Cpl Ciara Durkin, US Army, Died from a Non Combat Related Incident in Afghanistan, Death Ruled Suicide But Ciara Asked Family to Investigate if Anything Happened While Serving (2007)

Honoring Spc Ciara Durkin @USArmy (2006)

Cpl Ciara Durkin, US Army

Cpl. Ciara Durkin, US Army, died from a non combat related incident in Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan on September 28, 2007. Cpl. Durkin was supporting Operation Enduring Freedom on behalf of the 726th Finance Battalion, Massachusetts Army National Guard in West Newton, Massachusetts. According to the Department of Defense, the circumstances surrounding the incident were under investigation at the time of the press release. Ciara was found dead near a chapel on a secure base with a gunshot wound to the head about an hour and a half after leaving work on a Friday. The cause of death was ruled a suicide by Army investigators. According to media reports, the family believes Ciara’s death is suspicious because she shared in an e-mail that in her Finance role, she uncovered some things she didn’t like and feared she made some enemies. She asked her family to investigate if anything were to happen to her while she was serving. Ciara’s brother indicated that Ciara had left a happy birthday message for him on the day that she died. He said she sounded heartbreakingly upbeat. The family announced they were going to commission an independent autopsy and were demanding answers from the military with the assistance of then Senator John Kerry (D-MA). They told CBS News that initially they had been told that she was killed in action then later the manner of death was changed to non combat related injuries. After the e-mails, warnings, and other observations, the family rightfully feared Ciara had been murdered. They were not sure what the motive was but they speculated that it could be because of what she uncovered in the Finance office and/or a hate crime. The family feared that Ciara’s sexual orientation played a role in her death as well. In media reports, the family expressed that their grief is made more torturous by the limited information released by the Army, and rumors. They shared that misinformation following the deaths or injuries of service members does not help them with remembrances of their loved one during a time of grief. Like most families who have lost a loved one, they want to know what happened and they want to know the truth.

Most frustrating to the family, the Army is offering very little information and no explanations…Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., who has been helping the family, says it’s not enough and he and is demanding answers. In a letter to Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Kerry asked why the family had not been given autopsy results and why the Army hadn’t answered the family’s request for an independent autopsy. –ABC News

Related Links:
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Army: Ciara Durkin’s death a suicide
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Ciara Durkin: Lesbian soldier suspiciously shot dead in Afghanistan; Army calls it a suicide
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Army Veteran Kirby Archer Commits String of Crimes After Dishonorable Discharge Including Four Murders in an Attempt to Flee to Cuba (2007)

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Kirby Archer, US Army Veteran

Army veteran Kirby Archer and Guillermo Zarabozo offered to pay a Miami, Florida based charter company $4000 to take them to Bimini to meet up with their girlfriends. The Joe Cool agreed and the two headed out with Jake Branam, Kelley Branam, Scott Gamble, and Samuel Kairy. When they didn’t return home on Sunday, their families began to worry. They eventually contacted the United States Coast Guard for assistance with locating them. The USCG found the boat off the coast of Cuba, 140 miles off course. They also found two survivors: Archer and Zarabozo. The two claimed to be victims of crimes. They said the boat had been hijacked and the other four were shot. They claimed their lives were spared because they knew Spanish and were asked to drive the boat until it ran out of gas. Both the USCG and the Federal Bureau of Investigation got involved with this case. They learned that Kirby Archer was dishonorably discharged from the Army after he went Absent Without Leave (AWOL). He was arrested for child sexual abuse and was on the run after stealing money from his place of employment. It is believed that he met Zarabozo at Guantanamo Bay where Archer was once assigned; Zarabozo was a child refugee. They made plans to flee to Cuba and used the Joe Cool to execute the plan. Both of them were arrested for lying to federal agents. After Zarabozo’s home was searched, they found shell casings that matched those found on the boat. They also observed that Zarabozo’s 9 mm was not in the case and unaccounted for. Both Archer and Zarabozo were charged with sixteen counts including four murders. There was no body and no murder weapons so it was considered a circumstantial case. The defendants turned on each other but the prosecutors were able to show how it took both men to commit the crimes against the four individuals on the boat. There were two guns used in the commission of the crimes, therefore both were involved. Archer and Zarabozo were sentenced to five consecutive life terms. The Joe Cool slip is empty to this day. Jake and Kelley Branam’s children are living with her sister in Washington.

Related Links:
Murder on the High Seas
U.S. Coast Guard Seeks Four Missing Boaters Headed for Bimini Islands
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Lost at Sea
Charley Project: Kelly Branam
Charley Project: Jake Branam
Charley Project: Scott Gamble
Murder in Paradise: Hook, Line and Murder (YouTube)
Fatal Encounters: Fatal Voyage (YouTube)
Murder on the High Seas: The True Story of the Joe Cool’s Tragic Final Voyage


The crew of a luxury charter yacht falls prey to a fugitive’s cold-blooded escape plan en route to Bimini, a remote Bahamian paradise in the Bermuda Triangle. -Discovery ID

Capt Roselle Hoffmaster, US Army (2007)

Honoring Captain Roselle Hoffmaster @USArmy (2007)

Capt Roselle Hoffmaster, 32, Doctor, US Army, Sept 2007

Non-Combat Death in Iraq; Gunshot Wound; Incident Under Investigation; Death Ruled Suicide; Family Questions Ruling of Suicide

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Honor and Dishonor: The trials of Sgt. Brent Burke

HBrent Burkeonor and Dishonor: The trials of Sgt. Brent Burke

Sergeant Brent Burke earned his stripes at Fort Campbell, Kentucky — home base for his division, the legendary 101st Airborne. Once under the command of former General David Petraeus, the soldiers of the 101st have seen more action than most soldiers in the U.S. Army. It is also where Sgt. Burke will learn if he will continue to serve in the Army, or if he will serve out his life in prison, because military prosecutors in the Army’s Judge Advocate General’s Corps, known as JAG, will court martial Sgt. Brent Burke for double homicide.

“I would say that the tough part of any case like this is the fact that it was four years old … and it was mostly circumstantial evidence and when you put all that together it certainly makes for a difficult case,” JAG prosecutor Lt. Col Matthew Calarco told “48 Hours” correspondent Richard Schlesinger.  Lieutenant Colonel Matt Calarco’s mission, after four civilian trials failed to get a verdict, is to finally prove Sgt. Burke shot and killed his wife, Tracy, and her ex-husband’s mother, Karen Comer, on Sept. 11, 2007.

Read more here.

Spc Marisol Heredia, US Army (2007)

Honoring Marisol Heredia @USArmy (2007)

Spc Marisol Heredia, 19, Petroleum Supply Specialist, US Army, September 7, 2007

Non-Combat Death; Severely burned while refueling a generator in Iraq; Incident Under Investigation; Transferred to Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, Texas; She died of infection because her bodily defenses were seriously compromised due to the extent of her burns.

In war-torn Baghdad, Heredia, who held the rank of Specialist 4, was badly burned in an accident July 18. According to family members, the accident occurred while she was fueling a generator. The incident is under investigation. ~Los Angeles Times

Army Spc. Marisol Heredia
Army Spc. Marisol Heredia, 19, El Monte; dies after being badly burned in Baghdad

Sgt 1st Class David Cooper, US Army, Died of a Non Combat-Related Injury in Baghdad, Iraq (2007)

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Sgt 1st Class David Cooper, US Army

Sgt. 1st Class David Cooper, US Army, died of a non combat related injury in Baghdad, Iraq on September 5, 2007. Sgt. 1st Class Cooper was supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom on behalf of the 2nd Battalion, 23rd Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division in Fort Lewis, Washington. According to the Department of Defense, the incident is under investigation.

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David Cooper, US Army, Arlington National Cemetery