Staff Sgt. Robert Bales

Staff Sgt. Robert Bales (U.S. ARMY / August 23, 2011)

Robert Bales, the U.S soldier charged with killing 17 Afghan civilians, loves children and would not have committed the murders he is accused of, his wife said.

"It's unbelievable to me," Karilyn Bales said of the charge that her husband killed nine children and eight adults.

"I have no idea what happened, but he would not -- he loves children, and he would not do that," she told NBC News in an interview, excerpts of which aired Sunday and Monday.

She said she had not asked her husband if he committed the murders because they had spoken only on monitored phone calls.

"We couldn't discuss those details," she said, adding that her husband "seemed a bit confused as to where he was and why he was there."

And she insisted she will stand by him no matter what evidence is presented.

"I don't think anything will really change my mind in believing that he did not do this," she said. "This is not what it appears to be."

Authorities say Bales left his remote outpost in Kandahar province twice on March 11 and went to two nearby villages, where he went house to house gunning down civilians.

They have said that he acted alone, leaving at night and turning himself in when he returned.

In addition to being charged with the 17 counts of murder, for which he could face the death penalty, the staff sergeant also faces charge of wounding six others.

The U.S. government paid $860,000 to the families of victims over the weekend, Afghan officials said -- $50,000 for each of 16 dead, and $10,000 for each of six wounded.

There is some confusion about how many died in the massacre, with Afghan officials initially saying there were 16 fatalities and U.S. military prosecutors accusing Bales of killing 17.

The discrepancy has persisted since Friday, when the charge sheet on Bales listed four women among 17 victims, while initial U.S. and Afghan reports listed three women among 16 dead.

A NATO spokesman, Col. Gary Kolb, said Friday only that investigators assigned to the case felt they had evidence to charge Bales with 17 counts of murder.

On Monday, an Afghan police chief denied press reports that one of the victims was pregnant, implying that the fetus was the 17th victim.

"What the media is reporting is false. We still have 16 people on our death roster. There was no one that was pregnant," Kandahar Province Police Chief Brig. Gen. Abdul Raziq said.

But the commander of the International Security Assistance Force-Afghanistan put the number of dead at 17. "We should not be surprised, as the investigation went forward, that an additional number was added to that," Gen. John R. Allen told reporters Monday at the Pentagon. "As the investigation goes forward, we'll get greater clarity on that."

Pressed to explain the change in the death toll, he said, "We will have to let that come out in the investigation."

U.S. officials confirmed that payment was made Saturday, but would not confirm the amount.

On Monday, two men whose relatives were killed told CNN they refused the money.