Spc. Brandon Bare returned from Iraq in April, sidelined by a wound that earned him a Purple Heart. Yesterday, the Army charged the 19-year-old...

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Spc. Brandon Bare returned from Iraq in April, sidelined by a wound that earned him a Purple Heart.

Yesterday, the Army charged the 19-year-old Fort Lewis soldier with the premeditated murder of his 18-year-old wife.

Nabila Bare’s body was found Tuesday in the couple’s apartment in the Clarkdale Housing area of the base.

Army officials took her husband into custody that same day. No details were released about how Nabila Bare was killed.

This is the third time in the past two years that a Washington-based soldier back from Iraq has been accused of killing his wife.

The slaying comes as Fort Lewis has stepped up efforts to ease the strains on soldiers as they depart for — and return from — combat tours of duty.

“We have had increases in domestic violence after they [soldiers] return, but also prior to deployment as people start sorting out how they feel about their relationship,” said Billie Stewart, the family-advocacy manager at Fort Lewis. “I think that this is probably true with most installations. It’s not unique to us.”

Stewart said Bare was not involved in any of the base’s family-advocacy programs aimed at preventing domestic violence. She said Bare was involved in a separate program that offers counseling and other treatment through the Behavioral Health Department of Madigan Army Medical Center.

Stewart didn’t specify what type of services Bare received.

Fort Lewis, located south of Tacoma, has more than 26,700 soldiers, with another 13,200 family members living in base housing. In recent years, many Fort Lewis soldiers have been deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan.

Bare, an infantryman from Wilkesboro, N.C., is assigned to the 5th Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade, 25th Infantry Division. The division was sent last November to the volatile northern Iraq city of Mosul.

Members of the brigade, who patrol in eight-wheeled Stryker vehicles, have been in the thick of combat and suffered hundreds of casualties. Fort Lewis officials yesterday said that Bare sustained injuries in March that led to his early return to the base, where he was reassigned.

Officials declined to offer details on the killing, other than to stress that this is “merely an accusation and the accused is presumed innocent until proven guilty.”

Miguel Angel Lorian, who helped raise Bare in North Carolina, said that he suffered head injuries in Iraq after being thrown from a vehicle by a bomb explosion.

Since his return, Bare has had hearing difficulties and other problems related to the injury, according to Lorian, the former husband of Bare’s mother. “He came back here about a month ago to visit, and he was different. He was not all right,” Lorian said.

As Bare and other soldiers return from Iraq, they get numerous briefings about the possible difficulties they face in readjusting to domestic life back on base.

The family-advocacy program, which this year boosted its staff from 14 to 19 people, is involved in education and prevention. It offers aid to people who might be vulnerable to domestic violence, and also helps victims deal with child custody, divorce and other issues.

“We have a lot of good programs for the families and soldiers,” Stewart said. “Some of them take advantage of it. But do all of them — no.”

The risks of domestic violence at Army bases were underscored by four homicides in 2002 involving active-duty soldiers and their spouses at Fort Bragg, N.C. Those cases led to an extensive Army review that concluded the Army should do more to support soldiers and their families.

Stewart said Fort Lewis closely tracks all cases of domestic violence and does a good job of identifying many problems before they become too serious.

Bare’s slaying appears to be the first on base property for at least five years, according to Army officials.

On two other occasions, Washington-based soldiers who returned to Iraq through Fort Lewis were convicted of killing their spouses off base.

In February, Sgt. Matthew Denni, a southwest Washington Army reservist, was convicted of second-degree murder for the November 2003 shooting of his wife, Kimberly Denni.

Prosecutors had sought to convict him of first-degree murder. But the jury convicted him of second-degree murder — meaning that the killing was not premeditated. Defense attorneys argued that Denni’s violent experiences in Iraq might have helped trigger the crime of passion.

This spring, Sgt. 1st Class James Pitts, a Fort Lewis soldier who had served in Iraq, was convicted of first-degree murder for the bathroom drowning of his wife, Tara Pitts, off base.

Since the death of Nabila Bare occurred on base, Brandon Bare will be tried under military law.

Hal Bernton: 206-464-2581 or hbernton@seattletimes.com

Researchers Miyoko Wolf and David Turim contributed to this report.