, 2009, and she was asleep when the military officers came to the house to notify her of her husband's death, she said. By the time she made it to the door, they were pulling out of the driveway.

Spc. Greene's mother, Karen Norse, testified that she remembered Cristi calling that afternoon, saying she had woken up just in time to see Fred pulling away from the house, wearing his uniform.

Norse said the two then realized that it didn't make sense for the soldier to be home, or for him not to use his key to get into the house. Norse sent her husband over to Cristi's house, but he didn't get there in time.

After the officers told her that her husband had died, Cristi was devastated, Norse said.

"I couldn't even understand her on the phone. She was just screaming, 'It was him.'"

The jury also heard from soldiers who suffered life-altering injuries in the shooting at the pre-deployment clinic.

Mick Engnehl told the jury he was shot twice: in the neck and in his right shoulder. Doctors had to take a vein from his leg to rebuild the one in his neck, he said.

Now, after years of surgeries and physical therapy, Engnehl said he has regained partial use of his right arm, but he was medically retired from the Army because he can't hold a weapon.

The 23-year-old said he has been unable to find another job.

"Nobody's going to hire a paralyzed mechanic," he said.

hlad.jennifer@stripes.com

Twitter: @jhlad

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