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Lawyers for Marine call serviceman's stabbing an accident

Posted at 11:51 AM, Mar 23, 2018
and last updated 2018-03-23 11:51:28-04

Defense attorneys for a Marine accused of fatally stabbing a fellow military member on a California Marine Corps base are arguing the death was a tragic accident and the two friends were playing around with a knife.

Pfc. Raymond Begay faces charges of second-degree murder and obstruction of justice in the death of 18-year-old Pfc. Ethan Barclay-Weberpal.

Barclay-Weberpal graduated from Almont High School in Lapeer County last May. He enlisted in the Marine Corps two months later.

NBC 7 San Diego reports Thursday that several troops testified that the death was an accident at a preliminary hearing at Camp Pendleton.

The hearing -- known as an Article 32 in the Uniform Code of Military Justice -- allows the defense and prosecution to introduce evidence and arguments.

According to witnesses that testified at Thursday's hearing, Begay often played around with knives and pretended to stab his friends.

According to witnesses and Begay's attorneys, Begay was sitting close to Barclay-Weberpal, and told the victim, "in a joking fashion" that "I should stab you," to which Barclay-Weberpal responded, "do it."

According to the prosecutor, Begay then reached around Barclay-Weberpal and stabbed in the chest, with the blade penetrating his heart. Barclay-Weberpal immediately lost a significant amount of blood and was pronounced dead shortly after.

Prosecutors say Begay obstructed justice because he allegedly tried to hide the knife he used to stab Barclay-Weberpal. But Begay's attorneys claim Begay panicked and never tried to hide the knife.

Witnesses testified that Begay immediately admitted to training instructors he stabbed Barclay-Weberpal.

In their closing argument, Begay's attorney said their client is devastated by Barclay-Weberpal and argued the proper charge should be involuntary manslaughter.

A ruling is expected next month by the Marine Corps command.