Afghanistan Shooting Suspect Robert Bales Faced Financial Troubles

As Robert Bales, an 11-year military veteran with a string of commendations for good conduct, sat in an isolated cell in the military prison at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., Saturday, divergent pictures emerged of the Army staff sergeant accused of gunning down 16 civilians in an Afghan war zone.

While classmates and neighbors from his younger years remembered him as a happy-go-lucky football player who loved military history and watched out for troublemakers in the neighborhood, emerging records and interviews about his past decade reveal financial troubles and brushes with the law. A blog written by his wife suggests the emotional and financial stress they faced as a military family.

Military officials say that after drinking on a southern Afghanistan base, Bales, 38, crept away in the night on March 11 to two slumbering villages, shooting his victims and setting many of them on fire. Nine of the 16 killed were children and 11 belonged to one family.

Bales hasn't been charged yet in the shootings, which have endangered complicated relations between the United States and Afghanistan and threatened to upend U.S. policy over the decade-old war.

Court records and interviews show that Bales, 38, had joined the Army after a Florida investment job went sour, had a Seattle-area home condemned, struggled to make payments on another and failed to get a promotion or a transfer a year ago, according to a report by The Associated Press.

His legal troubles included charges that he assaulted a girlfriend and, in a hit-and run accident, ran bleeding in military clothes into the woods, court records show, the report said, citing legal records.

Months before the Afghanistan incident, Bales was eyeing a way out of his job at a Washington state military base, records and interviews showed.

His wife, Karilyn, hinted at the family’s troubles on multiple blogs with names like The Bales Family Adventures and BabyBales, the AP and the Times reported. She wrote about the daily life of a military wife, raising children alone, going through a 2006 pregnancy without her husband present, the “bad dreams” she woke from after a nap on the day he left in 2009.

In March 2011, she wrote that her husband had not received a promotion to E-7, sergeant first class – a major disappointment, she said, "after all of the work Bob has done and all the sacrifices he has made for his love of his country, family and friends," according to a report by The New York Times. The Times said that appeared to be the last blog post.

Read more about Karilyn Bales' blog posts at The New York Times

She hoped that the Army might allow the family some autonomy in choosing its next location, after Joint Base Lewis
McChord in Washington state, the Times said. She listed her top choices as Germany ("best adventure
opportunity!"); Italy ("2nd best adventure opp"); Hawaii ("nuff said"); Kentucky ("we would at least be close to Bob’s family"); and Georgia ("to be a sniper teacher, not because it is a fun place to live").

Instead the Army redeployed his unit — the 3rd Stryker Brigade, named after armored Stryker vehicles — to Afghanistan.

It was Bales' fourth tour in a war zone since joining up after the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the United States in 2001. He had spent three years in Iraq during three separate assignments.

Bales always loved the military and war history, even as a teenager, said Steve Berling, a high school classmate in his hometown of Norwood, Ohio, the AP reported.

"It's our Bobby. He was the local hero," said Michael Blevins, who grew up down the street from Bales in Norwood.

They said Bales, the youngest of five boys, respected older residents, admonished troublemakers and loved children, even helping another boy in the area who had special needs.

Bales' golden boy image was not untarnished, however. The AP reported that Bales studied business for three years at Ohio State but did not graduate, then handled investments before a market downturn pushed him out of the business.

Florida records show that Bales was a director at an inactive company called Spartina Investments Inc. in Doral, Fla.; his brother, Mark Bales, and a Mark Edwards were also listed as directors.

"I guess he didn't like it when people lost money," Berling told the AP.

He was struggling to keep payments on his own home near Lake Tapps, a reservoir about 35 miles south of Seattle; his wife asked to put the house on the market three days before the shootings, real estate Philip Rodocker said, according to AP.

Bales and his wife bought the Lake Tapps home in 2005 for $280,000; it was listed this week at $229,000, AP reported, citing records.

The house was not officially put on the market until Monday; on Tuesday, Rodocker said, Bales' wife called and asked to take the house off the market, talking of a family emergency.

The AP reported that Bales and his wife also own a home in Auburn, about 10 miles north, according to county records, but abandoned it about two years ago.

"It was ramshackled," homeowners’ association president Bob Baggett told the AP. "They were not dependable. When they left there were vehicles parts left on the front yard ... we'd given up on the owners."

In Washington state, court records showed a 2002 arrest for assault on a girlfriend. Bales pleaded not guilty and was required to undergo 20 hours of anger management counseling, after which the case was dismissed.

A separate hit-and-run charge was dismissed in municipal court in Sumner, Wash., three years ago, according to records. It isn't clear from court documents what Bales hit; witnesses saw a man in a military-style uniform, with a shaved head and bleeding, running away.

When deputies found him in the woods, Bales told them he fell asleep at the wheel. He paid about $1,000 in fines and restitution and the case was dismissed in October 2009.


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  • by Anon on Mar 19, 2012 at 05:50 AM
    Why is everyone and the media trying to portray this man as a Victim? He committed MURDER plain and simple.... As a Veteran of the US Army I am ashamed he even walked among the ranks of Real Soldiers.... He is a MURDERER and there fore should be treated as such. Innocent until proven guilty...(Yeah Right).. He admitted it and should be dealt the consequences.
    • reply
      by Anonymous on Mar 19, 2012 at 07:27 AM in reply to Anon
      He is portaryed as a victim because he IS a victim. A victim of war with the psychological scars to show for it that will NEVER go away. You say you were in the army, well if you served in a war you would feel differently. I would be willing to bet you will respond saying you did, well hogwash, nobody that served over there feels as you apparently do. As an army veteran, I would be more than happy to stand by this mans side when he is tried in the american justice system, which is as it should be.
      • reply
        by Anon on Mar 19, 2012 at 10:47 AM in reply to Anonymous
        Still say he is a MURDERER and as such should be treated as a MURDERER. Tell your opinions to the INNOCENT MEN, WOMEN AND CHILDREN"s families he MURDERED.Would you be so quick to stand behind him if these were AMERICAN children or Adults he killed.... I think not!
        • reply
          by Yup on Mar 19, 2012 at 12:27 PM in reply to Anon
          Yup, as a matter of fact I would be happy to stand by him if the deceased were Americans. You need to understand what these people go through, I happen to know first hand. Is what he did right, absolutely not. Are there valid reasons to understand why he had a psychological melt down and committed these horrible acts, YES. So get off your high horse soap box and get back to reality. War is not pretty and only those who have been there can comprehend the magnitude of the life long effects.
  • by Cindy Location: Washington - NC on Mar 18, 2012 at 09:32 PM
    With Obama as President everyone has Financial Troubles. I never got '1' of those job stimulas plan jobs? Did you? Maybe I should join the Army to get a pay check?
    • reply
      by TopShot on Mar 19, 2012 at 05:04 AM in reply to Cindy
      Most Soldiers don't joing the Army to get a paycheck. If you think joining the Army just to get a paycheck is the plan we don't want you. Trust me we have enough of your kind!
      • reply
        by Anonymous on Mar 19, 2012 at 07:26 PM in reply to TopShot
        So, are you one of The Army Of The Poor, or do you believe the lies?
  • by Belhaven nc on Mar 18, 2012 at 04:52 PM
    I think he missed the memo that Bush and Cheney are out of office. I say give him to Afghanistan for trial and execution. Then people say oh he was depressed with PTSD. I say give him to the afghans and I garuntee this problem won't happen again.
    • reply
      by gary on Mar 18, 2012 at 08:02 PM in reply to Belhaven nc
      I say you take his place. he should be given a medal for doing away with future terroists.
      • reply
        by Anonymous on Mar 18, 2012 at 10:02 PM in reply to gary
        Both of you need to back off.
  • by Lennie E. Peterson Location: Kinston on Mar 18, 2012 at 04:38 PM
    Jessi, one question? Have you done anything wrong in your life? Or are you perfect, no sins, no violations of the law, never spoke ill of someone? If you are perfect, guess the intelligent one, and everyone else is stupi? Just asking!
  • by Jessi Location: Pamlico on Mar 18, 2012 at 01:54 PM
    He needs to be court marshalled. Stupid man.
    • reply
      by Anonymous on Mar 18, 2012 at 03:48 PM in reply to Jessi
      Innocent until proven guilty. Remember that before making another arrogant, self righteous comment.
      • reply
        by Lennie E. Peterson on Mar 18, 2012 at 04:33 PM in reply to
        Jessi, have you ever done anything bad? Or or you perfect, without sin?
        • reply
          by Anon on Mar 19, 2012 at 05:53 AM in reply to Lennie E. Peterson
          No I have done wrong, every one has at one time or another. But NEVER have I killed innocent people.... INNOCENT People!
  • by Lennie E. Peterson Location: Kinston, NC on Mar 18, 2012 at 01:53 PM
    I agree with Luis! Why does this matter? The media often gets half true information, or fabricates the information they think will sell, and runs with it! I'm a retired U.S. Army Master Sergeant. I think the guy needs help! Instead of being made out to be a bad guy! And this guy is innocent until proven guilty!!!!!
    • reply
      by Anonymous on Mar 18, 2012 at 03:47 PM in reply to Lennie E. Peterson
      Not according to a lot of these armchair patriots he isn't.
  • by Luis Location: Greenville on Mar 18, 2012 at 07:46 AM
    Why does this matter ?
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