INCIDENT At Mike-Twelve

December 18, 2019

 


This is a Story of an incident that happened shortly after I arrived in the Philippines. It is a story about a U.S. Marine Brian Murphy and has become part of my story along with a few other Marines who were close to Brian stationed there with him at Subic Bay, Philippines in July of 1988.

 

I first met Brian in California while waiting for my orders to my first duty station. I had completed my Infantry Training and I was awaiting orders for Seattle Washington at the Nuclear site in Banger. I had waited two weeks on the background check to be complete and I was becoming impatient. I asked the command if there were any other duty stations I could go to instead of having to wait for the FBI background check to be completed. They told me I could have my choice of Diego Garcia or Subic Bay, Philippines. Diego Garcia was very small and I was told no one wanted to go there. I knew very little of the Philippines. I told them I would take the Philippines. They told me I just needed to wait for the next graduating class to finish up and go with the Marines that had orders to go there next. All together there were 7 of us, and Brian was in our group.

 

Brian was a Texan. We found out that we were both from the Dallas area. We became instant friends. We were there only a month when the following incident occurred.

 

                           Story was Published in D Magazine February 1989

 

INCIDENT At Mike-Twelve

Private First Class Brian Murphy went to the Philippines as a new Marine. He came back in a box - murdered by one of his own comrades.

BY BETTY COOK PUBLISHED IN D MAGAZINE FEBRUARY 1989

 

SUBIC BAY, REPUBLIC OF THE Philippines: three-plus hours from teeming Manila by ground transport. Fifteen hours by air from Dallas, Texas, and thirteen hours ahead of it in time. More remote in feeling than even these numbers suggest, Subic Bay is a statement of U.S. strength sprawled at the eastern edge of the South China Sea. In appearance, the base is placid and supremely tidy-a smallish, artificial American city set on flat coastlands below jungled hills. Its streets are swept, its grounds are impeccably manicured. Its tree trunks- indeed, the very stones along the bordered walkways-are painted prissy white.

Subic Bay’s ambience, though, is uneasy. Philippine politics are as steamy as the climate. The U.S. military leasehold here is up for renewal next year; some Philippine factions, resenting the American presence, do not want it renewed. President Corazon Aquino’s rein on the public temper is uncertain, and a militant nationalist group called the New People’s Army simmers toward violence-already, NPA activities have claimed several American lives. A family on holiday outing from nearby Clark Air Force Base was bombed. Wives and children of Subic servicemen now rarely leave the base. A taut thread of tension connects all the personnel here.

No Subic serviceman is more keenly aware of the need for vigilant caution than Private First Class Brian Murphy of Bravo Company. When he reports to guard mount at the Naval Magazine on 05 July to stand sentry duty for the 2000 to 2400 (8 p.m. to midnight) shift, it is for only the second time in the month he’s been here. A Marine for barely seven months. Murphy was shipped to the Philippines after completing boot camp and infantry training at Camp Pendleton, California, where he was awarded his PFC rating for graduating first in his class. When he is given the regulation preshift briefing on the provisions of deadly force, he takes the instruction-and its implications-seriously. The Naval Magazine is an armaments storage center at Cubi Point, on the far inland edge of the base, an isolated compound high-fenced with steel mesh and surrounded on three sides by unbroken jungle.

The compound is lighted, but darkness and the sinister sounds of the jungle combine to make standing night sentry a dangerous duty. Already, one Marine assigned to this night’s posting has been jerked from the list by a base psychiatrist, judged temporarily unfit to bear the strain or a gun.

The dropout has been replaced by Lance Corporal Michael J. Krone Jr., a nineteen-year-old one-year veteran who was to have served on a later shift. Krone is stationed outside the enclosure to guard gate Mike-Thirteen: Murphy is sent to stand inside the fence at gate Mike-Twelve, forty yards away. Each is armed with a regulation M-16 rifle and sixty rounds; each is alone.

Lcpl. J.H. Santana, also armed, is designated a roving sentry between the two. Murphy, unfamiliar with the solitude of his position, is shaken with apprehension; Santana reassures him. “Don’t worry-I’ll come check on you every fifteen or twenty minutes,” he promises.

“Santana.” Murphy whispers, “Don’t let anything happen to me out here.”

“Don’t worry,” Santana says again.

Forty-nine minutes later, PFC Brian Murphy is dead.

WHEN THE TELEPHONE RINGS AT five o’clock on the afternoon of July 5, Dallas time, Becky Murphy is clearing her desk in her office suite on West Mockingbird. City-smart and slender. Becky is young-looking to be in her early forties, the prototypical independent Dallas entrepreneur. Her company. Vintage Productions, has felt the effects of the city’s economic slowdown, but Becky herself, as a nationally acknowledged wine authority, is in demand in more prosperous areas as a consultant, judge, and lecturer. Early tomorrow morning she is to fly to Washington state to judge the Tri-Cities Wine Competition.

The call is from her husband. Hugh Feagin. Hugh is a respected Dallas actor and. by day. a real estate broker; his office number is on the For Sale sign in front of the family’s two-story Northeast Dallas home. Unaware that Hugh is Brian’s stepfather, a Captain Free of the Marine Corps has called to see if Becky Murphy’s real estate broker can help him locate her. Now, his voice strained with shock. Hugh tells her the captain has a message for her that can only be delivered in person. “Oh, God.” Becky says. ’Til drive home.”

When she walks in the door. Captain Dennis Free, in full dress uniform, is waiting to tell her that Brian was on sentry duty last night. He called for assistance; another Marine sentry responded; his gun went off accidentally, killing Brian.

Becky is devastated. It is the worst news she could imagine: how could an elite arm of the U.S. military have allowed her son to be involved in some freak shooting accident?

But worse is to come. Free returns at ten o’clock the next morning to tell Becky that Naval Investigative Services has determined that the shot that killed Brian was fired intentionally by a fellow sentry, a lance corporal named Krone, who apparently has admitted culpability. Now she is outraged: Brian’s death was not an accident-it was murder.

Brian was not Becky’s only son. He and Sean, his fraternal twin, were the first double birth delivered at Presbyterian Hospital, on March 29, 1967. Blond and lean, they were strikingly different in temperament. Sean, six-feet-four to Brian’s more compact five-eleven, is socially graceful, relaxed yet analytical, gifted at framing comic comments with a surprisingly mature cutting edge. Brian, the taciturn introvert, ranged a mood-swinging field of enthusiasm: he was a talented poet and artist, and he played high school and club soccer, excelling at both.

Unalike as they were, the two grew up twin-close. As children, even when they had been fighting, they always forgave each other at night. Brian, who was afraid of the dark, would come to Sean’s bed, and Sean would take him in. When Brian was sixteen and Amy Barrett became his girlfriend, she became Sean’s close comrade as well.

During this dark week, seized in the aftershock of a monstrous fact grasped but not yet absorbed. Sean wears Brian’s silence, haunting the kitchen, the stairs, his bedroom, like Brian’s taller ghost. Afternoons and evenings. when he can no longer bear the constant crush of compassionate visitors, he escapes with Amy- to drive, to meet their friends for a beer, to talk of Brian or try not to talk of him.

The house, last week pristine-ly uncluttered for display to prospective buyers, is crammed with friends, with food, with mementos of Brian’s life. His poems and letters litter the table. His drawings and posters stand against the walls. In a basket of snapshots in front of the sofa, two little golden-haired boys play and pose, growing blusteringly into the world, as little boys do; in some, they are wrapped with a younger Becky in a tight, smiling cosmos of three against the world. Now the three are Sean. Becky, and Hugh, who is feeling the separate anguish of a stepfather who has fathered the two boys through adolescence since he married Becky Murphy ten years ago.

Becky moves through the scene in a bitter bubble of false calm, pierced occasionally by bursts of escaping pain. “Can I get you something?” a friend asks. “A sandwich? A glass of wine? What do you want?”

“I want my boy back,” Becky says desperately, and clings to the friend for a long, hopeless moment.

She will get him back nine days later in a long, smooth box, after shipment to Okinawa for official autopsy. Brian’s body is accompanied from the West Coast to Dallas by his father, Joseph M. Murphy, a retired Army major who lives in Salinas. The coffin is sealed; Becky cannot look at him. But someone must. It is her ex-husband who does, and who comes to tell her, “It was Brian.” She finds his confirmation in some small way comforting.

JULY 15. THE MARINE CORPS CANNOT DO enough for Becky Murphy. Limousines and a hearse bearing the flag-draped coffin. Burial at Restland with formal military honors. Seven young Marines in dress uniform to fire three volleys each in a twenty-one-gun salute. Two others to fold the flag from the coffin and present it to her (another is folded for Brian’s father). A bugler sounds taps, the slow notes wavering uncertainly above the throng in the blistering summer air. Two women collapse in the heat. Few eyes are dry. Becky, still and composed as an ivory carving, burns with sorrow and, beneath the sorrow, anger.

Among other officers there as a courtesy or to participate is Captain Free. As casualty assistance officer of the U.S. Naval Air Station in Dallas, he has been the family’s only source of news as to when Brian’s body would arrive, It was he who helped with arrangements for the government-paid funeral.

It is he. too. who initiates arrangements for the government to fly Becky to Subic Bay for the October court martial of her son’s accused murderer.

Now, at last. her outrage will have a focus.

FOR A WHILE IT SEEMS THAT LANCE Corporal Krone’s shot has been heard around the world. Becky hears from active and retired Marines in various parts of the country, all as appalled as she that one corps member could deliberately take the life of another: Marines do not kill Marines, they tell her; a man who breaks with this implicit code is sure to be harshly punished.

Before leaving for the Philippines, she requests and receives an astonishing volume of background on the case from the Judge Advocate General of the Navy. Channeled to her from JAG headquarters in Alexandria. Virginia, are copies of what she assumes are every document, report, and transcript concerning Brian’s death and the subsequent investigation. Even couched in the colorless terms of military officialdom, the details are heartbreaking.

But most electrifying to Becky at this point are Lcpl. Krone’s typed, single-spaced, four-page confession and the handwritten statements of other young Marines in Bravo Company. She has been told that Krone first claimed he and Brian Murphy had argued; that Brian had threatened him with his rifle, and he fired back in self-defense. In his written confession, Krone admits that, angered by statements of Brian’s, he intentionally shot Brian after Brian had leaned his own rifle against the fence between them and stepped back, unarmed.

Krone’s confession and the other scrawled statements make reference as well to a special trick of Krone’s-a quick-draw maneuver he has perfected that allows him to whirl his M-16 ri-fie from sling arms position, over his shoulder and around to waist-level, round chambered, safety off, ready to fire from the hip, cowboy-style. Krone boasts he can complete the maneuver in less than two seconds. The other statements confirm this-all these other Marines have seen him do it; several had been threatened by Michael Krone in the past few months; none of them had reported the illegal procedure, thereby adding their own violations to his.

For Becky. Krone emerges in these accounts as a swaggering bully, a Rambo type who played Russian roulette with his fellow Marines, It seemed inevitable that one of them would die. The only “accident” she can see in this scenario is that Brian was the one who stood in the way of Krone’s final, fatal display of macho arrogance. This fact alone, she believes, should be enough to hang him. As she packs for the Philippines, she aches for vengeance.

Becky and Sean Murphy arrive at Subic Bay on the morning of October first. In Manila the night before, they were met at the airport by Captain Brian Fletcher, a whip-lean, six-foot-four Marine who doles out words as grudgingly as if they were diamonds. Fletcher’s stiff bearing and side-shaved haircut betray him as military. He is, however, wearing faded jeans and Western boots-servicemen, he tells Becky, are no longer permitted to leave the base in uniform, which would mark them as targets for terrorists. It is Becky’s first glimpse of the web of fear that holds U.S. military personnel in the Philippines.

Fletcher’s tension eases only slightly after he shepherds them from the grimy terminal, past aggressive hordes of sidewalk peddlers and would-be baghandlers, to a chauffeured military van. En route to the Westin Hotel, where a room is reserved for her and Sean, Fletcher points out the American Embassy; blurred with jet lag. Becky peers at the spacious acres and wonders wildly if he expects her to make a run for refuge behind its iron gates.

02 OCTOBER, 1000 HOURS: IT IS A SUNDAY morning, but five-day work weeks have no bearing on military justice. The trial counsel who will prosecute the case is a Navy lieutenant named Alan G. Kaufman. Becky has spoken with him by phone several times from Dallas; now, she has met him and learned that a pretrial hearing will be held this morning at the Naval Legal Service Office, in the same courtroom where the court martial will be held.

When Becky and Sean walk to the building, they find the door locked. They knock, and it is opened for them by an affable young Marine, beefy for his six-foot-three height, who. with casual confidence, shows them in. The legal principals are already assembled- besides Lt. Kaufman, there is the judge, Major Peter K. Solecki. flown in from Okinawa to preside over the court martial. The defendant will be represented by an appointed counsel. U.S. Naval Reserve Lt. Robert R. Elarbee, and another, Lt. Sean Healy, assigned at the request of the accused.

And there is Lcpl. Krone. Becky is shocked and offended to learn that the tall young Marine who felt free to let them in is Krone himself; she finds his easy assurance, in these circumstances, yet another outrage.

The pretrial hearing has to do with the ad-missibility of contested evidence and exhibits. The defense objects to a particularly gory photograph of Brian’s body- taken immediately after death. When Kaufman submits others taken after cleanup of the victim, the defense objects to them, too-as being prejudicial to the accused. The judge overrules such objections. “Though the photographs are gruesome, there is no way to make death pretty,” he observes. “All the panel members are military officers. Our business is war, so I can’t imagine they would be unduly pressured by these photographs.” He accepts them as evidence.

He forbids, however, testimony about Krone’s quick-draw maneuver, on grounds that prior misconduct that has not been charged is inadmissible. The ruling is not catastrophic for Kaufman-besides the principal charge of premeditated murder, he has filed an assault charge against Krone for using the maneuver to threaten one of the Marines. The court martial will deal with both counts, and Kaufman will be able to question that Marine, at least, about the maneuver. The others cannot be called to testify unless Krone’s own counsel brings up the subject to prove accidental death or lack of intent to kill.

The third major point in contention is Krone’s confession. The defense contends it was obtained under pressure, after many hours of browbeating by Navy investigators. A forensic psychiatrist supports the protest, citing sleep deprivation as a factor. Krone had been held for five hours after the shooting, then questioned for almost twelve hours more before he signed the typed statement after noon the next day.

The judge breaks for lunch to consider his decision. When the hearing resumes, he rules. “The accused willingly spoke; most of the interview was conducted in a relaxed and informal manner. At no time on 06 July was the will of the accused overcome… I am convinced that the statement was voluntarily made. Motion denied. Any questions?”

There are none. Solecki continues crisply. How many witnesses does Kaufman intend to call? What line of questioning does the defense plan to pursue? Satisfied with their responses, he addresses Elarbee formally: “How do you plead?”

Elarbee answers for Krone: “To Charge One, not guilty. To additional charges, not guilty.”

The hearing is adjourned. The trial will begin at 0830 on Monday morning.

During the proceedings. Becky has studied Lcpl. Krone, seated at his counsel’s table in Marine green with a red sleeve patch, hair dark brown, olive complexion gone slightly sallow from confinement since his arrest. He appears calm, rock-like, untroubled.

As she and Sean leave the building, Becky sees a couple entering a downstairs office. She does not know it yet, but they are Krone’s parents. Divorced for fifteen years, they have been uneasily brought together to see their only son tried for the murder of PFC Brian Murphy.

MONDAY, 03 OCTOBER, 0820 HOURS: Becky is pale and remote this morning, armored in aloofness. Last night, for something to do, she and Sean rode with a Marine driver to take a magazine writer on assignment from Dallas to her hotel. Coming back, the driver talked to Sean in the front seat. “He knew Krone,” Sean reports to Becky. “He said other guys considered him a kind of nut. The general consensus among Krone’s peers is that he should fry.”

Becky and Sean take their seats in the courtroom’s single row of pew-like benches. The windowless room is spartan, its only color lent by the U.S. and Navy flags flanking the judge’s bench. At the judge’s left, on the trial counsel’s side of the room, a raised counter lined with chairs awaits the members of the court-the jury, which will be chosen this morning.

First, though, a surprise: the defense introduces a report that Lcpl. Krone was taken to the hospital last night, very upset. They say he is unfit to stand trial. Major Solecki fixes Elarbee with a long, stony look. “Is this a motion for continuance?”

“Yes, Your Honor,” Elarbee says.

“Motion denied. Bring in your members.”

1100 HOURS: THE CIVILIAN’S IDEA of military justice is largely shaped by half-remembered movies like Breaker Morant and The Execution of Private Slovik, in which the inexorable machine mindlessly destroys the individual. But this trial will be more “Perry Mason” than Breaker Morant.

Opening statements for both sides give their plots away as no scriptwriter ever would, but with theatrical intensity. All three advocates are immaculate in short-sleeved summer whites, their shirts triple-creased down the back under rigid black epaulets. All are young, brisk, determined, but Alan Kaufman-athletically fit, open-faced. direct in manner-seems to Becky brighter and more sensitive; perhaps it is because she must depend on him, but she is sure he will prove a superior champion.

His first words snap the room to attention. “There is a sound, a deadly snickety-snack; that is the sound of premeditation. I am go-ing to show you that that snickety-snack is probably the last sound that PFC Brian Murphy ever heard.”

Kaufman sketches the events leading up to the incident at sentry post Mike-Twelve. “PFC Brian Murphy was assigned to that post; he had the only key to that gate. The accused was assigned to go to Mike-Thirteen. At about 2030 hours, the accused traded with Santana, the roving sentry, to relieve himself. Santana heard Brian Murphy shout something, heard Krone reply. A few seconds later, snickety-snack! Then, a short time after that, the sound of a shot. ..

“Now, let’s go back a few weeks earlier- another gate, another sentry. Lance Corporal Steven Bender. Bender in the guard tower. Krone on the ground. An argument develops. Krone’s gun is slung over his shoulder. Bender sees Krone sling the gun, almost like the Rifleman, hears snickety-snack!-the rifle is pointed at his head. Krone says, ’Don’t try me, Bender-I’ll do it!’ That’s the basis for the second charge of assault.”

Kaufman promises to flesh out this skeletal plot with other witnesses, other facts. “And in the background, you’re going to hear that soft, metallic snickety-snack that is a sound of premeditated murder…”

Elarbee’s statement is less concise but chronologically more complete than any Becky has heard before, and therefore compelling. He makes the case for an accidental kilting.

“Judas? Or Peter?” Elarbee begins. “They both betrayed Christ, but their intent was different. One possessed an evil intent, the other an intent of human frailty. That is what this trial is all about: intent. What was Krone’s intent on the evening of July 5, 1988, when his gun discharged?”

He warns the members that innocence must be presumed, that the burden of proof lies with the government. Evidence will show, he says, that PFC Murphy was holding his rifle in an unauthorized manner, on tight sling, out to the side; that Murphy was distraught over Krone’s failure to answer checkup radio calls from West Guard; that Murphy set down his rifle to throw his radio over the fence.

In a voice throbbing with emotion, Elarbee describes Krone’s horror after he “lost control” demonstrating the tricky rifle maneuver, his frantic run along the path to the guardhouse, where he picked up a phone and screamed for help. “The actions of Lcpl. Krone are the actions of a nineteen-year-old kid who knew that he had just made a terrible, terrible mistake.”

1228 HOURS: THE COURT IS REcessed for lunch. The trial is wearing on Becky Murphy. Heartsick from a morning of hearing talk about Brian dead, she is hungry to speak of him alive.

She talks of the twins’ growing-up years in Dallas and of a time of despondency for Brian during his senior year in high school. He took too many courses, trying to catch up. then dropped out because he could not complete enough hours to graduate with his class. “Sometimes,” Becky says, “it was like, if he couldn’t do something exactly the way he thought he should do it, he’d just quit-blow it off. It was almost a trait of his, an inflexibility. . .”

She mentions Brian’s writing, his paintings and posters for Deep Ellum’s Club Clearview and a vintage clothing shop-he loved to put together trendy, wild costumes, she says.

So what made him decide to join the Marines? Sean answers for her. “It was something to give him direction. I don’t think he was very happy with what he was doing. He hadn’t registered at Richland [Community College] for the spring semester; he joined the Marines in the summer, and waited for them to call him.”

Why the Marines? Becky explains. “It had to be the best, you see. I think Sean is right, that he was sort of without direction. But I think he had to prove something to himself. Some men I have talked to have said that is just a normal state of mind at some point in that stage-coming of age, rites of passage. I almost feel he had to prove to himself that he was tough, he could take it.”

Sean adds, “He really got a macho attitude before he left-he wasn’t really that way.”

Becky laughs. “Even Amy-Brian was on her case about not doing as well as she could in college, not using all her intelligence. That was so funny-he especially was doing that when he came home from boot camp. He was feeling good about himself, so he was on everybody else’s case about doing something with themselves. . .”

After lunch, Kaufman calls Major Luciano Silva, commanding officer of Company B. Silva says that he had asked Krone why he shot Brian Murphy.

“He pissed me off,” Krone told Silva. “He wasn’t showing me any respect.”

TUESDAY. 04 OCTOBER, 0810 HOURS: the day begins grimly. The defense is late; the judge is irate. Kaufman, though, scores a clean hit by calling Lcpl. Steven Bender to the stand. Bender, the Marine on whose behalf the assault charge was brought into Krone’s trial, is hollow-eyed with apprehension-his failure to report Krone’s quick-draw transgression is itself a violation.

Bender recounts a time he stood sentry duty close to Krone. “Krone locked and loaded the weapon; he pointed it at me.” He describes the quick move of the gun, the click-“a very distinctive sound, sir. We sometimes talked on post, and things this time started turning into an argument. He [Krone] got aggravated, started yelling personal things: ’Don’t mess with me,’ and like that.”

Bender demonstrates the now-famous move. Krone, he says, held his weapon part of the time “cowboy style, with one hand- you have to be pretty strong to do that, sir.”

Defense cross-examination tries to get Bender to admit he was not really frightened that Krone would shoot him. But Bender stands his ground. “There’s always the possibility, sir. It seemed to be pointed right at my head-I could see right down the barrel.

“The M-I6 is a dangerous weapon, not a toy. You don’t play with it. That’s been taught to me ever since I entered the Marines.”

At 0900. Kaufman drops a bombshell: “The government rests.” The shock is electric. A concerted gasp of surprise sweeps the courtroom. The defense attorneys are panicked; their witnesses are not here yet.

1005 HOURS: IF YESTERDAY WASpure drama, today is a dreary comedy of obfuscation. Elarbee and Healy have scrambled to round up the first of their witnesses, which they must now present, not in any ordered sequence, but as they are found.

Cpl. Bruce A. Dowling. who was at Mike-Twelve when Cpl. Andrew Currie seized Krone’s weapon, says Krone beseeched him: “Why isn’t first aid being applied? I don’t want this Marine to die!” Sent to check. Dowling learned that first aid was unneed-ed. “This Marine’s head is blown off-he’s dead,” he was told. Others testify that Dowling has seen Krone perform his quick-draw maneuver once on post, as have others. He also testifies that the sergeant of the guard had not been notified that Krone had been issued a substitute weapon. Defense would like to show that the shooting occurred because Krone was unused to the replacement.

Lcpl. Jesus Fraire not only has seen Krone demonstrate the maneuver, he has been taught by Krone to do it himself. Krone once drew down on him with the safety off, but Fraire said he did not feel threatened and did not report the incident. Next, Lcpl. Gary Lukens admits that he was impressed by the move, but couldn’t master it because he is left-handed.

In the corridor during a recess. Becky talks with NIS special agent Earl Fenner, the confident, articulate black man who typed Krone’s confession. Now he tells Becky, “Krone was macho, but not blustering. He was quiet-spoken, very intelligent. You know, the defense is trying to show him as a fumbling nineteen-year-old-that’s not the way he is at all. He knew exactly what he was doing.”

Bleakly. Becky wonders if Brian thought Krone would stop short of firing. She has listened to these sons of mothers like her as some explained they thought Krone was joking; she is convinced any one of them could have been the victim. She is also sadly sure that if these Marines had reported the violations before Brian’s death, he would have been saved,

And how must it feel to be Michael Krone? He sits silent, impassive, a cardboard spectator in the drama that will decide the rest of his life. Whatever satisfaction he may have felt from intimidating other Marines with his gunslinger game, none shows now, He is an embarrassment to the peers who have addressed their testimony to the trial counsel, the jury, the judge, to open space-anywhere but to him.

WEDNESDAY, 05 OCTOBER, 1045 hours: both closing statements are low-key, intended to refute points one side thinks the other may have scored. Kaufman is first. “I told you about the snickety-snack! that was the sound of premeditation. Well, if you listened for it, you heard it. They all thought he was joking-’ Kaufman reels off Krone’s quoted threats against the others. “’Pick one. Because that was the way Brian Murphy died.

“This case could have rested after the second witness, because Dr. Spencer came in here and told you that Brian Murphy died of a gunshot wound to the head. And then Major Silva came in here and said he asked the accused what happened, and the accused said, ’I killed him.’ ’Why?’ ’Because he pissed me off.’

“Self-defense? Every man that testified here has been threatened by Krone.

“Ricochet? You’ve got to throw away Major Silva’s testimony to find it unpremeditated: ’I killed him because he didn’t give me respect.’ There is your premeditation, gentlemen.. .

“Lance Corporal Krone may be a reckless and impulsive guy, but that doesn’t preclude his making decisions. He decided to kill Brian Murphy. And he decided it before he pulled the trigger. . .”

Healy, less coherent, recalls the earlier testimony of Dr. William Grant, a psychiatrist who had described Krone as a bully and an intimidator, but not someone who would kill in cold blood. “He’s a Marine. That’s the way Marines act,” Healy told the court. “They do it all the time. They joke, they play with their guns.. .It wasn’t deliberate. It wasn’t intentional. . .’Somebody do something-I don’t want Brian Murphy to die!’ That’s not the act of a cool mind; that’s the product of a panicky mind…

“This confession is the biggest piece of reasonable doubt in this whole case. He was surprised because he never expected it to discharge.. .This confession is basically that of a nineteen-year-old kid who has been awake all night and doesn’t know how to gel out-giving it one last shot to get away with it all. . .That’s an individual who’s trying to save his ass-a sorry excuse, but if you buy the statement, you have to call it self-defense . ..

“You have a choice-cold-blooded murderer or negligent, reckless person. You hold his fate in your hands. You must be morally certain. ..”

1410 HOURS: THE PANEL OF MEMbers returns to the courtroom. The captain reads the verdict: “Lance Corporal Michael J. Krone Jr., U.S.Marine Corps, this Marine court finds you of the charge guilty, with deletion of the special word, ’premeditation.’ To the first charge, guilty. To the second charge, guilty.”

The heaviest sentence Krone can receive is a dishonorable discharge, total forfeiture of pay, and confinement for life.

When court is adjourned, Becky goes straight to Connie Krone for a long embrace. Both are in tears. Michael J. Krone Jr. has been found guilty of murder exactly three months to the day from the night of the incident at Mike-Twelve.

THURSDAY, 06 OCTOBER, 0900 HOURS: a sudden development galvanizes the courtroom. Since the trial started. Krone has heard himself vilified, excused, described as reckless, bullying, and overbearing by a hostile prosecution, former friends, and a defense that despises him. Now, with an abruptness for which no one is prepared, the accused rises from his seat to speak. His face scarlet, his voice harsh with unshed tears, Michael J. Krone Jr. fixes his eyes on Becky as if they are the only two people in the room. His words pour out with a passion that transcends them.

“There’s been a lot of things said about me and what happened that night. There was no intent. I didn’t intend to discharge my rifle. I didn’t intend to shoot Brian… I lied when this started… 1 know some of the things I’ve done were stupid. By God, I wish someone could have stopped me. . Mrs. Murphy, there was nothing in the world against Brian. When Brian came here, he was assigned to me. The Marine Corps is my life. It’s the only thing I wanted to do with my life. Brian wanted that, too. And I’m so sorry I took it away.. .Brian had no idea what happened, and I thank God for that. I am so sorry for what I’ve taken away from you. I’m so sorry for what I’ve done to the Marine Corps… I would not take another Marine’s life intentionally. What happened was an accident, a result of my stupidity…

“I am just nineteen. I just turned nineteen before this happened.. . I just hope you guys realize that I’m sorry I screwed up. I’ve learned something from this. ..”

He concludes by imploring Becky to talk to him, to “ask me any questions you have, because I consider Brian a friend of mine. And I’m sorry I took another Marine’s life and that I took him away from you. I’m sorry. Thank you. . .”

The raw anguish of Krone’s tirade far outweighs his words. The barrage of emotion leaves the courtroom shaken and silent.

But Becky Murphy’s eyes are dry. She will tell Kaufman later: “I have no doubt some of the emotion was genuine, but I didn’t spend twenty-two years of my life bearing and birthing and raising a son so that 1 could teach Michael J. Krone Jr. a lesson.”

The rest of the presentencing ritual is anti-climactic. The jury panel retires to deliberate at 1125 hours. At 1310, the court reassembles. Only Krone’s parents, who do not return, are absent when the sentence is read: ’”Lance Corporal Michael J. Krone Jr., United States Marine Corps, this court martial sentences you to be reduced to the grade of E-l, to forfeit all pay and allowances, to be confined for a period of fifteen years, and to be dishonorably discharged.”

The judge has the last word. “This court martial is adjourned. Carry on.”

ON OCTOBER 28. 1988. BECKY MURPHY wrote to General A.M. Gray, commandant of the Marine Corps in Washington, D.C. The pages overflowed with rage and grief. After blaming the Subic Bay system for tolerating Krone’s reckless behavior and telling the general that he bore ultimate responsibility for Brian’s death, she concluded:

“Brian Murphy joined the Marine Corps because he believed if he could live up to the demands of being a Marine, then he would be a better man. Instead, he is a dead man. He was a beloved son, brother, grandson, nephew, cousin, friend, and lover. He was a talented artist, an accomplished athlete, a writer, a poet, and a Marine. He was an artist and athlete all of his too-short life. He was a Marine for less than seven months.

“I am outraged and bereft at the death of my talented, beautiful, and precious twenty-one-year-old son who had so much to give and so much of his life yet to live. General Gray, I assure you that if I could have been there on that dark and terrible night. I would have gladly taken that murderer’s bullet so that my son might live. What will you do? Brian Murphy’s death was senseless and useless. What will you do so that some sense may be made of his death, that some good might come from so tragic an end?”

Early in December, she received a one-page reply in which General Gray told her that an inquiry would be made into the matters she has raised. Gray’s letter also included a promise she prays will be kept: “The circumstances of [your son’s] death will not recur in my Marine Corps.”

 

 
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