MANNHEIM, Germany — A Mannheim soldier says he was only trying to defend himself when he killed his live-in girlfriend, according to a witness appearing Monday before an Army investigator in Mannheim.

Accused of strangling Pearline McKinney two months ago, Sgt. Everett E. Robinson faced the military’s version of a grand jury hearing Monday that convened to see if he will proceed to a criminal trial.

Robinson is charged with premeditated murder and faces life in prison without chance of parole if convicted. Robinson’s lead defense attorney, Capt. Kwasi Hawks, declined to comment on the case, but witnesses painted a picture of a domestic dispute that turned deadly after a night at the local bar.

Neighbors reported hearing a violent dispute early on the morning of Oct. 5, but it wasn’t until 12:30 that afternoon that Robinson called his boss.

“He told me I should sit down because he needed to tell me some bad news,” said Sgt. First Class Charles Shank. “He said he thought he had killed Pearl.

“He said that she attacked him with a knife and he was fighting her off,” said Shank, Robinson’s supervisor at the 69th Transportation Company at Coleman Barracks.

Robinson told Shank that he had tried to kill himself once he realized what had happened, but said, “it must not be my turn to die.”

A black brace still wrapped around his left wrist, Robinson — a stocky soldier with a Gulf War 1st Cavalry Division combat patch on his uniform — sat with his back straight and jaw set during the daylong hearing.

Robinson showed no sign of emotion, except a slow wringing of his hands under the courtroom table, as police, forensic experts and other witnesses recounted the bloody scene found at Robinson’s apartment Oct. 5.

“The bedroom and bathroom were pretty tore up,” said CW2 James Yingling, special agent in charge of Mannheim’s CID office, describing blood splattered at six or seven sections of the apartment where the couple apparently wrestled.

McKinney was found dead, face down in the bedroom of the couple’s apartment. She was 41. A German forensic expert testified that she showed the symptoms of suffocation, a conclusion shared by an Army expert’s preliminary report.

“It looked like something bad had happened,” said Staff Sgt. Rodney J. Wright, another CID agent. “There was a lot of blood.”

Two months later, officials are still waiting on test results from samples of the blood, as well as from other evidence gathered at the apartment.

Meanwhile, the hearing is expected to continue Tuesday. Although Maj. Mark Tellitocci heads the investigation, it will be up to Maj. Gen. William E. Mortensen, commander of the 21st Theater Support Command, to decide whether Robinson faces criminal prosecution.

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