Wife of convicted Blackwater contractor says her husband is innocent

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MARYVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) -- A Maryville man is one of the Blackwater contractors convicted of manslaughter from 2007 in Iraq. But his wife says he did nothing wrong.

Dustin Heard is a former Marine who spent time as a private security guard working for the former Blackwater Worldwide company. Heard is one of four men who were convicted of manslaughter this past Monday stemming from an incident in Baghdad in 2007.

Heard's wife, Kelli, says her husband did nothing wrong and was only following orders.

"Every day in trail it seemed everything the prosecution said was more a testament to what our men had done correctly," Heard explained. "The evidence is there. The evidence proves that they, the four men, did what they had to do and did not use excessive force."

Heard said she believes her husband and the three others, Evan Liberty, Nicholas Slatten, and Paul Slough acted within their duties by returning fire from Iraqi citizens who were firing on the four men's car. Throughout the course of the trial, prosecutors said that one man, Slatten, was the first to open fire on unarmed citizens while the other three then opened up and killed 17.

Kelli Heard said there is no way that is true and can't believe her husband is now facing 30 years in prison.

"It was a complete shock to me considering all the evidence that supports that they followed the rules of engagement. Especially my husband," she said.

Heard said that key evidence was not reported during the trial. She explained that key pictures were not shown to the jury, and that there were spent AK-47 shells laying on the ground to prove that the four men were taking on fire. She also said her husband had a burn mark on his arm from where a bullet grazed him, but it was never tested to see if it came from an Iraqi weapon.

Heard said she is trying to stay strong for her husband, but is having a difficult time believing in the judicial system.

"The fact that the government of this country could treat men who served so honorably, who when they said we need you to go, they went...That a country could sit by and watch their veterans be treated so abominably, it's something that can destroy your soul," she said.

But Heard hasn't given up. She is a part of a group called Support Raven 23, named after the four men's tactical operation while in Baghdad. Heard and several others are trying to spread the word that there is more to the story that what has been reported. She knows her husband is a man who would not simply kill an innocent person without regard.

"This is not just my husband. This is a father who took every day to tell his kids he loved them. This is a friend who was the first one to offer assistance when another friend needed help. This is a son who took every opportunity he had to see his family, to take care of his family...He's a lot more than the man they painted him to be. Most of all he is an honorable veteran who served his country," Heard said.