The Edmond Sun

February 12, 2014

Girlfriend: Edmond soldier to be freed next month

Mark Schlachtenhaufen
The Edmond Sun

EDMOND — Shannon Whal, Michael Behenna’s longtime girlfriend, was anxiously awaiting a special moment. In just a month’s time she will be able to see her beloved set free.

Michael Behenna, 30, is serving a 15-year sentence after being convicted of unpremeditated murder in the killing of an Iraqi national in 2008. The Edmond solider testified that he acted in self defense while on mission in Iraq.

Earlier Wednesday morning, Whal learned from Michael’s mother Vicki Behenna via a phone call that he has been granted parole and will be released March 14 from the U.S. Disciplinary Barracks at Fort Leavenworth.

“I just lost it,” Whal said of her reaction when she heard the news. “It’s uncontrollable joy right now.”

In July 2008, the U.S. Army charged 1st Lt. Behenna with premeditated murder in the death of a purported Al Qaeda operative. The charge was amended to unpremeditated murder. Whal said the family is hoping to have Michael exonerated.

Without parole or a new trial, Behenna would have been freed when he is 40 years old, according to family members.

Thousands across the nation have followed Behenna’s story as his family has worked through various appeals processes and simultaneously sought clemency. Many Oklahoma leaders have written letters on Behenna’s behalf or lobbied in support of him, including Gov. Mary Fallin.

“I am glad this long ordeal has finally come to an end for Michael Behenna and his family,” Fallin said in a statement issued Wednesday. “Michael went to Iraq to serve his nation and to defend liberty both here and abroad. Instead, he found himself mourning the loss of his friends from the inside of a cell.

“I believe the Army acted appropriately and compassionately in offering him parole.” 

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