"Why Do People Have To Push Me Like That?"

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    The gossip persisted and "seemed to be affecting the platoon," Staff Sergeant Eric Dubielak testified. Even Winchell's superiors began piling on. The company's first sergeant said he was going to "get that little faggot" when Winchell showed up for duty one day smelling of alcohol, according to testimony. "Pretty much everybody in the company called him derogatory names," Kleifgen told a pretrial hearing. "They called him a 'faggot' and stuff like that, I would say on a daily basis. A lot of times, he was walking around down in the dumps." Yet the sergeant let the trash talking continue, contrary to Army policy. "Everybody was having fun," Kleifgen said, trying to explain why he hadn't ordered a halt.

    Winchell was in a bind: to complain about the abuse would suggest the stories were true. If he acknowledged he was gay, he would have to leave the Army. Better to simply shrug off the slurs. But by the time the fight broke out between Glover and Winchell, the atmosphere was poisoned. "I can't believe it," Glover confided to his fellow grunts after Winchell floored him. "I won't let a faggot kick my ass." But Winchell apparently had dismissed Glover's death threat as more braggadocio. And he didn't relish his win. "Why," he asked a fellow soldier, "do people have to push me like that?"

    The next night--Independence Day--a dozen or so soldiers held a hot-dog cookout around the picnic table. A radio blared music while the soldiers played Wiffle ball and drained a keg of beer. Although 21 is the legal drinking age in Kentucky, younger troops--like the 18-year-old Glover--downed many beers that night. A staff sergeant on duty in the barracks did nothing to halt the illegal drinking. Glover and Winchell kept away from each other, one soldier said, and there was no overt hostility between them. As midnight drew closer, the keg dribbled dry. Glover began whacking the empty aluminum cask with the Wiffle-ball bat.

    With the beer gone, soldiers drifted away. Winchell was taking care of the battalion's mascot, an Australian blue heeler named Nasty. Dogs aren't allowed in barracks rooms, so he pulled a cot from the third-floor room he shared with Fisher, 26, onto the open-air landing. What happened next is based on what Fisher has told the Army. His credibility is questionable, though, because he faces charges of lying to Army investigators, in addition to conspiring with Glover to murder Winchell and being an accessory to the crime. Sometime after 2 a.m., Fisher said Glover saw Winchell sleeping on the cot, with the dog tied to it. "What's that fag doing sleeping there?" Glover asked Fisher. The pair entered the room Fisher and Winchell shared, where Fisher kept a baseball bat. Glover grabbed the bat and, with what an Army prosecutor called a "wide-eyed, psychotic look," began making slashing motions with it.

    Fisher then apparently left the scene for a while. He returned a short time later to see Glover at the sink. "'I got some blood on your bat--help me clean it,'" Fisher quoted Glover as saying. "How'd you get blood on your bat?" Fisher asked. "I hit Winchell with it," Glover allegedly replied. The pair went outside to check on Winchell. The cot, the nearby walls and Winchell's blanket were all splashed in crimson. Glover slipped a gloved hand underneath Winchell's battered head. "Yeah," he said. "He's done." Nasty began barking loudly. Glover fled the scene, allegedly trying to rid himself of Winchell's blood and any other incriminating evidence. Fisher became hysterical. "Don't die, Winchell! Don't die!" he shouted at his comatose roommate. "Come on, breathe!"

    Fisher ran down one flight of stairs to Sanarov's room because Sanarov had a car they could use to take Winchell to the hospital. "Winchell is dying!" he screamed. Sanarov saw Glover as he retrieved his car. "I saw Private Glover running with his hands full of gloves and clothes, heading toward the Dumpster," Sanarov said. (Army investigators say they found bloody jeans and gloves in the trash bin and a bloody T shirt and socks in Glover's room.) Back in the barracks, Winchell struggled to breathe, gurgling on his own blood. Both his eyes were blackened and swollen shut. Blood poured, and brains oozed, from the left side of his head. An Army investigator said it had been shattered "like an eggshell." Fisher, panicking, pulled the barracks fire alarm, which woke the rest of the soldiers. As medics loaded Winchell into an ambulance, a soaking-wet Glover showed up and asked the soldiers what was going on.

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