Ft. Bragg soldier found guilty of murdering woman in Panama

Omar Velez-Pagan

FORT BRAGG, N.C. (WNCN) — A Fort Bragg soldier was found guilty on Monday of unpremeditated murder in the death of a woman in Panama in 2014, according to military officials.

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 faces up to life in prison without the possibility of parole, authorities say.

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.”

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.

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

The sentencing phase of the trial will begin Tuesday.

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