The murder trial of Marine Raider Gunnery Sergeant Mario Madera-Rodriguez, who is charged with the death of Green Beret SSG Logan Melgar in June 2017 has begun. SSG Logan Melgar belonged to the 3rd Special Forces Group

Madera-Rodriguez is being charged with conspiracy, assault, obstruction of justice, burglary, false official statements, involuntary manslaughter, and felony murder. 

The prosecution told the jury that the Marine Raider betrayed his comrade, helped kill him during a planned attack at the victim’s apartment, and then tried to cover up the incident by lying to investigators.

Another Marine Raider and two Navy SEALs were also charged.

According to the Army Times, the defense’s opening statement was not released to the public because it contained classified information.

The four men claimed that they were only trying to humiliate Melgar but instead strangled him to death. Madera-Rodriguez is the only one of the four to plead not guilty. The other three entered guilty pleas and received jail terms; they are expected to be called as witnesses for the prosecution. If Madera-Rodriguez is convicted of murder, he faces a possible sentence of life without parole.

SSG Logan Melgar and his father at Ft. Bragg, NC prior to his deployment to Mali where he was killed by other Americans. (File photo)

“These four men weren’t terrorists,” Marine prosecutor Jason Samuel said. “They weren’t insurgents. They weren’t local criminals. They were American servicemembers, special operators… who betrayed their fellow comrade, their brother in arms.”

Samuel stated that each of the four had specific roles in the attack on Melgar. Madera-Rodriguez was supposed to smash open Melgar’s bedroom door with a sledgehammer and then turn on some loud music to drown out the noise. Marine SSG Kevin Maxwell Jr., was to pull back the mosquito netting around Melgar’s bed. Navy SEAL Anthony DeDolph, a former MMA fighter, was going to render Melgar unconscious by putting him in a chokehold while Navy SEAL Adam Matthews would duct tape Melgar to immobilize him. 

Their plan was to then have a local Malian soldier strip naked wearing a dog collar and chain and stand next to the naked and unconscious Melgar. They would then take compromising photos and videos of Melgar. 

“Their plan was to haze him that night, to humiliate him,” Samuel said Friday at the start of the murder trial. “But they killed him.”

Reportedly, Melgar had ditched the four en route to a party at the French Embassy in Bamako. Feeling slighted, the four went to a bar called the Appaloosa, before heading to the Marine house where the embassy guards live to pick up a sledgehammer and duct tape. They then went to the house where the SEALs and Melgar were living. 

Once Madera-Rodriguez sledgehammered Melgar’s door between 5:35 and 5:45 a.m., Melgar awoke and fought back. DeDolph’s chokehold didn’t render him unconscious but killed him. 

The four then attempted to resuscitate Melgar, even trying a field-expedient tracheotomy. When they realized it wasn’t working, they took him to a nearby medical clinic where he was pronounced dead. The SEALs then told the Marines that they would handle the investigation and not mention their involvement. 

They concocted a story that DeDolph had been practicing hand-to-hand combat drills with Melgar when he stopped breathing. According to Army investigators, they later added that Melgar had been drinking at the party and that might have contributed to his death. But those who knew Melgar said he was a non-drinker. An autopsy and blood screening showed no signs of alcohol in his system.

According to the investigation, a week after Melgar’s death, Madera-Rodriguez and Maxwell accompanied Army investigators to the crime scene as security. Madera-Rodriguez even tried walking through the fake story of a wrestling match gone wrong between DeDolph and Melgar.

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Melgar’s grave in Arlington National Cemetery.

However, the investigators found duct tape under Melgar’s bed with his blood on it. They then talked with Jennifer Brown, a friend of who Madera-Rodriguez, had been at the Appaloosa with the men and had heard their plan. 

Could There Have Been Another Motive Behind Melgar’s Killing?

DeDolph had said that the SEALs would show Melgar a video of the incident. Why? Because he didn’t join them at a party? This seems a trifle reason.

The official story was that Melgar had grown tired of the juvenile behavior of the SEALs and Raiders and couldn’t wait to go home from this assignment. Yet, there was also an allegation that Melgar had discovered that the two SEALs had stolen funds that were used for paying local informants and that he had told the two that he would report that. The two SEALs have denied this allegation.

Reportedly, Melgar had made a video call to his wife. He had told her the SEALs wanted him to participate in something, but he had refused. He apparently did not describe exactly what the SEALs wanted him to do. A few hours later, Melgar was dead.

The entire story may never come to light. 

DeDolph pleaded guilty in January to involuntary manslaughter. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison, reduction to E-1, forfeiture of all pay and allowances, as well as a dishonorable discharge.

Maxwell pleaded guilty in June 2019 to negligent homicide, conspiracy to commit assault, hazing, obstruction of justice, and making false official statements. He received a sentence of four years of confinement, a reduction in rank to E-1, and a bad-conduct discharge.

In May 2019, Matthews pleaded guilty to the conspiracy and related charges. He was given one year of confinement, reduction to petty officer second class, as well as a bad conduct discharge.

Madera-Rodriguez’s trial is expected to last several weeks.