Camp Pendleton Marine accused in fatal stabbing faces court-martial in June
By ERIKA I. RITCHIE | The Orange County Register (Tribune News Service) | Published: April 30, 2018
CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. — Pfc. Raymond W. Begay, accused of stabbing a fellow Marine at the School of Infantry in January, will face murder charges in a court-martial scheduled for June, Marine Corps officials said Monday.
Begay, 20, was arraigned last week on murder and manslaughter charges in the Jan. 16 death of 18-year-old Pfc. Ethan Barclay-Weberpal. Barclay-Weberpal was stabbed while sitting in an early-morning formation at the School of Infantry.
“All charges and specifications were referred to a general court-martial,” said Capt. Josh Pena, Marine Corps Combat Development Command spokesman.
During a preliminary hearing held on March 22, Begay’s defense attorney, Maj. Nelson Candelario, argued that the fatal stabbing was “a tragic accident linked to playing around with a knife.”
The hearing — known as an Article 32 in the Uniform Code of Military Justice — allowed the defense and prosecution to introduce evidence and arguments.
After the hearing, Preliminary Hearing Officer Maj. Christian Hur evaluated the evidence against Begay and made a recommendation to the convening authority — Lt. Col. Dennis Hager, commanding officer of Headquarters and Support Battalion at School of Infantry West — as to what level of court-martial should be implemented and whether the charges should remain as filed.
Two witnesses testified on Begay’s behalf to support the defense position that the stabbing occurred while the two Marines were playing around.
“This was just dumb kids doing dumb things,” testified defense witness Pfc. Rhett Glubka. “I don’t think he (Begay) thought about what could have happened.”
“I heard a big commotion and saw someone stand up. I saw blood and I heard people say, ‘Get out of the way,’ ” Glubka said. “Then I saw him (Barclay-Weberpal) make it down to the duty hut and collapse and then someone said, ‘Call a corpsman.’ ”
But Maj. Tanzania Jaysura, lead trial prosecutor, said she had testimony from at least three other Marines who said Begay was known to have threatened to stab other Marines and that some had told him to stop because it made them uncomfortable. She said she also had testimony showing Begay left the bleacher area after the stabbing to wash blood from his knife.
“The knife was not the type of knife that retracts and opens to the front and witnesses will say they saw him play with the knife before the stabbing and that words were exchanged and that he intentionally put the knife into Barclay-Weberpal’s left chest, into his heart,” Jaysura said during the pre-trial hearing.
“The left ventricle of his heart was punctured with only one stab wound,” she said. “It was a deep puncture wound. We believe we established probable cause. The stabbing motion took the life of 18-year-old Marine Pfc. Barclay-Weberpal.
“This was not his first rodeo,” Jaysura said. “Rather than getting help, he went to put the knife away — that’s where we believe we have obstruction of justice.”
Begay is scheduled to appear at the court-martial on June 26. He remains in pretrial confinement, Pena said.
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