U.S. Military Investigators Hold Pretrial into Murder of 11- Year-Old Ethnic Albanian GirlAired February 18, 2000 - 6:15 p.m. ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: In Kosovo, U.S. military investigators have held a pretrial hearing into the killing of an 11- year-old ethnic Albanian girl. An American soldier is charged with the murder.
CNN's Chris Burns has more.
CHRIS BURNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Camp Bondsteel, the main U.S. base in Kosovo, was the setting for the pretrial hearing. In attendance, the parents of the slain girl. The investigating officer heard testimony from 11 people, including army investigators and members of the Army unit of staff sergeant Frank Ronghi. Rhongi is charged with premeditated murder and indecent acts with a child.
CAPT. BILL SCHMITTEL, ARMY LEGAL ADVISER: Those members investigated the site, found the body and then reported that information back to their command. That kind of started this whole investigation.
BURNS: But so far, officials say they've found no eyewitnesses. The girl's parents, Captain Schmittel said, are being shepherded through the proceedings.
SCHMITTEL: It's very important for me to see that justice is done, and that they are treated fairly, and that the parents have as much role in the process as possible so that they somehow feel that justice is being done for them as well.
BURNS: The girl's father last saw his daughter January 13, when she left for the market in the town of Vitina, 70 kilometers southeast of Pristina. She was found later that day in a field, her face battered and bruised. Ronghi was charged two days later.
Now investigators are to recommend whether to try Ronghi, who is deployed from the 82nd airborne based in Ft. Bragg, North Carolina. A decision is expected to take several weeks.
If there is a court-martial, Ronghi would face the death penalty. Though officials say a more likely sentence would be life in prison. The Army would have to decide whether to try Ronghi in Kosovo, Germany, where he's been held, or in the United States. (on camera): The Ronghi case is an important test for KFOR; to show the Kosovars that in this stateless, often lawless land, even the peacekeepers, too, must face justice.
Chris Burns, CNN, Camp Bondsteel, Kosovo.
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