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Video: Sgt. Bales’ wife: Accusations ‘devastating’

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    >> bales' wife carrie is speaking out for the very first time. we sat down with her exclusively over the weekend and i asked her about the situation her husband is in.

    >> i was actually at the grocery store that morning, and a phone call from my parents, and they said well it looks like a u.s. soldier, some afghan civilians were killed by a soldier.

    >> and when you got home, did you hear the story expanded upon first before you heard bob's name mentioned?

    >> i saw 38-year-old staff sergeant, and i don't think there are very many of those, and i probably prayed and prayed that my husband wasn't involved. and then, i received a phone call from the army saying that they would like to come out and talk to me. and i was relieved, because when you get a phone call , you know that your soldier is not deceased.

    >> can you remember what they said?

    >> they held my hand and they just said that perhaps, you know, they thought that he had left the base, and gone out and perhaps killed the afghan civilians, and that was really the only sentence, and i just started crying.

    >> tell me what you believed.

    >> i just -- it seemed to me like, i -- i just don't think he was involved.

    >> you think this is all mistaken identity? do you think this is -- is he being made a fall guy for someone else?

    >> i don't know.

    >> 17 people were killed.

    >> right. i don't know enough information. i -- this is not him. it's not him.

    >> have you -- how do you get your head around that kind of news?

    >> it's devastating to hear, and it's -- it hurts my heart. you know. very, very saddened

    >> this is the guy you described as your best friend .

    >> right.

    >> and he's being charged with first degree murder. in other words, premeditated. that he planned this.

    >> it's very unbelievable. it just -- all i can think of is what happened. what led up to it? i don't -- we don't have all the -- i feel like i don't have all the information.

    >> i ask what kind of dad he was. you said he was so involved with his children. he loves children.

    >> he loves children. he's like a big kid himself.

    >> he is accused of killing nine children.

    >> right.

    >> innocent children.

    >> i have no idea what happened. but he would not -- he loves children. and he would not do that. it's heartbreaking. i can't imagine losing my children. so my heart definitely goes out to them for losing all of their children.

    >> is it possible in your mind that this is just the stress of war?

    >> that's what i thought of. yeah. it seems like this mission was different than the iraq tours. so, more intense.

    >> how did you get word that he would be deployed a fourth time?

    >> it was a big shock. because we weren't on the schedule to be deployed again, to be honest with you. he didn't want to miss out on any more of his kids' life. when he had joined he had wanted to go to afghanistan . going to afghanistan didn't worry him. it was more about being just away from the family, more time.

    >> how did you two deal with it?

    >> i was -- i was upset, you know. because i was hoping, i was planning my next phases with my family. and being able to share with him.

    >> prior to being deployed to afghanistan , his fourth deployment overall, he would have been screened at the base here. right?

    >> right.

    >> he would have gone through a physical screening and mental screening.

    >> right.

    >> are you completely confident that he was absolutely okay to be deployed that fourth time?

    >> yes. yep.

    >> there were no issues?

    >> no.

    >> there have been some reports, kari, that during his deployment in iraq , there were two injuries. all right, he suffered what was called a brain injury . a traumatic brain injury . what can you tell me about that.

    >> the only time i ever heard about any of those things was after he got back. he kept a lot of it from me.

    >> he suffered a traumatic brain injury , you're his wife by that point, he's communicating with you on a regular basis, and you never heard about it?

    >> no. nope, not until he came back and said that he, you know, had been blown up. he shielded me from a lot of what he went through. he's a very tough guy.

    >> do you believe that your husband ever showed signs of ptsd prior to this deployment or during this deployment?

    >> i don't know a lot about the symptoms of ptsd, so i wouldn't know -- he doesn't have nightmares, you know, things like that. no dreams.

    >> trouble concentrating. erratic behavior shifts, anything like that?

    >> no.

    >> is there a question we should be asking ourselves about the stresses and strains that we put our military personnel under through this multiple deployments. what do you think about that?

    >> i think what's missing is the human aspects. they are first and foremost human. they are trained to be warriors to protect our freedoms. and people don't see the human side.

    >> your husband was trained to be a warrior.

    >> proudly. and defend his country.

    >> he may have seen some things during that time as a warrior that adversely affected him.

    >> i would say that a lot of people that have been deployed to iraq and afghanistan have seen a lot of things that affected them. it can't not affect you.

    >> you've spoken to him twice on the phone. did you say sweetheart, did you do this?

    >> no. no.

    >> i mean, as a spouse wouldn't you want to ask that question, quickly, honey, why are they saying these things about you?

    >> not on the monitored phone call . so we couldn't discuss those details. he was -- seemed a bit confused. as to where he was and why he was there.

    >> will there come a time when you get to see bob where you will look him straight in the eye and ask him?

    >> probably.

    >> probably.

    >> probably.

    >> not definitely --

    >> i don't think i'll have to ask him is what i mean. i think he'll tell me what happened. from his point of view.

    >> he is -- it seems, headed for trial. i mean, if this all progresses the way it seems to be progressing. that's going to be a very costly situation.

    >> it is. and so, we actually have set up a fund, a defense fund on bob's behalf.

    >> do you feel you're going to have any trouble convincing people to contribute to a defense fund, given the horrific nature of the crimes he's accused of?

    >> you know, i think that all soldiers, all people deserve the best defense that they can get. and i believe he deserves the best defense . to know what happened.

    >> the u.s. military believes its evidence is as strong as kari's faith in her husband. i think some people watching , kari, are going to look and say that you're in denial. when you read some of the reports coming out that there's surveillance video that he walked back to the base and turned himself in, how do you square that and still say i don't think he was involved?

    >> i used to believe that everything i read was true, or you know, most things were true, and now, as i'm reading a little bit of these, some things are true, and some things aren't true. so i'm waiting to hear what actually is true.

    >> so if it turns out that he is on surveillance video, or that somebody in a position of power says, yes, he did turn himself in, and hand over his weapon after this, will that change your mind? or will nothing change your mind?

    >> i don't think anything will really change my mind in believing that he did not do this. this is not what it appears to be.

    >> as we mentioned, mrs. bales has set up a defense fund for her husband. to learn more about that you can visit our website at today.com. it's 13 minutes after

TODAY contributor
updated 3/26/2012 7:51:28 AM ET 2012-03-26T11:51:28

The wife of a U.S. soldier accused of murdering 17 Afghan civilians believes her husband could not have carried out the crime.

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“I don't think anything will really change my mind in believing that he did not do this,’’ Kari Bales told TODAY’s Matt Lauer in an exclusive interview that aired Monday. “This is not what it appears to be.’’

Military wives rally around Karilyn Bales

On March 23, Army Staff Sgt. Robert Bales was charged with 17 counts of premeditated murder for killing 17 civilians in two southern Afghanistan villages earlier in March. He allegedly left his base early in the morning and shot the Afghan civilians — including nine children and four women — while they slept in their beds. Bales is also alleged to have carried out the killings in two waves, returning to his base before leaving again to murder more civilians in what is the worst alleged Afghan civilian killing by an American in the decade-long war.

“I just don't think he was involved,’’ his wife said. “I don't know enough information. This is not him. It's not him."

“He’s kind of in shock about the whole thing,’’ Bales' attorney, John Henry Browne, told NBC News. “He’s very emotional. He’s kind of like a deer in the highlights.’’

The 38-year-old soldier and father of two from Bellevue, Wash., was also charged with six counts of attempted murder and six counts of assaults carried out in two villages, one north of the base and one to the south. If convicted on any of the premeditated murder charges, he could be sentenced to death. Bales is being held in solitary confinement at a military prison at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., and his attorney has told reporters that his client’s mental state will be an issue in the trial. Bales has a spotty memory of the incident and can only really remember the events prior to and after the alleged killings, according to his lawyer.

Video: Sgt. Bales’ wife: Accusations ‘devastating’ (on this page)
"He's a very tough guy," said Kari Bales (right) of her husband, Staff Sgt. Robert Bales (left), who is accused of murdering several Afghan civilians.

Kari Bales insists that the man she calls her best friend and a “big kid himself’’ who loves his own children, and could not have killed someone else's.

“It's unbelievable to me,’’ she said. “He loves children and would not do that. It's heartbreaking. I can't imagine losing my children, so my heart definitely goes out to them for losing all of their children."

She has not discussed the allegations with her husband, saying she knew the phone conversation she had with him was monitored. She said Bales seemed confused on the phone about where he was and why he was there. "I don't think I'll have to ask him,’’ she said. “I think he'll tell me what happened from his point of view."

Video: Wife: Accused shooter 'loves children'

The timeline for the alleged killings remains unclear. One Afghan guard working from midnight to 2 a.m. saw a U.S. soldier return at 1:30 a.m., and the guard’s replacement saw a U.S. soldier leaving the base at 2:30 a.m., but it is unclear whether it was the same soldier.

There are reports that there is surveillance video, and that Bales walked back to the base and turned himself in.

“I used to believe that everything I read was true,’’ Kari said. “And now as I'm reading a little bit of these, some things are true and some things aren't true.’’

Military: Fetus not among 17 Afghan massacre victims

She described the moment officials arrived at her door to discuss the charges. “I know they held my hand and they just said that perhaps they thought that he had left the base and gone out and perhaps killed the Afghan civilians,’’ Kari said. “That was really the only sentence, and I just started crying.’’

Bales had done three tours of duty in Iraq before being sent to Afghanistan in December. Kari is confident that he was fit for a fourth deployment and said that she was not aware of any obvious signs of post-traumatic stress disorder or the traumatic brain injury that Bales allegedly suffered on one of his tours.

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“He shielded me from a lot of what he went through,’’ she said. “He's a very tough guy. I don't know a lot about the symptoms of PTSD, so I wouldn't know. He doesn't have nightmares.’’

She acknowledged that the effects of war are far-reaching, and that Bales' tour in Afghanistan was "more intense" than his Iraq deployments.

“I would say that a lot of people that have been deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan have seen a lot of things that affected them,’’ she said. “It can't not affect you.’’

Video: Bales allegedly back at base between attacks (on this page)

She said his deployment to Afghanistan upset their family dynamic.

“To be honest with you, he didn't want to miss out on any more of his kids' lives,’’ Kari said. “When he had joined, he had wanted to go to Afghanistan, so going to Afghanistan didn't worry him. It was more about being just away from the family more time.

“I was upset,’’ she added tearfully. “I was planning my next phases with my family and being able to share it with him.

Kari Bales and her children are currently sequestered at a military base in Washington State for their own protection. The trial, which is not expected to begin for several months, will be held at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, nine miles southwest of Tacoma, in order for the family to be closer together.

The family has set up a defense fund for Bales. Raising money for a soldier accused of these crimes may be a difficult task, but Kari feels that her husband deserves a chance to defend himself.

“You know, I think all soldiers, all people, deserve the best defense that they can get,’’ she said. “I believe he deserves the best defense to know what happened."

For alleged Afghan shooter, death penalty unlikely

No service member has been executed under the death penalty since 1961, when an Army ammunition handler was hanged for raping an 11-year-old girl in Austria. Most legal experts believe Bales would receive the mandatory minimum of life in prison with the chance of parole if convicted on a premeditated murder charge. There are currently six men on death row at Fort Leavenworth, but none of them were convicted for crimes against foreign civilians. It would take a unanimous conviction from a 12-member jury to sentence Bales to death.

The defense fund has been set up at: The Staff Sergeant Robert Bales Legal Defense Fund, PO Box 2774, Seattle, WA 98111

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