Hasan jury hears from families, victims to determine sentencing
In this courtroom sketch, U.S. Army Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan is shown as the guilty verdict is read at his court martial, Friday, Aug. 23, 2013, in Fort Hood, Texas.
Stars and Stripes
FORT HOOD, Texas — When Maj. Libardo Caraveo didn’t answer the phone, his wife knew something was wrong.
Still, Angela Rivera kept calling.
She had her daughters and the babysitter call, too. His name wasn’t on the lists at any of the hospitals. It wasn’t on the Red Cross list. Rivera’s sister told her he was probably fine — maybe he was just helping others.
“I said, ‘No, I know him, and he knows that I will be worried, and he would walk 10 miles to let me know’ ” he’s OK, Rivera testified Monday.
It was past midnight when she finally got through to someone at Fort Hood. That person told her he couldn’t find Caraveo or his unit, but he was probably fine. He told her he thought all the families had been notified.
Rivera finally went to bed after 1 a.m. The doorbell rang at 5:25, she said, and through the glass next to the door, she could see two men in uniform standing outside.
“All I would say was, ‘I knew it, I just knew it.’ … I knew he was dead because he didn’t call me back,” Rivera said, crying as she recounted the day she lost the man who had captivated her with his smile to a jury of 13 military officers.
On Friday, Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan was found guilty of murdering 13 people — including Caraveo — and wounding 31 others at a Fort Hood clinic on Nov. 5, 2009. On Monday, the prosecution began calling witnesses to testify about how their lives were torn apart by the shooting. The jury will use that testimony to help determine whether to sentence Hasan to life in prison or death by lethal injection.
Rivera testified that she didn’t know how to explain Caraveo’s death to their 2-year-old son. 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.
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 almost failed out of school. Rivera said she physically had to drag the 14-year-old out of the house each morning.
“She cut herself, and she said, ‘Mom, life is not worth living anymore.’ ”
Rivera had to check the girl into a partial hospitalization program, she said.
Shoua Her told the jury that the morning of Nov. 5, 2009, was like any other day. Her husband, Kham Xiong, got up early to work out, and Her cooked him breakfast when he came back to shower. Before he left, he kissed her and his children goodbye.
Xiong told her he wasn’t coming home for lunch because he didn’t want to give up his spot in line at the medical Soldier Readiness Processing center, Her said. Later, a neighbor told her there had been a shooting on post, and she got scared. She texted Xiong, she said, but he did not reply.
It was 3 a.m. when the two military officers rang the doorbell to tell her that Xiong had died, Her said, pausing her testimony and 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,” Her testified. “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.”
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.
Staff Sgt. Patrick Zeigler Jr., who was shot four times in the attack, told the panel of military officers that doctors had to remove 20 percent of his brain in emergency surgery.
“At that time, immediately afterward, I was expected to either die or remain in a vegetative state for the rest of my life,” he said Monday.
He did regain consciousness.
Zeigler got married after the shooting, but his injuries left him with some paralysis and reduced cognitive function. He has difficulty communicating his feelings and cannot pick up his 10-month-old son or play with him “like a normal father would,” he said.
“I’m hopeful that I’ll continue to recover some movement,” he said, “but eventually, I will succumb to my wounds, and I won’t be able to function.”
The injuries, he said, also affected him emotionally.
“I’m a lot angrier and a lot darker than I used to be.”
Mick Engnehl testified that 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.