ST. CHARLES • The family of an area Green Beret slain by a fellow soldier can’t understand how the killer could go free in as little as two years.
A Circuit Court jury in Clarksville, Tenn., decided that the soldier who shot Sgt. 1st Class Frederic Nicholas “Nic” Moses five times was guilty of reckless homicide, not second-degree murder as he had been charged.
The verdict means that the shooter, Benjamin K. Schweitzer, faces two to four years in prison at his sentencing hearing on Oct. 29. He could have received a maximum sentence of 25 years if found guilty of second-degree murder. At the trial, Schweitzer testified that he had taken a sedative to sleep and thought Moses was an intruder when he shot him about 10:45 a.m. in March 2012.
When the jury read the verdict on Aug. 22, Paul Moses, the victim’s brother, said it felt like the room started spinning.
“It was totally surreal; it was beyond comprehension,” he said.
Fred Moses yelled across the courtroom at his son’s killer: “You’re going to burn in hell.”
Nic Moses’ mother, Jeanie, said she was in shock for five days after the verdict and could barely function. “Then the anger started to set in,” she said.
The Moses family members are not the only ones upset by the verdict.
Clarksville Police Chief Alonzo Ansley says he doesn’t understand how jurors could reach the verdict they did.
“Reckless homicide is doing something irresponsible and causing the death of another,” he said. “That is not putting five rounds in someone.”
Schweitzer, 28, also was convicted of lesser charges related to a standoff with police after he shot Moses. One of the Clarksville police officers, James Eure, was shot in the shoulder, and another officer narrowly escaped injury.
The jury found Schweitzer not guilty of two counts of attempted murder for shooting at police and instead found in favor of two misdemeanors — two counts of reckless endangerment. Schweitzer was already sentenced to time served for those offenses.
“This is not justice,” Ansley said.
A SOLDIER IS SHOT
Moses, 26, was fatally shot on March, 15, 2012, by Schweitzer, a fellow Green Beret and medic who had been staying at the house Moses shared with several other soldiers in Clarksville.
Both men were assigned to the 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne) at Fort Campbell, Ky., but they had opposite deployment schedules, so they hadn’t met until recently, family members said.
Moses, a communications officer, had been deployed four times — three times to Iraq and once to Afghanistan. He had been stateside since March 5 for a short training course.
But family members say that Moses knew of Schweitzer, who had been disciplined for an inappropriate relationship with a soldier’s wife and for prescribing Valium to members of his troop as a sleep aid. Both offenses were noted in documents the family obtained from the Army, which also investigated the shooting.
Those documents also outline that Moses had reported to the homeowner that Schweitzer was acting strangely in the days before the shooting.
One day Moses said a light fixture in the kitchen had been shot out. When Moses asked Schweitzer what happened, he acted “unusually hostile,” according to the documents.
Another time, Moses found Schweitzer dressed in camouflage gear, and when Moses asked what he was doing, he said he was “going shooting” but couldn’t explain where, according to the documents.
Others reported Schweitzer “in a daze” and saw a used IV bag in his room.
In testimony last month, Schweitzer said that he and Moses had had no problems.
On the day of the shooting, Schweitzer took Ketamine, a general anesthesia and sedative, and said he was awakened by a loud noise in the kitchen. He said he thought Moses was an intruder, and he fired at him as he approached, not recognizing him before retreating to his room.
He could not explain why several of the bullets had been fired into Moses’ back, but he testified he was impaired by the drug when the police arrived.
After being shot, Moses was able to run to a neighbor’s home to ask for help. Moses died a short time later.
Moses’ family members say that none of the negative information about Schweitzer’s background was brought out at the trial and they believe it was left out intentionally at the Army’s request, because it would have been damaging to the 5th Group’s reputation.
Army Col. Scott Brower, who was presiding commander of 5th Special Forces Group at the time of the shooting, declined an interview request by the Post-Dispatch, as did Montgomery County Assistant Prosecutor Art Bieber, who handled the case.
In his closing statement during the trial, Bieber said the state had proved that Schweitzer had killed Moses knowingly and intentionally.
But defense attorney Chase Smith said that was no motive or ill will had been proved and that what had happened was not murder but homicide.
“Mr. Schweitzer deeply regrets his actions that day and will certainly live with those consequences for the rest of his life,” Smith said after the trial.
Jeanie Moses said she believed the Army should have taken more action against Schweitzer before the shooting happened.
“If the Army had done something about him, he would not have been in that house, and we would not be sitting here,” she said.
Instead, Brower told the family a few months before the trial that Schweitzer had been given a less than honorable discharge, a decision that, given the jury verdict, is especially troubling to them.
If Schweitzer had remained in the Army, he could have been brought up on military charges now.
“I think they discharged him because they didn’t want Schweitzer to wear a uniform to the trial,” Paul Moses said.
A SOLDIERS LEGACY
Nic Moses was the fourth of Fred and Jeanie Moses’ five children. A brother, Daniel, is serving in the Army in Afghanistan.
Family members described Nic as fun, smart, caring and generous.
“He was like the light that a moth goes to — people were just drawn to him,” Jeanie Moses said. “He was an easy person to talk to.”
Moses graduated in 2003 from Duchesne High School in St. Charles, where he was a good student and played football. A year later, while a student at Missouri State University, he enlisted in the Army because he wanted to do something more significant with his life, his mother said.
During his career in the Army, Moses received several commendations, including the Bronze Star Medal, the Army Commendation Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster and Army Achievement Medal.
Jeanie Moses said her son would have been due to get out of the Army this month, but she believes he would have re-enlisted because he had spoken to others about wanting to join Delta Force, an elite unit of Special Forces.
The family says Moses had positively affected many people in his short life, as evidenced by the nearly 90 people who wrote to Montgomery County, Tenn., Judge John H. Gasaway about how the killing had affected them.
They hope by bringing attention to the verdict, and what they believe was an omission of key evidence, higher courts in Tennessee will take action.
“We know it’s a long shot, but we have to do it for Nic,” Jeanie Moses said.
The Associated Press and the Leaf Chronicle newspaper contributed to this report.