SEATAC, Wash. -- The wife of the Joint Base Lewis-McChord soldier accused of killing 17 Afghan civilians spoke publicly for the first time Sunday in the city of SeaTac.
In an exclusive interview with NBC's Matt Lauer on Monday's Today show, the wife of Staff Sgt. Robert Bales opened up about her husband, the man at the center of the Afghan massacre investigation.
“I don’t think anything will change my mind in believing he did not do this,” said Karilyn Bales. “This is not what it appears to be.”
U.S. officials accuse her husband, a 38-year-old from Lake Tapps, of using his 9mm pistol and M-4 rifle to kill Afghan civilians -- four men, four women, two boys and seven girls - then burning some of the bodies on March 11. Bales was formally charged Friday with 17 counts of premeditated murder and other crimes.
Karilyn Bales said the accusations are "unbelievable."
Matt Lauer: When I asked what kind of dad he was, you said he was so involved with his children. He loves children?
Karilyn Bales: He loves children. He is like a big kid himself...It is unbelievable to me. I have no idea what happened, but he would not - he loves children. He would not do that.
Karilyn told Lauer why her husband became a soldier after the terror attacks on September 11, 2001.
"His reasons for joining the military and the Army were to protect his family and friends (they) were his top priority, but also his country," said Karilyn. "And so he joined the Army after the 2001 attacks to protect his family, friends and his country. He wanted to do his part."
Karilyn said none of what her husband is accused of makes sense, and are not the actions of the man she knows.
Matt Lauer: How would you describe him?
Marilyn Bales: Very brave, very courageous.
Bales was on his fourth tour of duty in a war zone, having served three tours in Iraq, where he suffered a head injury and a foot injury. His civilian attorney, John Henry Browne, had said the soldier and his family had thought he was done fighting.
"It was a big shock because we weren't on the schedule to be deployed again, to be honest with you. He didn't want to miss out on any more of his kids' life," said Karilyn.
She said she feels her husband was mentally fit when he was deployed. He never told her about the traumatic brain injury he suffered while in Iraq, until he returned home.
Matt Lauer: There have been some reports, Kari, that during his deployment in Iraq, there were two injuries. All right, he suffered what was called a brain injury. A traumatic brain injury. What can you tell me about that.
Karilyn Bales: The only time I ever heard about any of those things was after he got back. He kept a lot of it from me.
Matt Lauer: He suffered a traumatic brain injury. You're his wife by that point. He's communicating with you on a regular basis, and you never heard about it?
Karilyn Bales: No. Nope, not until he came back and said that he, you know, had been blown up. He shielded me from a lot of what he went through. He's a very tough guy.
Lauer asked whether her husband showed signs of PTSD.
Karilyn Bales: I don't know a lot about the symptoms of PTSD, so I wouldn't know. He doesn't have nightmares, you know, things like that. No dreams.
Matt Lauer: Trouble concentrating, erratic behavior shifts, anything like that?
Karilyn Bales: No.
U.S. investigators have said they believe Bales killed in two episodes, returning to his base after the first attack and later slipping away to kill again. He is reported to have surrendered without a struggle.
Karilyn said she has spoken to her husband by telephone twice since he was detained. The soldier called his wife first from overseas shortly after massacre, and then last week from Fort Leavenworth.
They didn't talk about what happened.
"Not on the monitored phone call. So we couldn't discuss those details. He was - seemed a bit confused. As to where he was and why he was there," she said.
She said he'll probably tell her about it when they meet.
For their safety, Karilyn Bales and her family were moved on post at Joint Base Lewis-MChord. Robert Bales remains in solitary confinement at a military prison in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.
Further legal proceedings will be held at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, but the Army said they have no plans on moving Bales back to Western Washington anytime soon.
You can hear Matt Lauer's full exclusive interview with the wife of Staff Sgt. Robert Bales on Monday morning on the Today show, with more coverage Monday evening on NBC Nightly News. Both air on KING 5.
Karilyn Bales said the family has set up a fund to help pay for what's expected to be a very expensive trial: The Staff Sergeant Robert Bales Legal Defense Fund, PO Box 2774, Seattle, WA 98111.
KING 5's Jim Forman, Jake Whittenberg and the Associated Press contributed to this report.