Ft. Bragg soldier sentenced to 30 years in Panama woman’s murder

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Omar Velez-Pagan_162143

FORT BRAGG, N.C. (WNCN) — A Fort Bragg soldier was sentenced to 30 years in prison on Tuesday a day after a military panel found him guilty of unpremeditated murder in the death of a Panama woman in 2014.

Omar Velez-Pagan, a Master Sergeant in the Army, was stationed in Panama in June 2014 when 25-year-old Vanessa Rodriguez was killed.

Velez could have faced up to life in prison without the possibility of parole — but instead was sentenced to 30 years in prison on Tuesday, authorities say.

In addition to the prison sentence, Velez-Pagan will have a reduction in rank to private, forfeiture of all pay and allowances and a dishonorable discharge from the U.S. Army, officials said.

Prosecutors alleged that Velez-Pagan hit Rodriquez with a vehicle, killing her in Panama. They also say that he hit her in the head with “a force likely to produce death or grievous bodily harm.”

After Rodriguez was killed on June 22, 2014, Velez-Pagan then hid her body, according to charging documents from the US Army.

A military jury returned the verdict against Velez-Pagan after about two hours of deliberations on Monday, US Army officials said.

Also Monday, he was found not guilty of aggravated assault but was convicted of the lesser charge of assault consummated by battery, military officials said.

Last week, Velez-Pagan pleaded guilty to wrongful use, wrongful possession of a controlled substance, violation of adultery and obstructing justice.

That day, the courtroom was packed and overflowing with family and supporters of Rodriguez.

Velez-Pagan’s sentence also including 828 days of confinement credit.

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