Trent D. Thomas was born in 1982. He grew up in St Louis, Illinois in the United States. As a teenager, he lived with his younger sister and their mother in Madison, Illinois in an abandoned house. After about five or six months of living with no utilities, he moved in with a family friend and his sister moved in with a relative of that friend. Thomas worked at a fast food restaurant to help out his mother, who had two jobs. Thomas grew up with a strong Christian faith and his friends nicknamed him “Rev.” He graduated from Venice High School in 2001. After his sister won a scholarship to Messenger Bible College in Missouri, Thomas spent a semester and a half at the same college, mainly doing religious studies. Having always been interested in becoming a Marine, he left college to enlist and completed boot camp and infantry school at Camp Pendleton. He served three tours in Iraq, experiencing in the second the battle for Fallujah in November 2004. Thomas was hit by shrapnel and received a Purple Heart. Thomas has a wife called Erica and they have two young children. In 2008 Thomas was still on unpaid leave from the US Army. His current status is not known.
Thomas was on his third tour in Iraq and was among a group of seven US Marines and a Navy Corpsman (Corporal Marshall L. Magincalda, Lance Corporal Robert B. Pennington, Navy Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class Melson J. Bacos, Sergeant Lawrence G. Hutchins III, Lance Corporal Jerry E. Shumate Jr., Private First Class John J. Jodka and Lance Corporal Tyler A. Jackson) who were alleged to have taken Hashim Ibrahim Awad from his house in Hamdania and shot him in the night of 26 April 2006. Awad’s family members say that at around 02:00, US Marines were going from house to house in the small village of Hamdania (also spelt “Hamdaniya”), west of Baghdad near Abu Ghraib, pounding on people’s doors. Whilst at the house of the family of Awad’s cousin, the Marines took an AK47 rifle and a shovel. The US Marines were later seen taking Awad from his house by the arms. Gunshots were heard about half an hour later. Awad had eleven children and was a disabled police officer and was known as “Hashim the Lame” because of the metal bar that was surgically implanted in his leg after being injured in the war with Iran in the 1980s. In the morning the family was informed by local police that Awad had been shot to death and left in a hole by the side of the road. The AK47 and shovel had been left beside him, presumably to look as though he had been digging a hole to plant a bomb.
According to Awad’s family, Awad had been approached by US military personnel who wanted him to become an informant, which he had refused to do. At trial, Thomas testified that on 26 April 2006 the group had decided to kill Saleh Gowad, a known insurgent. When they failed to find Gowad, they intentionally abducted another man, Awad.
The US Marines were initially detained at Camp Fallujah in Iraq and then Camp Pendleton, San Diego County, California. Thomas was put in shackles and chains and taken to the Camp Pendleton brig on 24 May 2006.