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Soldier guilty of lesser charge in base death

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FORT CAMPBELL, Ky. -- A soldier pleaded guilty to a reduced charge Saturday in the killing of a barracks mate, beaten to death in his sleep, who had been rumored to be gay.

Army Spc. Justin R. Fisher, 26, admitted he lied to military investigators and obstructed the investigation when he wiped blood from a baseball bat that Pvt. Calvin Glover used to kill Pfc. Barry Winchell.Under a plea agreement, the Army dropped other charges, including participating as a principal to premeditated murder and acting as an accessory after the fact.

Fisher's court-martial trial had been scheduled to start Saturday.

Fisher, of Lincoln, Neb., faced the possibility of a 20-year prison sentence.

Winchell was killed while he slept in his cot at Fort Campbell. Rumors had circulated on the post that the 21-year-old soldier from Kansas City, Mo., was gay, and prosecutors said Glover was driven by hatred of homosexuals.

The killing led to criticism by gay-rights groups and by Winchell's parents of the Pentagon's policy on homosexuals in the military. Under the policy known as "don't ask, don't tell," gay members of the military can continue to serve as long as they keep their sexual orientation to themselves.

"We knew Barry could be deployed and come into harm's way for our country. We never dreamed that he would be killed by labeling, prejudice and hatred at home," his parents, Pat and Wally Kutteles, said after Glover's conviction last month. " 'Don't ask, don't tell, don't pursue' did not protect our son. It won't protect anyone else's child. This policy must end."