Last updated: February 19. 2013 4:11PM - 289 Views

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JOINT BASE LEWIS-McCHORD, Wash. — A friend of Staff Sgt. Robert Bales testified Wednesday that he thought Bales seemed remorseful after being taken into custody following a massacre at two Afghan villages last March.

Defense witness 1st Sgt. Vernon Bigham testified by video from Kandahar Air Field in Afghanistan as the third day of testimony began at a preliminary hearing for Bales.

The hearing, which is also expected to feature video testimony from Afghan villagers and soldiers on Friday and Saturday, will help determine whether Bales faces a court martial on 16 counts of premeditated murder.

Bales is accused of leaving Camp Belambay in Kandahar province last March to slaughter civilians during a pre-dawn attack on two nearby villages.

Bigham said he saw Bales at the air field following the killings and that he seemed to want to confess. But Bales had invoked his right to remain silent, and Bigham told him not to talk to him.

Bales had been stationed at the remote outpost at Belambay because he was considered tough enough to handle the assignment, Bigham testified.

Other soldiers have testified that Bales made a mid-massacre confession, asked for help bleaching his blood-stained clothing and deliberately destroyed his laptop computer.

Bales' statements and actions show he knew what he was doing the night 16 civilians were slaughtered, prosecutors say.

The remarks could pose a high hurdle for defense lawyers who have indicated that Bales' mental health will be a big part of their case.

Bales, a 39-year-old father of two from Lake Tapps, Wash., also faces six counts of attempted murder in the March 11 attack on the villages of Balandi and Alkozai, which counted nine children among its victims.

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