Fayette County group rallies for husband of Connellsville native, former Green Beret facing murder charges
Family members from Western Pennsylvania joined President Trump in rallying around a former Green Beret and Afghanistan War veteran who is facing murder charges for killing a suspected Taliban bomb maker in February 2010.
The case drew Trump’s attention after Army Maj. Mathew L. Golsteyn’s wife, Julie Ruck Golsteyn, a Fayette County native and 2001 graduate of Connellsville Area High School, appeared Sunday morning on Fox News to plead her husband’s case.
Army officials last week notified Golsteyn, a decorated Special Forces officer, that he was being recalled to active duty and faces one charge of murder in the complex case that dates to 2011, when he reportedly confessed to the killing during a polygraph test that was part of a CIA job interview.
The Washington Post reported that confession prompted an Army investigation that ended in 2015, when Golsteyn was dropped from the Special Forces and stripped of the Silver Star he’d been awarded for his service in Afghanistan. He was subsequently given a general discharge under honorable conditions.
In 2016, Golsteyn went on Fox News and — speaking of the complex rules of engagement in Afghanistan — told how he had shot and killed a suspected Taliban bomb maker who killed two men in his unit and wounded several others. That apparently prompted a new investigation of the circumstances surrounding the killing.
Through it all, his wife has stood beside him, calling allegations that the 2002 West Point graduate could be a cold-blooded killer “disgusting.”
“He was lucky enough to survive the war. But he has come home to be charged with premeditated murder by his own government. … It would be laughable were it not so serious,” Julie Ruck Golsteyn told Fox News. “It’s been humbling to feel the love and support from people all over this country who know him and served with him.”
Trump subsequently tweeted that he plans to look into Golsteyn’s case.
“At the request of many, I will be reviewing the case of a ‘U.S. Military hero,’ Major Matt Golsteyn, who is charged with murder,” Trump tweeted. “He could face the death penalty from our own government after he admitted to killing a Terrorist bomb maker while overseas.”
The case remains under investigation, with the military equivalent of a preliminary hearing expected next year to review evidence. Family members said they were told the Army has 120 days to act.
Back in Julie Ruck Golsteyn’s hometown, her former high school homeroom teacher Linda Shearer has been rallying support for the couple, who have a 2-month-old baby. Shearer founded the Connellsville-based nonprofit CAHS Patriots to provide support for the region’s veterans and active military members. She said she learned of Golsteyn’s plight when Julie’s uncle, Paul Trafficante, sent her a text message Saturday.
“I put it up on my Facebook. It was just something I felt we all needed to get the word out about. I have no one in the military and never have. But they are all mine,” Shearer said.
She said friends have been stepping up in support of Golsteyn and sharing the message.
Trafficante, a Connellsville native who lives near Tampa, Fla., said his niece and her husband thought the 2010 incident was behind them after the initial Army investigation.
Now Trafficante is among those asking friends and family to reach out in support of Golsteyn. He said her family in Fayette County is grateful for those who have stepped up to support them.
Asked about Trump’s promise to review the case, Trafficante was torn.
“In a way, I hope he does, but I’d prefer they go through the Army (Article 32 hearing) and there is nothing there. Since he’s not guilty, I’d prefer them to say that,” Trafficante said.
The Washington Post contributed to this report. Deb Erdley is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Deb at 412-320-7996, firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @deberdley_trib.