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Soldier defers plea in Fort Bragg attack, break-ins

Posted June 2, 2010

— An 82nd Airborne Division soldier declined to enter a plea Wednesday during a brief arraignment on rape and burglary charges.

Spc. Aaron Michael Pernell, 23, is a suspect in two break-ins and a sexual assault on Fort Bragg last December and six sexual assaults in Fayetteville and Hoke County between 2008 and 2009.

Pernell, an artillery man with the 1st Battalion, 325th Airborne Infantry Regiment, was formally charged by a military court Wednesday with two counts each of rape and burglary and one count each of attempted rape, assault consummated by battery and housebreaking.

Spc. Aaron Pernell leaves court Fort Bragg soldier faces rape, burglary charges

After responding "yes, sir" and "no, sir" to questions from a military judge during a five-minute hearing Wednesday, Pernell left the courthouse on post in handcuffs and ankle bracelets. He remains in confinement at Camp Lejeune.

Because he deferred his plea, he will have to file a written notice by July 16 stating his plea and will have to announce it in court at the beginning of his court-martial, which is set to begin the week of Aug. 23.

A pre-trial motions hearing is set for July 26.

Military prosecutors have said they believe they have enough evidence to warrant a court-martial and win a sentence for life in prison.

At an April hearing, Jarrad Williams, an agent with the Army's Criminal Investigation Command, said that DNA from Pernell matches semen found on the clothing of a Fort Bragg woman who was sexually assaulted on Dec. 13. The woman told investigators that she was raped in front of her child and that her attacker spent three to four hours inside her home in the Ste. Mere Eglise neighborhood, Williams said.

Another woman said that she had seen a man break into her home and steal a diamond ring, he said.

After being detained by authorities in January, Pernell told investigators that "Jason," a voice inside his head, instructed him to attack the women, Williams said.

"I myself would not commit these crimes. The voice in my head makes me do bad things," Williams recalled Pernell telling investigators.

Pernell also faces prosecution in civilian courts on more than 30 charges in connection with the attacks in Fayetteville and Hoke County. Authorities haven't released details in those cases.

He hasn't been named as a suspect in a highly publicized series of rapes in Fayetteville and Hope Mills between June 2009 and January that is being investigated by a regional task force of local, state and military authorities.

Family members have said that Pernell used to be a bubbly, outgoing, playful husband and a father of a little girl. His mother was in the Air Force, and both parents were ordained ministers.

He soon separated from his wife, though, and relatives said he returned from a 15-month deployment to Iraq in 2006 a changed, troubled man.


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  • runescapepkr Jun 2, 2010

    I know Aaron from school in i live in tulsa he was a good guy,
    I joined the Army at the same time as him we were both stoked about being Infantrymen he was a fun guy very gun ho about his job. I got hurt and sent home early on so never got to see the changes that took place in him. I agree with his family this doesn't seem like something he would've done. But since he's basically admitted what he has done I hope only God has mercy on his soul. He used to be such a good guy. PTSD isn't an excuse to commit a crime. When he's in prison i hope he gets the help he needs. But he's going to be the one knowing how it feels to get raped. So lets just stop the bashing he's going to have it bad in prison. This however is an example of how the military not "war" Can change the thought process. These guys are trained to dehumanize people because it allows them to do things that are morally and ethically wrong to other people otherwise in the heat of battle you may hesitate to pull the trigger.

  • FireFaerie88 aka snugglebunny Jun 2, 2010

    An exorcism may be in order.

  • axford Jun 2, 2010

    I love when family members say "I know my son, and I know he would never do something like this/that". Parents are always last to know the truth about their children. They either are blinded by the truth or don't want to believe their behavior so ignore it.

  • BubbaDuke Jun 2, 2010

    He should have listened to the voice inside his head telling him not to listen to Jason.