Man accused in plot that killed 5 American soldiers may only serve 26 years in prison

Johnson keeps a shrine for her late son in her home. (Source: WAVE 3 News)
Johnson keeps a shrine for her late son in her home. (Source: WAVE 3 News)
Becky Manning Woods Johnson wants the man responsible for her son's death to go to prison for life. (Source: WAVE 3 News)
Becky Manning Woods Johnson wants the man responsible for her son's death to go to prison for life. (Source: WAVE 3 News)
These are the other four soldiers killed alongside Woods. (Source: WAVE 3 News)
These are the other four soldiers killed alongside Woods. (Source: WAVE 3 News)

ELIZABETHTOWN, KY (WAVE) - Inside an Elizabethtown mother's home, you'll find a shrine to her late son: Staff Sergeant Gary Lee Woods.

"Some people might think it's strange, but it gives me pride to look at this," the soldier's mother, Becky Manning Woods Johnson told us. "24-years-old. That's too young to be dying."

In 2009, her son and four other American Soldiers were killed in Mosul, Iraq.

Lee was riding in a convoy just outside the U.S. Military's Forward Operating Base -- Marez, when a bomb went off. Woods' vehicle was closest to that of the suicide bombers. The blast also killed two Iraqis and left a 60-foot crater, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.

"My life has been a living hell ever since then," Johnson said.

Adding to her grief, there's anger.

>> PREVIOUS STORY: A military mother's quest for justice

Faruk Khalil Muhammad 'Isa pleaded guilty to conspiring to kill Americans this month. In an interrogation, he admitted to emailing Tunisian Jihadists. But he may only serve 26 years behind bars as part of a deal crafted out of concerns for evidence.

"So what you're telling me is, I get the life sentence and he only serves 26 years?" Johnson asked incredulously. "It's wrong. In every sense of the word, it's wrong."

Faruk Khalil Muhammad 'Isa, also known as Sayfildin Tahir Sharif, had been arrested in Edmonton, Canada on an American warrant. The investigation into 'Isa was credited as an international effort between U.S., Canadian and Tunisian authorities.

Canadian officials had authorized 'Isa's phone be wiretapped. Investigators site multiple phone conversations in which he spoke of recruiting suicide bombers from Tunisia.

The day after the April attack, 'Isa is accused of commending the bomber who carried it out.

"Praise God, may God acknowledge him," 'Isa is quoted as saying in the indictment.

'Isa was born in Iraq, but was a Canadian citizen. His extradition case went before the Canadian Supreme Court. They decided not to hear his case, clearing the path for his extradition to the United States.

His case then began in the United States District Court in Brooklyn, New York. As part of the extradition negotiations, 'Isa would not face the death penalty if convicted, but rather a maximum sentence of life in prison.

Johnson now waits for his sentencing, which is expected to happen in just a couple of months. That's when she'll have a chance to convince the judge to hand down a life sentence instead.

"I plan to tell her what a great kid I had, how perfect he was and how young he was," she said.

Woods grew up in Lebanon Junction where he played in the Bullitt Central High School band before graduating in 2002. He was a huge UK fan.

He signed up for the Army not long after graduation. Woods' basic training was completed at Fort Knox where he graduated as a 19K Tanker in June 2003. He was on his third deployment to Iraq when the attack happened.

The four other American soldiers killed in the attack are Sergeant First Class Bryan E. Hall, 32, of Elk Grove, California; Sergeant Edward W. Forrest Jr., 25, of St. Louis, Missouri; Corporal Jason G. Pautsch, 20, of Davenport, Iowa; and Army Private First Class Bryce E. Gautier, 22, of Cypress, California.

Johnson is hoping people will write to the judge about this case at:

Judge Roslynn R. Mauskopf
United States District Court
225 Cadman Plz E.
Brooklyn, NY 11201

This weekend, we'll share another story about how Johnson is keeping her son's memory alive by helping other soldiers.

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