A Fort Drum soldier who admitted stabbing two Army buddies to death at their apartment near their military post was sentenced Friday to 45 years to life in prison.
Spc. Joshua Hunter pleaded guilty last month to killing Waide James, 20, of Cocoa, Fla., and Diego Valbuena, 23, of Port Saint Lucie, Fla., in November at the duplex the three men shared near Fort Drum's main entrance.
The Watertown Daily Times reported that Hunter apologized for the killings when he was sentenced, but offered no explanation for the crimes.
"I'm sorry there is nothing I can say to make anybody feel better or make changes to what happened or what I did," he said. "I just hope that God is merciful enough to forgive me for what I did because there is no one else that can be blamed for this and I truly am sorry and they didn't deserve what they got."
The 20-year-old Hunter, who was raised in Ona, W.Va., pleaded guilty to two counts of second-degree murder in a deal to avoid life in prison without parole. He will be first eligible for parole in 45 years after drawing consecutive 22-year terms for the murder counts and an additional year for pleading guilty to holding his wife, Emily, against her will in October 2009.
The three friends had returned in spring 2009 from a yearlong tour in Iraq with the 10th Mountain Division, Hunter as a military policeman, the others as drivers. Emily Hunter and his parents said he came back a changed man plagued by flashbacks.
Emily Hunter told The Associated Press last year that he claimed to have seen his best friend "blown to pieces" in Iraq. But Maj. Fred Harrell, a spokesman for Fort Drum, said there were no casualties in Hunter's unit during their tour.
Information from: Watertown Daily Times, http://www.watertowndailytimes.com