Afghanistan Contractor Pleads Guilty to Killing Man Who Burned Co-Worker

By Martin Weil
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, February 4, 2009

A civilian contractor pleaded guilty yesterday to voluntary manslaughter in the killing in Afghanistan of a man who set the contractor's co-worker on fire, prosecutors said.

Don M. Ayala had been charged in federal court in Alexandria with second-degree murder in the Nov. 4 incident. According to the U.S. attorney's office, it took place in the village of Chehel Gazi, where Ayala and co-worker Paula Loyd were on a walking patrol with an Army platoon.

According to the prosecutor's office, Abdul Salam, an Afghan, doused Loyd with gasoline and ignited it. He fled, but Ayala and several U.S. soldiers tackled and restrained him, prosecutors said.

Minutes later, after Ayala was told of Loyd's condition and while Salam was still restrained, Ayala shot him in the head, according to the prosecutors' statement. Salam was killed instantly, the prosecutors said.

Loyd, 36, who was burned over 60 percent of her body, was taken to Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio. She died of her wounds there Jan. 7, the prosecutors said.

Court documents said Ayala, who is from New Orleans, began work Sept. 1 for Rockville-based BAE Systems. According to the documents, Ayala, a U.S. Army veteran in his 40s, at one time had provided personal security for top Iraqi and Afghan leaders while employed by companies that were not identified.

Sentencing is set for May 8, and the maximum penalty is 15 years.

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