Local News

Family: Deployment changed soldier charged in sex assault

Posted February 3, 2010

— A Fort Bragg soldier charged with burglary and sexual assault was emotionally scarred by a 2007 deployment to Iraq, his family said Wednesday.

Spc. Aaron Michael Pernell, 22, of 500 Regency Drive, was charged Monday in two burglaries and a sexual assault that occurred in December in the Ste. Mere Eglise neighborhood on post.

Spc. Aaron Pernell, charged in Fort Bragg break-ins, sex assault Accused soldier 'a good kid,' his mother says

Fayetteville police said Pernell also is a "person of interest" in a string of break-ins and rapes in the Fayetteville area over the past seven months. Investigators are comparing evidence in the cases to determine whether to charge him in any of the cases.

"I was shocked. I didn't think he was capable of doing anything like this," his grandfather, Richard Foote, said Wednesday in a telephone interview from his home in Chicopee, Mass. "I still don't believe it. I don't believe he did it. I mean, this is just something that's not in his character."

Foote said he cared for Pernell and his sister for a year while their mother was in Air Force training. The children were home-schooled and attended church regularly, he said, noting Pernell's mother and stepfather are both ordained ministers.

"The kids were well-mannered, polite," Foote said. "(I had) no trouble at all with them."

Brenda Pernell said her son acted differently after returning from Iraq. A member of 1st Battalion, 325th Airborne Infantry Regiment, he is an infantryman who fires mortars.

"We all saw such a change in him,” said Brenda Pernell, who also lives in Chicopee. “He started doing things he had never done before.”

Aaron Pernell became withdrawn and began drinking heavily, his mother said. He sought counseling through the Army but was told he didn’t need it, she said.

On his MySpace page, Pernell lists his occupation as "drunkard" and calls himself "an open book."

Maj. Brian Fickel, spokesman for the 82nd Airborne Division, said he was unaware of any mental health issues with Pernell.

“This is not him,” Brenda Pernell said. “He’s always been a good kid.”

“We were raised to respect women,” said his sister, Vanessa Pernell, who also lives in Chicopee.

Fayetteville police charged Aaron Pernell in September with breaking into another home, where a mother and child were inside. No one was injured in that incident, and he was released on bond.

Six women in Fayetteville and a seventh in Hope Mills reported being sexually assaulted since late June. In each case, the victim said a man broke her home – usually an apartment – late at night while she was alone, according to police reports. In an eighth case, a burglar tried to sexually assault a Fayetteville woman before fleeing.

Last month, Hoke County Sheriff Hubert Peterkin said DNA from a rape that occurred last August east of Raeford matched evidence from a case in Fayetteville. Fayetteville police haven't confirmed such a link.

The Army plans to conduct an Article 32 hearing, which is the military equivalent of a probable-cause hearing, in the next week to determine whether a court-martial is warranted, Fickel said.


This story is closed for comments.

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  • Myra Feb 5, 2010

    Well, if he asked for help and his command denied it, then the command is culpable in his actions. Unless a "competent" medical mental health doctor declared he didn't need help, it begs the question. But we all have heard it over and over ad infinitum, Airborne soldiers don't ever ask for help, it could affect their promotion and career. Well, all that is left now if for Fort Bragg to put on their dog and pony and show aka Pre-Conviction Ceremony. Hate to think some of you commenters are potential jury pool citizens.

  • concerncitizen Feb 4, 2010

    "his mother said. He sought counseling through the Army but was told he didn't need it" If it true he might have a case for mental illness. All that other talk is just that, talk. There was time when having two ministers in one family was an asset, not hardly anymore!

  • didisaythat Feb 4, 2010

    Now we see how juries get swayed in finding people guilty..did you see how the statements from family memebers that do not even live in NC have changed peoples outlook on the suspect. They are now bashing the gov't for not getting this guy help. Everyone takes the families statements for face value, but no one mentions that his commander had no knowledge of any mental issues....Now, I don't know the facts of the case or this suspect, I just find it interesting how one statement can get people off track of the case at hand.

  • Tired of thoughtlessness Feb 4, 2010

    Blame it on the rain, yeah yeah.

  • Myra Feb 4, 2010

    Fort Bragg has declared they will take him to Article 32 Hearing to determne if they should court martial him !! DUH - Fort Bragg did not think he needed help even thought he asked for help. AND it's not the first time this has happened; it has happened too many times. A few months back, a Fort Bragg Commander said he PUNISHED WOUNDED WARRIORS if they failed to keep up with NON-wounded soldiers -- GASP!! Apparently supporting the troops doesnt include the COMMAND and Supervision ... What s shame!

  • babbleon Feb 4, 2010

    I do wish our soldiers had better help coming back. I wish they didn't get sent. But I gotta agree, it's no excuse.

  • oldrebel Feb 4, 2010

    Soldiers have been coming home from wars with visible and invisible scars since the first war. To pretend that explains why someone would inflict pain and suffering on another innocent human being with sexual assault and rape is disingenuous at best. A shame one of victims didn't reach their hidden handgun and relieve the rapist of his issues.

  • webberx101 Feb 4, 2010

    Watch Jesse Ventura's "Conspiracy Theory" - No telling what the "government" does to some people, no telling what they did to this guy. Pray for the troops...

  • Blue Shirt Feb 3, 2010

    Just another EXCUSE! many come back and keep on living life; my son was wounded in house to house fighting in Fallujah in November 2004; saw several Marine buddies killed and maimed. He don't talk about things and just as in my era the adage" those who talk the most really didn't see that much and make plenty of excuses for their shortcomings.

  • MitziGaynor Feb 3, 2010

    Still happening...Army not giving the guys the help they need...not that that excuses his crimes. I worry about my son, he doesn't sleep well, only if feels safe which is when people are around that he trusts. He did 14 months in Iraq, came home in May but still feels like he is there, still jumps anytime he hears loud noises. Had the eval...said he was fine. Makes you wonder.