HASC Congressional Investigation of Fort Hood: Research Reveals Pattern of Suspicious Deaths and Cover-up (September 11, 2020)

(photo: Hedge Hedge Baker)

Dear House Armed Services Committee:

I accidentally stumbled upon Fort Hood while conducting research on the non combat deaths of female service members overseas. Fort Hood, along with a few other big Army bases in the U.S., was the common denominator in non combat death overseas. I also learned there are countless numbers of non combat deaths of male service members as well. They shouldn’t have to face death as a way to escape their situation (whether they are a victim of crime and/or it’s a mental health emergency). This issue in and of itself is its own animal and the reason we need policy enacted immediately to create a “bug out” plan for those in danger (or mental health emergencies) in overseas locations, especially if the chain of command fails them. There is no 911 overseas. Why is it the military is not accountable to the American public with the outcome of the investigations of a U.S. service member’s death? They conveniently get to hide behind the non combat death label and because they don’t disclose why or how the service member died in most cases, we are not able to make informed consent as to whether we want to join an organization that appears to hide their misdeeds in an effort to protect the reputation of the institution. I was inspired to look into the other non combat deaths of women overseas after learning the military labeled the obvious rape and murder of LaVena Johnson as a suicide. My research found this isn’t an anomaly, this is a pattern.

Non Combat Deaths of Female Soldiers in the US Military (Iraq)
Non Combat Deaths of Female Service Members in the U.S. Military (Afghanistan)
Non Combat Deaths of Female Service Members in the U.S. Military (Other Areas)
Department of Defense Press Releases (2001 to present)
Military Policy and Legislation Considerations for the Investigations of Non Combat Death, Homicide, and Suicide of U.S. Service Members
Fort Campbell Army Pfc. LaVena Johnson Died of Non Combat Related Injuries in Iraq; Death Ruled Suicide But Independent Investigation Revealed Rape & Murder (July 19, 2005)

After noticing the pattern of the same bases tied to the non combat deaths overseas, I decided to start researching crime in and around the bases in question. Crime knows no boundaries. I took a look at JBLM, Fort Bragg, Fort Hood, Fort Carson, Fort Campbell, JBER, Fort Wainwright, Camp Pendleton, etc. I not only discovered violent crime in and around the bases but I discovered suicide and homicide in garrison were significant issues as well. In late 2016, I noticed a large cluster of deaths at Fort Hood on the heels of learning about all the other violent crime, non combat death and suicide at Fort Hood since 9/11/2001. I was especially upset with the way Fort Hood handled the missing person case of Dakota Stump and how they treated his family. As a result of me taking an interest in the issues at Fort Hood, families of the fallen started contacting me. What I learned collectively was startling. Please keep in mind, each family didn’t know about my conversations with the other families as all this information is considered confidential unless they want to tell their loved ones story on my website: www.militaryjusticeforall.com

Violent Crime, Non Combat Death & Suicide at U.S. Military Bases
Fort Hood Army Pvt. Dakota Stump Found Dead on Post Three Weeks After Vehicle Accident; Family Wants Missing ‘Warrior Alert Law’ (November 3, 2016)
Violent Crime, Suicide, and Non Combat Death at Fort Hood, Texas

As a result of the intel I was getting from families of the fallen at Fort Hood, I decided I was going to start paying closer attention to what was going on at this base. It was by far the most problematic compared to any other base. But please understand Fort Hood is symbolic of the other bases; they all have these same problems. The Army is by far the worst offender concerning death and violent crime in the military. The patterns that emerged from the Fort Hood families included lack of interest in missing persons cases, mislabeling deaths, shoddy death investigations, reports and information from Army leadership that didn’t add up or make sense, evidence goes missing, computer devices and phones are erased, secretiveness, dismissiveness, misleading, and cover-up. When it comes to an untimely or dubious death, it’s hard to find a family who won’t stop fighting for their loved one until justice is served. No justice, no peace. We currently have a group of families at Fort Hood and elsewhere who want to file a class action lawsuit to get the suspicious deaths of their loved ones reopened so they can be investigated properly by independent investigators. The Army did not investigate each death as a homicide until ruled out, therefore the scene was not preserved for evidence collection; they quickly ruled the death a suicide and moved on. According to Stars and Stripes, in the last five years, we’ve lost 165 soldiers at Fort Hood and 70 of those deaths were deaths ruled suicide. I have not included all cases because a lot of families have not come forward to share their story publicly because they are heartbroken, traumatized, confused, and overwhelmed. This experience leaves the families feeling helpless. Even if the death was in fact a suicide, these families want answers, they want the truth, and they want an avenue to find the truth. I was so concerned with the number of deaths stateside at Fort Hood, I went to Washington D.C. in December 2017 to ask for help and it fell on deaf ears including the office of the chair of the House Armed Services Committee, Mac Thornberry.

Fort Hood Research for Last 5 Years:
Army Soldiers at Fort Hood in Texas Are Dying at Alarming Rates Stateside (January 1, 2016 to Present)
Washington D.C. Veteran’s Presentation on the Current Status of Forces at Fort Hood in Texas (December 12, 2017)
Austin American-Statesman: Vanessa Guillen’s Death Shines Light on More Tragedies at Fort Hood (July 28, 2020)
Stars and Stripes: Why Is Fort Hood the Army’s Most Crime-Ridden Post? (August 21, 2020)

Homicide Cases in Last 5 Years:
Unsolved Homicide: Fort Hood Army Pvt. Justin Lewis Shot & Killed Near Vacant Lot in Killeen, Texas Neighborhood (April 17, 2017)
Unsolved Homicide: Fort Hood Army Pvt. Gregory Wedel-Morales Reported AWOL; Based on Anonymous Tip, Remains Found in Shallow Grave in Killeen 10 Months Later (August 19, 2019)
Unsolved Homicide: Fort Hood Army Spc. Shelby Jones Died of Gunshot Wound at Mickey’s Convenience Store in Killeen, Texas; Shot at Nearby Night Club (March 1, 2020)
Asia Cline, Army Veteran Shaquan Allred, & Fort Hood Spc. Freddy Delacruz, Jr. Found Shot Dead at Killeen, Texas Apartment; Suspect Arrested (March 14, 2020)
Fort Hood Army Pfc. Brandon Rosecrans Found Fatally Shot Four Miles From Burning Jeep in Harker Heights, Texas; Two Arrested & Charged (May 18, 2020)
An Open Letter to the House of Representatives in Support of an Independent Investigation of the Murder of Vanessa Guillen at Fort Hood (July 7, 2020)

Cases of Significance (homicide has no statute of limitations):
Fort Hood Army Pfc. Melissa Hobart Collapsed and Died From Undetermined Cause While on Guard Duty in Baghdad, Iraq (June 6, 2004)
Fort Hood Army Sgt. William Edwards Killed Estranged Wife Erin Edwards at Killeen, Texas Home; Killed Self in Parking Lot Across Street (July 22, 2004)
Fort Hood Army Pfc. Tina Priest Died From a Non-Combat Related Incident in Iraq; Death Ruled Suicide But Family Suspects Rape and Murder (March 1, 2006)
Fort Hood Army SSG Jeannette Dunn Died of a Non Combat Related Injury in Taji, Iraq (November 26, 2006)
Fort Hood Army Cpl. Christopher Ferguson Died of Undetermined Causes; CID Claimed Death Was Accident; CBS News Reported Suicide (March 25, 2007)
Army Staff Sgt. Paul Norris Fatally Shot Spc. Kamisha Block in Murder-Suicide in Iraq; Family Requests Congressional Hearings & Investigation of Military Leadership (August 16, 2007)
Fort Hood Army Spc. Christine Ndururi Died of Non Combat Illness at Camp Arifjan in Kuwait; Family Claims She Has Not Been Sick (November 6, 2007)
Fort Hood Army Spc. Keisha Morgan Died of Non Combat Related Cause in Baghdad, Iraq; CID Ruled Suicide But Family Suspects Rape and Murder (February 22, 2008)
Fort Hood Army Spc. Seteria Brown Died of a Non-Combat Related Incident in Afghanistan; Army Said Found in Barracks With Gunshot Wound From M-16 (July 25, 2008)
Army SSG Devin Schuette Found Dead in Vehicle at Recreation Area Near Fort Hood; CID Ruled Suicide, Spouse Requests Independent Investigation (January 3, 2016)
Army Sgt. Marcus Nelson Sr. Died While in Custody at Bell County Jail in Belton, Texas; Nelson Held on Charges Stemming from 1st Cavalry Division (May 23, 2016)
On This Day, Eight Army Soldiers & One West Point Cadet Died in a Flash Flood Training Accident at Fort Hood in Texas (June 2, 2016)
Army Pvt. Paige Fontenot Briles Found Unresponsive in Vehicle at Ft Hood Housing in Texas; Despite Suicide Ruling, Family Requests Homicide Investigation (Dec. 24, 2016)
Fort Hood Army CID Special Agent Steven Hines Found Dead Behind Office Building of Apparent Self-Inflicted Gunshot Wound, Death Ruled Suicide (February 5, 2017)
Fort Hood Army Spc. Justen Ogden Found Unresponsive at On-Post Home; Family Questions Cause of Death Ruling Claiming “None of It Ever Added Up” (July 11, 2017)
Fort Hood Army Spc. Zachary Moore Died by Suicide While on Deployment to Camp Hovey, South Korea; Delay in Medical Care Contributed to Death (August 2, 2017)
Fort Hood Army MSG Alva ‘Joe’ Gwinn Led Police on High Speed Car Chase After Welfare Check Initiated; Died by Suicide During the Incident (October 12, 2017)
Timeline: Army Sgt. Kelton Sphaler & Army Vet Scott Weinhold Reported Missing at Belton Lake on Ft Hood; After Search Launched, Recovered in Water (January 21, 2019)
Fort Hood Army Spc. Mason Webber Died of Injuries Sustained Conducting Maintenance on a Bradley Fighting Vehicle at Texas Base (September 5, 2019)

Active Duty Military Legislation Recommendations:
Rep. Seth Moulton Introduces The Brandon Act to Change DoD Mental Health Policy, Pay Tribute to Fallen Navy Sailor Brandon Caserta (June 25, 2020)
Senators Cruz, Gillibrand, Grassley Offer Bipartisan Military Justice Improvement Act as Amendment to Defense Bill (July 2, 2020)
Chair Jackie Speier NDAA Provisions Address Military Sexual Assault, Intimate Partner Violence, Racial Justice, Ethics, Military Families, and DoD Oversight and Modernization (July 2, 2020)
Speier, Mullin Introduce Bipartisan ‘I Am Vanessa Guillén Act’ to Transform the Military’s Response to Sexual Violence and Missing Servicemembers (September 16, 2020)
Military Policy and Legislation Considerations for the Investigations of Non Combat Death, Homicide, and Suicide of US Service Members

House Armed Services Subcommittee on Military Personnel: Hearings on Domestic Violence in the Military (September 18, 2019)

Shattered Families, Shattered Service: Taking Military Domestic Violence Out of the Shadows -US House Armed Services Committee (September 18, 2019)

“We are here today because domestic violence has become a forgotten crisis in our military. It has been 15 years since a DOD task force analyzed domestic violence within the military, yet we have seen unsettling warning signs since. Within the last few months, DOD reports have highlighted concerning failures in our services’ domestic violence systems. The DOD has not responded urgently. Today, we will hear from three survivors of domestic violence in the military who are bravely coming forward to share their experiences in the hope that others may be helped. Because we lack data that is recent, plentiful, or granular, we must rely on survivors, advocates and experts to help us understand the unique challenges of dealing with this crisis within the military.” Read more from House Armed Services Committee Chairwoman Jackie Speier here.

Domestic Violence

Panel 1:

Mr. Brian Clubb
Coordinator, Military & Veterans Advocacy Program
Battered Women’s Justice Project

Mr. David S. Lee
Director of Prevention Services
PreventConnect

Ms. Arlene Vassell
Vice President of Programs, Prevention & Social Change
National Resource Center on Domestic Violence

Mrs. Rohini Hughes
Survivor and Advocate

Ms. Kate Ranta
Survivor and Advocate

Ms. Leah Olszewski
Survivor and Advocate

Panel 2:

Mrs. A.T. Johnston
Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Military Community and Family Policy, Department of Defense

Mr. Kenneth Noyes
Associate Director, DOD Family Advocacy Program (Military Family Readiness Policy), Department of Defense

Related Links:
Congressional Testimony | National Center on Domestic & Sexual Violence
Domestic Violence in Military Families
Rep. Braley introduces Holley Lynn James Act
Law protecting military victims of sexual assault discussed
Woman claims Army is protecting abusive husband
Military Domestic Violence and Child Abuse | C-SPAN
Tillis Chairs Hearing on Domestic Violence and Child Abuse in the Military
Heinrich Questions Army Nominee On Domestic Violence Loophole
Senator Hirono Conducts Hearing on Military Domestic Violence
High risk of military domestic violence on the home front
Kirsten Gillibrand Pleads for Military to Review Sexual Abuse, Domestic Violence Allegation: ‘We Have Grave Concerns’ for Their Safety
The UCMJ May Get A Domestic Violence Update To Prevent The Next Texas Church Shooting
Sexual Assault in the Mililtary | C-SPAN
Military Not Following Own Rules for On-Base Domestic Violence Investigations
Supreme Court Refuses to Hear Case on Doctrine Preventing Military Medical Malpractice Lawsuits
A Unique Military Program Helps Sexual Assault Survivors. But Not All of Them.
Bill giving soldiers right to sue for medical malpractice passes House
Senators introduce bill that would allow service members to sue for medical malpractice
Bid to allow troops to sue for military medical malpractice hits Senate snag
Subcommittee on Military Personnel: Shattered Families, Shattered Service: Taking Military Domestic Violence Out of the Shadows
Opening Statement Chairwoman Jackie Speier, Subcommittee on Military Personnel, Shattered Families, Shattered Service: Taking Military Domestic Violence Out of the Shadows September 18, 2019

Shattered Families, Shattered Service: Taking Military Domestic Violence Out of the Shadows
Congresswoman Speier Holds First House Armed Services Committee Hearing on Domestic Violence in Over 15 Years
House Armed Services Committee tackling sexual assault in the military
Hearing On Military Domestic Violence | NPR
Lawmakers Hear Emotional Stories From ‘Forgotten Crisis’ Of Military Domestic Violence | NPR
Is military domestic violence a ‘forgotten crisis’? | Military Times
Abuse survivors calls domestic violence “black eye of our military” | Connecting Vets
Outreach Key in Addressing Domestic Violence | Department of Defense
Military domestic violence investigation launched | Enid News
Commands Protect Troops and Fail Families in Domestic Abuse Cases, Victims Say | Military.com
Federal Register :: Transitional Compensation (TC) for Abused Dependents

MJFA Research

Domestic violence is more likely to lead to homicide and leaving the abuser is by far the most dangerous time for victims.

People Magazine Published ‘A War at Home’: Five Military Spouses Slain in Six Weeks at Fort Bragg (August 12, 2002)

Under the Sabers: The Unwritten Code of Army Wives by Tanya Biank (February 7, 2006)

“December 2, 2002, President Bush signed into law an act that makes domestic violence protective orders enforceable on military installations.”

LCpl Maria Lauterbach/Homicide (2007)

Maria Lauterbach Sexual Assault Hearing (2008) (this was sexual assault and interpersonal violence)

Defense STRONG Act passed (2011) (includes expedited transfer if sexually assaulted)

Jennifer Norris Testimony to HASC (2013) (includes testimony similar to domestic abuse)

Ban on Women in Combat Lifted (2013) (this happened the same day of HASC hearings and as a result it overshadowed the hearings)

Military Policy Recommendations (MJFA) (went to DC and visited congressional members, expansion of expedited transfer policy, independent investigations)

Washington DC Presentation on Fort Hood (MJFA) (went to DC and visited congressional members, status of forces at post with most recorded suicides)

History: The Military and Domestic Abuse (MJFA)

Military Justice Improvement Act (MJIA) (McCaskill was voted out and Arizona Senator Martha McSally & Senator Joni Ernst are standing in the way now)

Open Letter in support of the MJIA (independent investigations, disband convening authority powers)

NBC Washington: 62 Percent of Military Sex Assault Reports Result in Retaliation (May 18, 2015) (Retaliation is preventing our service members and military families from reporting felony crime)

Deadly Women: 30 Military and Veteran Homicide Cases Featured on Investigation Discovery (Domestic violence is happening to men too, we see a higher prevalence of female crime because the military is 85% male att)

Rep Mike Turner Says New Military Legislation Closes a Loophole & Includes Domestic Violence Victims in the Expedited Transfer Policy (unclear what the status of this legislation is, could not find an update)

Gillibrand: The Military Justice Improvement Act Would Give Service Members a Justice System That Works (July 1, 2019)

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Recent DV/Homicides:

Samatha Field/Army Spouse (2018)

Abree Boykin/Army Spouse (2018)

Sgt. Brittany Silvers/Army (2018)

Debbie Forrest/Army Spouse (2019)

Staff Sgt Amy Colburn/Army (2019)

Sgt. Tyrone Hassel/Army (2019)

(this list does not include all victims by a long shot)

*********************************************************

DV/Homicide History:

Sgt. Bill Coffin (1997) > (Army’s inappropriate handling of DV/DA dates back to 1997)

30 Military Domestic Abuse>Homicide Cases

Non Combat Deaths/Females/Iraq

Non Combat Deaths/Females/Afghanistan

Non Combat Deaths/Females/Other Areas

Cases of Significance:

Kamisha Block (2007) (Murder-Suicide in Iraq, case reopened in 2019 to investigate negligence of Chain of Command)

Holley Wimunc (2008) > Holley Lynn James Act (similar to MJIA)

Recruit Michelle Miller (2013) > Michelle’s Law (similar to MJIA)

Dawn Giffa/Army Spouse (2015) > Lawsuit Against Army (Negligence at Fort Hood)

Pfc. Karlyn Ramirez (2015) > (abuse, child custody, homicide)

Pfc. Shadow McClaine (2016) > (abuse, divorce, homicide)

Pvt. Paige Briles (2016) > (abuse, pending divorce, suspected homicide)

Gillibrand: The Military Justice Improvement Act Would Give Service Members a Justice System That Works (July 1, 2019)

Featured

Brian Lewis MJIA.jpg

You can listen to U.S. Navy veteran Brian Lewis’ March 13, 2013 testimony to the Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Personnel here.

“Nearly 30 years ago, when George H. W. Bush was president and Dick Cheney was the secretary of defense, the Pentagon made a promise to our service members. Dozens of Navy and Marine Corps aviation officers had just been investigated for the infamous Tailhook sexual assault scandal, and America’s military leadership affirmed a “zero tolerance” policy toward sexual assault within their ranks. The military had a sexual assault problem, and pledged to solve it.

It’s painfully clear that the military has now failed at this mission by almost any metric. For years, survivor after survivor has told us the change in the system we needed to make to end this scourge — the same change that a number of our allies around the world have already made: take the adjudication of these crimes outside of the chain of command and allow trained military prosecutors to prosecute them.” Read more opinion at Military Times here.

“The Military Justice Improvement Act would take the prosecution of sexual assault and other serious crimes, such as murder, out of the chain of command. It would keep those crimes in the military justice system, but put the decision to prosecute them into the hands of actual military prosecutors who are trained to deal with complex legal issues.” –Senator Kirsten Gillbrand (Military Times, July 1, 2019)

Gillibrand Leads Bipartisan Coalition to Reform Military Justice System  -Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (May 16, 2013)

Related Links:
Pass the Military Justice Improvement Act @SenGillibrand
S. 1789: Military Justice Improvement Act of 2019
S. 1789: Military Justice Improvement Act of 2019 [Full Text]
Comprehensive Resource Center for the Military Justice Improvement Act
Sens. Cruz, Gillibrand Reintroduce Military Justice Improvement Act
Udall, Heinrich Reintroduce Military Justice Improvement Act To Address Crisis Of Military Sexual Assault
Leahy Joins Gillibrand And Others To Reintroduce Military Justice Improvement Act
Hirono Wants To Change How The Military Prosecutes Sexual Assault
Senator Martha McSally’s Responsibility to Survivors of Military Sexual Assault
McSally defends keeping military commanders involved in sexual assault cases
Gillibrand: “Status Quo” Not Working With Military Sexual Assaults
Veterans for Peace: Sexual Assault on Military Members Press Conference, Seattle, Washington (August 11, 2006)
Jamie Leigh Jones Testified at the House Judiciary Committee Halliburton/KBR Iraq Rape Case Hearing (December 19, 2007)
HOR Oversight Subcommittee on National Security & Foreign Affairs Held a Hearing on Sexual Assault in the Military (July 31, 2008)
Former Representative Bruce Braley (D-IA) Introduced the Holley Lynn James Act (April 12, 2011)
Lauterbach Case Prompts Policy Reforms for Victims of Sexual Assault in the Military (December 25, 2011)
Sexual Misconduct Allegations at Lackland AFB | C-SPAN (January 23, 2013)
Panetta Is Lifting Ban On Women In Combat Roles (NPR, January 23, 2013)
Sexual Assault in the Military, Part 1 | C-SPAN (March 13, 2013)
Sexual Assault in the Military, Part 2 | C-SPAN (March 13, 2013)
Gillibrand Leads Bipartisan Coalition to Reform Military Justice System [Full Video] | Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (May 16, 2013)
Gillibrand Builds Bipartisan Support for Change of Military Justice Code (May 16, 2013)
S. 967: Military Justice Improvement Act of 2013 – U.S. Senate Voting Record (March 6, 2014)
The war in Congress over rape in the military, explained (June 8, 2016)
Sexual Assault in the Military | C-SPAN (March 6, 2019)
S. 1789: Military Justice Improvement Act of 2019 Reintroduced by Republican Senator Ted Cruz of Texas and Democratic Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York (June 13, 2019)
Senate Armed Services Committee Members & House Armed Services Committee Members (June 21, 2019)
Gillibrand: The Military Justice Improvement Act Would Give Service Members a Justice System That Works (July 1, 2019)

Air Force Defends Handling of Sex Scandal (2013)

USAF SealThe House Armed Services Committee hears testimony on Lackland Air Force Base’s sexual misconduct problem. Generals say they’re addressing underlying issues, but victims have concerns.

The hearing did not include testimony from the alleged sexual assault victims at Lackland, nor from those charged or convicted in connection with the investigation. But two Air Force veterans who said they were sexually assaulted years ago did testify.

“If you want a career, you don’t want to say anything because you get retaliated against; you get beat up and thrown out. We need to remove the chain of command from the reporting process — it’s absolutely detrimental,” she said, adding that as a military sexual assault victim, “You almost become a leper.” She testified that two of her attackers pleaded guilty, but others were never charged.

Read more here.