NORFOLK, Va. — Michelle Melgar knew her husband was dead before the chaplain showed up at her door.
Army Special Forces Staff Sgt. Logan Melgar was on a difficult deployment to Mali. He told his wife that the Navy SEALs he was working with were acting juvenile and immature.
One morning in June 2017, she woke up and saw that her husband had not texted her. That was extremely unusual.
She texted him “Are you OK?” but received no reply. She got nervous and texted him again. When he didn't reply, she got dressed and waited for her husband's colleagues from Special Forces to officially tell her that he was gone. They showed up soon after Melgar was confirmed dead on June 4, 2017, the result of an attack by four of his special operations colleagues in what has been described as a hazing incident.
On Thursday, one of the four U.S. service members accused of killing Staff Sgt. Melgar apologized to her in person while waiting to learn how long he would spend in prison.
Navy Chief Special Warfare Operator Adam Matthews spoke to Michelle Melgar during a break in his special court-martial at Naval Station Norfolk, Virginia, said former Special Forces Chief Warrant Officer 3 J.P. Cervantes, a Melgar family spokesman.
“He was very sincere in his apology,” Cervantes told Task & Purpose on Friday. “It was a big relief for her. It was something that she needed to do to face him and say: 'Why did you do it?' It was a milestone that she needed to get through and she did and she feels so much better now.”
Matthews is the first service member involved in Melgar's death to go to court-martial. He pleaded guilty on Thursday to hazing, assault consummated by battery, unlawful entry, obstruction of justice, and conspiracy to commit assault. As part of his pretrial agreement with prosecutors, charges of murder and involuntary manslaughter will be dismissed as long as he continues to cooperate with the investigation and prosecution of other suspects.
“I have strived throughout my life to hold myself to the highest standards of our nation, and on June 4, 2017, the Navy expected me to lead,” Matthews said in court. “I am tormented by my complacency at a time when my teammates required guidance, and the situation demanded bold, corrective action.”
He was sentenced to one year in prison, reduction in rank to E-5, and a bad conduct discharge. However, the military judge in the case recommended that Matthews receive a non-punitive discharge if he testifies against other suspects and if the Melgar family approves.
In a statement provided to Task & Purpose on Friday, Michelle Melgar said she was satisfied with Matthews' punishment.
“The sentence for Adam Matthews is appropriate and just,” she said. “I, along with the prosecutors, offered him exactly what the judge sentenced him to in exchange for the truth and cooperation against all those involved. I look forward to this matter being resolved as quickly as possible; I want to sincerely thank Adam Matthews for his apology, accepting responsibility, and coming forward with the truth.”
At his court-martial on Thursday, Matthews admitted that he broke into Melgar's room on along with three other U.S. service members – Navy Special Operations Chief Tony DeDolph and Marine Raiders Gunnery Sgt. Mario Madera-Rodriguez and Staff Sgt. Kevin Maxwell Jr. – and an unnamed British special operator.
They were there to duct tape Melgar and make an embarrassing video of him to correct his perceived behavior problem, Matthews said. The attack was approved by both DeDloph, Melgar's site leader, and Army Sgt. 1st Class Jamie Morris, his team leader.
Matthews also claimed that binding people with duct tape is “a form of remediation” in the special warfare community, but he did not elaborate on any other times when the technique was used.
After resisting his attackers for several minutes, Melgar stopped breathing, Matthews said.
In an attempt to cover up Melgar's death, DeDolph said they had been wrestling with him when he died, but Matthews and Melgar later acknowledged what had actually happened in court documents, the Washington Post first reported.
“There is no justification for the tragic, avoidable death of Staff Sgt. Melgar,” Matthews said on Thursday. “His life should under no circumstances have been placed in jeopardy, and though it was never my intention to harm him, I should have used better judgment when assessing the risk to his well-being. Words cannot express how deeply I regret these events and how remorseful I am. I have carried the weight of Staff Sgt. Melgar's death every minute of every day since that night in Mali.”
Before she met Matthews, Michelle Melgar read a statement in court saying she forgave him and she is sad for what his family is going through because of his “reckless choices that have cost you your career and my husband's life.”
“You finally coming forward was the beginning of the end of this mess, and for that I am grateful,” she said. “This has been a nightmare that I would never wish on anyone. I have hurt enough for everyone, and I am so very sorry that your family will now have to hurt in a similar way as I have.”
She also said she did not care how long Matthews went to prison because no amount of jail time could bring her husband back.
“The important thing to me is that you are no longer in a position to ever do this to another service member and that you are no longer wearing the Trident that so many others wear honorably and with pride,” Michelle Melgar said.