LAKE TAPPS, Wash. - A fuller picture is emerging of the financial and legal troubles borne by a soldier suspected of gunning down 16 civilians in an Afghan war zone.
Court records and interviews show Staff Sgt. Robert Bales had joined the Army after a Florida investment job went sour, had a Seattle-area home condemned, struggled to make payments on another and failed to get a promotion or a transfer a year ago.
His legal troubles included charges that he assaulted a girlfriend and, in a hit-and run accident, ran bleeding in military clothes into the woods.
Court records show he told police he fell asleep at the wheel and paid a fine to get the charges dismissed.
In his Lake Tapps neighborhood, Matt Llewellyn recalls finding the family's dog and safely returning it to a grateful Bales.
"Just thank you so much, my kids missed this dog, I don't know how it got out. Thank you so much for saving him. Just a real tragedy, really," said Llewellyn.
Bales joined the military after 9/11.
"So he felt that he needed something bigger in his heart and his mind and his soul, that's why he went into the military," said childhood friend Steve Berling.
His 11-year military career hit a bump last year. The New York Times posted a clip from a blog written by Bales' wife. expressing disappointment he was not promoted last year.
In addition to their Lake Tapps home, Bales and his wife own a house in Auburn, abandoned now for about 2 years. A "do not occupy" sign hangs on the door and frustrated neighbors point to auto parts left out front.
But all of it seems minor compared with the massacre he's now accused of committing.
"Obviously, something happened, because he was nice as heck when I was there,” said Llewellyn.
Bales hasn't been charged yet in the March 11 shootings and is being held at Fort Leavenworth, Kan.'s military prison.