Massachusetts School of Law Interviews Veteran Jennifer Norris About Violent Crime in the Military & Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

Massachusetts School of Law explored violent crime in the military with Jennifer Norris, Military Justice for All, and the impact it has on civilians too. Jennifer talked about her experiences with four different perpetrators within the first two years of her enlisted career, the reporting & adjudication process, and the retaliation that ensued and eventually ended a fifteen year career. Also discussed was the jurisdictional hurdles that arise with a transient population like the military. For example, Jennifer was not able to press charges against one perpetrator because he moved out of state after learning he was getting reported. Another perpetrator was active duty Air Force at Keesler Air Force Base, therefore a state National Guard commander did not have jurisdiction of a federal employee. And finally, although Jennifer was able to move forward with two other cases involving high ranking National Guard members with over eighteen years of service, unlike the civilian world, after the cases were adjudicated, they retired with full military retirement benefits and no public records.

Jennifer also shared that although the Department of Defense downplays violent crime in the military and sexual assault appears to be closely monitored by some female members of Congress, everything is not under control. The crime appears to be escalating. The military doesn’t just have a sexual assault issue, they have a domestic violence and homicide issue as well. They also have a pattern of ruling soldier’s deaths both stateside and overseas as suicides, training accidents, and illness despite families strongly protesting and evidence revealing otherwise. Domestic violence is more likely to lead to homicide and unfortunately the two issues have not been given the attention they deserve because until you do the research yourself and see how many families and communities have been impacted by the crimes, suspicious death, and homicide of a soldier or civilian, you wouldn’t know because Congress and the main stream media do not give it the attention it deserves. Homicide and independent investigations of all suspicious deaths should be given the highest priority not only because people have lost their lives and families deserve answers but because someone needs to be held accountable. We must prevent others from becoming victims of these crimes too.

Jennifer discussed the lasting impacts the crimes and retaliation had on her. Jennifer was empowered after doing all that she could do to protect others from getting harmed by the same people, but her squadron did not see it the same way. After the cases were adjudicated, Jennifer faced hostility from a couple of the perpetrator’s friends and her Chain of Command once she returned back to work. She eventually had to transfer to another squadron. It was the professional and personal retaliation that made her start feeling more intense feelings of anxiety, depression, and even suicidal thoughts. And unfortunately her next squadron wasn’t any more welcoming then the last. She was told shortly after arriving that ‘no female makes it in the satellite communications work center’ and that she was experiencing hostility from her new Chain of Command because the old squadron called and informed them she was a ‘troublemaker.’ The retaliation had a direct impact on her mental health and cemented an already traumatizing experience with further abuse, indifference, and judgement. By the time she got to her third squadron (almost ten years after the first attack), she learned that the Department of Veterans Affairs treated Post Traumatic Stress resulting from military sexual trauma.

After Jennifer informed her third squadron that she was getting help for the PTS at the Department of Veterans Affairs, she was immediately red flagged and asked to leave the squadron until she could produce a note from her doctor giving her permission to be at work. She did this and jumped through the other hoops asked of her in an attempt to save her career but lost confidentiality in the process. Jennifer walked away from her career in the end because she refused to release her VA records for a security clearance investigation. The entire experience not only opened her up to judgement again (simply because she asked for some counseling due to what someone else did) but she had to prove that she was ‘fit for duty’ while the perpetrators were enjoying full military retirement benefits. Jennifer chose a second chance at a civilian career when she refused to release her confidential VA records for her security clearance investigation because she wanted to ensure a future free of a tainted security clearance. It makes zero sense that someone who is a victim of crime be negatively impacted by the crimes of others in yet another way. The hypocrisy of the system is truly revealed when you look at how the perpetrators were let off the hook but the victim of crime loses their military career because they had the strength to first report and then eventually ask for help.

‘A Clue From the Grave’ by Irene Pence Unveils the Investigation of USAF MSgt William Lipscomb Accused of Murdering Wife Kathleen Lipscomb in 1986

image1-4‘A Clue from the Grave’ by Irene Pence is a fascinating look into the investigation of US Air Force wife Kathleen Lipscomb’s murder in San Antonio, Texas in 1986. Her husband MSgt William Lipscomb, who was stationed at Lackland Air Force Base as a Military Training Instructor, would eventually be accused of her murder and stand trial at Langley Air Force Base in Virginia in 1989. This book shows the difficulties the detectives face when it comes to investigating crimes perpetrated by a transient military member.

If not for the persistence of Kathleen’s mom Nadine and her sister Darlene, Bill Lipscomb almost got away with murder. Kathleen’s family did not want to believe that Kathleen’s estranged husband committed this crime but nonetheless wanted to find out who killed Kathleen. Kathleen was found battered and nude on the side of the road outside the city limits of San Antonio. It appeared that she had been raped and murdered elsewhere and her body was dumped at this location. As a result, the Bexar County Sheriff’s Department had jurisdiction of the investigation of Kathleen’s murder. The book revealed that Air Force leadership was not aware that Bill Lipscomb was even considered a suspect by the local Sheriff’s Department. In the meantime, Bill Lipscomb requested a humanitarian transfer to Langley Air Force Base, Virginia so that he would be near his parents who would help him care for Kathleen and Bill’s two children.

After the investigation stalled at the Sheriff’s Department and it looked like no one would be held accountable for Kathleen’s death, Nadine and Darlene decided to hire two private investigators to find out who killed Kathleen. The private investigators carefully went through the list of suspects to rule people out but they could not rule out Bill Lipscomb after what they discovered. These investigators learned that Bill had plenty of motive to kill Kathleen including the fact that Kathleen threatened to turn Bill and his Air Force colleagues in to Air Force leadership for their role in a WAPS test promotion cheating scandal. Bill also wanted custody of the two children so Kathleen used her knowledge of this cheating scandal as leverage in the divorce proceedings so she could keep custody of the two children. In addition, Bill Lipscomb had over $300,000 worth of life insurance on Kathleen, one policy was purchased after Kathleen decided to divorce him. Coincidentally, Kathleen was murdered just days before the final divorce proceedings. Nadine and Darlene began suspecting Bill more and more as time went on because of statements made by Bill and Kathleen’s children and the controlling behavior he exhibited after Kathleen died.

It would be the private investigators that Kathleen’s family hired who convinced the Air Force Office of Special Investigations (AFOSI) to get involved. Bill was no longer in the San Antonio area so no one but the AFOSI had jurisdiction over him. The crime was committed in Texas yet Bill had been conveniently transferred to Virginia. Thanks to the thorough work by the two private investigators, the AFOSI had probable cause to investigate Bill Lipscomb. The AFOSI used both their knowledge of the WAPS test cheating scandal and what they learned from the private investigators to begin their own investigations. They would learn from others involved in the cheating scandal that Bill did in fact cheat on his promotion testing which is how he was able to achieve the rank of MSgt so soon. They would also learn from Kathleen’s date book that she was fully aware of the cheating scandal and knew that Bill was having an affair with another Air Force member he worked with. It would be this date book that gave the investigators involved in the case a reason to suspect Bill Lipscomb of her murder. In the end this information would become ‘A Clue from the Grave’ that helped Kathleen solve her own murder.

Learn more: Air Force MSgt William Lipscomb Murdered his Wife Kathleen Lipscomb After She Threatened to Expose his WAPS Promotion Cheating Scam (1986)

Kenneth Shinzato, USMC Veteran, Japan

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Kenneth Shinzato, USMC Veteran

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Army Pfc Karlyn Ramirez Found Shot to Death in Home, Army Sgt Maliek Kearney & Army Veteran Dolores Delgado Charged with Across State Lines Murder, Feds Prosecuting (2015)

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Pfc. Karlyn Ramirez, US Army

Army soldier Pfc. Karlyn Ramirez, 24, of Fort Meade, Maryland was found shot to death in her home on August 25, 2015 while she lay next to her newborn baby. Karlyn worked for the National Security Agency (NSA) and had a top secret security clearance. Investigators looked to her roommate and her husband as persons of interests. The media speculated that maybe this crime had something to do with her job. The Anne Arundel Police Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation worked jointly to solve Karlyn’s homicide. A $20,000 reward was offered for information leading to the arrest of a suspect. More then a year later on October 6, 2016 Karlyn’s husband Army Sgt. Maliek Kearney and his new girlfriend Army veteran Dolores Delgado were arrested for the murder. In testimony, Sgt. Kearney admitted to shooting Karlyn four times, placing their baby in her dead mother’s arms, and then fleeing the scene leaving a sliding glass door open. Investigators report that the crime was a well thought out and executed plan implemented in an effort to throw homicide detectives off.

Dolores Delgado gave Sgt. Kearney the car, the gun, and gas cans to refuel with so he wouldn’t be caught on any security cameras as he drove from South Carolina to Maryland on August 24th to carry out the murder. Sgt. Kearney returned back to work the next morning at Fort Jackson in South Carolina to establish an alibi. Additional testimony revealed that Karlyn and Sgt. Kearney separated only two weeks after they had been married. They had been married for roughly five weeks when Karlyn was murdered. Karlyn attempted to get a restraining order on Sgt. Kearney just days before the murder after he showed up to her home unannounced in an effort to reconcile with her. After the failed attempt at reconciliation, Sgt. Kearney was hospitalized because he tried to end his life with sleeping pills. Sgt. Kearney was a decorated Army veteran of 15 years who had served tours in Iraq, Pakistan and South Korea. One of Sgt. Kearney’s superiors at Fort Sam Houston testified that he has been “nothing but an exemplary soldier.” A friend reported that he had no idea that Sgt. Kearney and Dolores Delgado were even dating. Sgt. Kearney  and Dolores Delgado are being prosecuted by the federal courts because they crossed state lines to execute a murder in another state. The U.S. Magistrate denied bail for Sgt. Kearney and Dolores Delgado and ordered they be transferred to Maryland to await trial.

“He is sick and depraved. Slightly laughable was his compassionate transfer to San Antonio to be close to the child he put in her dead mother’s arms.” -Assistant U.S. Attorney Sarah Wannarka

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Karlyn Ramirez, 24, was killed in her Maryland home. When police found her, she wasn’t alone. But the only living witness can’t say who killed her. -Crime Watch Daily

Joseph Pemberton, US Marine Corps, Found Guilty by Philippines Court for Murder of Filipina Sex Worker Jennifer Laude; Sentenced to 6-12 Years in Prison (2014)

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Lance Corporel Joseph Pemberton, USMC

Lance Corporal Joseph Scott Pemberton, US Marine Corps, sentenced to 6-12 years in a Philippine prison for killing Jennifer Laude, a trans Filipina sex worker, in October 2014.

“His sentence was downgraded from the usual 20 to 40 years for homicide under Philippine law, in part because Laude failed to disclose to Pemberton that she was trans.” -Buzz Feed

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Highlights of US Army Soldier Joshua Eisenhauer Case

US Army Seal

Army Staff Sgt. Joshua Eisenhauer was sentenced to 10 to 18 years in prison for shooting at police and firefighters from his apartment in Fayetteville, North Carolina.

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Navy Petty Officer Amanda Snell Murdered by Marine Jorge Torrez in Barracks at Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall, Virginia (2009)

Amanda Snell, US Navy (2009)

Petty Officer Amanda Jean Snell, US Navy

Petty Officer Amanda Jean Snell, 20, US Navy, was found dead in her room at the barracks at Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall in Virginia on July 13, 2009. Naval Criminal Investigation Services (NCIS) had jurisdiction of her case. They conducted an initial investigation yet the case went nowhere because NCIS investigators confided in the murderer and were divided on whether the death was a homicide, suicide, or accidental. As a result, the DNA lab testing was not considered a priority because the autopsy was considered undetermined, not a homicide. Four years and four civilian victims later, former U.S. Marine Jorge Avila Torrez was indicted for Amanda’s murder, found guilty by a federal court, and sentenced to death in 2014.

Torrez lived on the same co-ed floor as Amanda Snell in Keith Hall barracks on the base. On the night of July 12, 2009, he entered her room, she screamed, and he strangled her in an effort to silence her. His crimes were sexually motivated. He jammed Amanda into her locker and put a pillow case over her head in an effort to fool investigators into thinking she had suffocated. After she was found dead on the federal base, NCIS began their investigation. They interviewed multiple people in the barracks and initiated a forensic examination of Amanda’s room. They claim they sent the evidence to the military DNA lab testing facility to determine if any DNA was present. In the meantime, Torrez offered to help with the investigation and NCIS accepted his offer. They asked him to spread a rumor around the barracks that they had a witness who saw someone enter her room that night.

During the stalled NCIS investigation, Torrez attacked four other civilian women in Arlington, Virginia in 2010. Three of them escaped his attempted abduction but one of them was abducted, raped, strangled, and left for dead in the woods. Torrez thought he killed her but she lived. Because all four victims reported the crimes, the Arlington Police Department was able to make the connection with the four cases. Thanks to the due diligence of two Arlington police officers, detectives were able to find out who owned the light colored SUV. These two police officers had observed on shift that the driver of this SUV was acting suspiciously and called in his license plate number to determine if he had any outstanding warrants. They learned Torrez was an active duty Marine living at Keith Hall Barracks on the the Navy base. The Arlington Police detectives had to coordinate with NCIS to gain access to the base so they could arrest him and search his room and vehicle. Jorge Torrez was jailed while he awaited trial.

While Torrez was awaiting trail, he asked some inmates to help him find a hit man to silence the three witnesses that would be testifying against him. One of the inmates he confided in was a confidential informant. After the informant reported the troubling conversations with authorities, he was asked to wear a wire to record future conversations. It was at this time that Jorge Torrez not only admitted his intentions to kill the three victims who were going to testify against him at his trial but he also revealed that he murdered Amanda Jean Snell at the Navy base. Meanwhile, the Arlington Police Department entered the DNA from the victim who was raped into CODIS, a national DNA database, and got a hit to two murders of children in Zion, Illinois where Torrez was from. When NCIS finally tested and compared the DNA on the sheets in Amanda’s room, this forensic evidence linked Torrez to Amanda’s murder as well. The Marine Corps dishonorably discharged him from the military.

NCIS bungled this investigation from the beginning. The investigators could not agree on whether Amanda Snell was murdered, committed suicide, or died accidentally. Because her autopsy report was “undetermined” and her death was not ruled a homicide, it did not have priority in the military DNA testing lab. Apparently an undetermined death and rape and sexual assault DNA is not given a high priority in military labs. When in fact, if all suspicious deaths and sex crimes were given higher priority, we could prevent further victimization and homicides. It was not until they learned of the four other victims in Arlington, Virginia and the two murders of children in Zion, Illinois that they expedited the testing of the DNA found in Amanda Snell’s room. We do not know if it is procedure for NCIS to compare DNA evidence of military members accused of crimes to the national DNA database. If they had tested the DNA earlier and entered the DNA into CODIS, they would have got a hit to the two murders in Illinois.

In the initial stages of the investigation, the NCIS agents investigated multiple people in the barracks. Jorge Torrez offered to be a confidential informant of sorts to help them with the investigation. They accepted. They asked him to spread a rumor that they had a witness who saw someone enter her room that night. They wanted to ferret out the killer by spreading panic. Quite often investigators will say they have evidence they don’t have in an attempt to cause stress and elicit confessions. Now they were not able to call anyone’s bluff. They in effect blew any chances of an effective investigation by telling the actual killer that they had nothing. It’s troubling that they did not see the red flag when Torrez offered to inject himself into the investigation. Murder suspects have been known to do this and befriend the victim’s family and friends in an attempt to stay apprised of what police know.

Lastly if sexual assault, rape, and undetermined causes of death were given higher priority in the NCIS DNA testing labs then maybe we could have prevented four other women from becoming victims of sex crimes and attempted murder. NCIS admits that the DNA was not given priority because it was not a homicide. Had NCIS made the DNA a higher priority and compared the results of the testing in CODIS, the national DNA database, they would have got a match to the DNA in Zion, Illinois. As a result of this match, they would have been able to triangulate the connection between Torrez in the barracks and where he was from in Zion, Illinois. They could have got a “commanders search warrant” to conduct a forensic examination of his room. There they would have found evidence of criminal intent like the collection of porn images they found on his computer that included fantasies about rape and suffocation of women. DNA from sexual assault and rape should be given the highest priority in the military DNA lab testing facilities to prevent an escalation of violent crimes to homicide both in the military and in our civilian communities. All DNA profiles tested in the military should be immediately entered in CODIS.

Eight months after Jorge Avila Torrez was arrested by the Arlington Police Department, he was found guilty and sentenced to five life terms and 168 years in prison for the attacks on three of the four civilian women from Arlington, Virginia. Four years later, he was found guilty and sentenced to death by the federal courts for the murder of Amanda Jean Snell on the US Navy base in Arlington, Virginia. In an unexpected plot twist Illinois authorities learned the man they convicted for the murders of Krystal Tobias (9) and Laura Hobbs (8) was innocent. Authorities released Jerry Hobbs, the father of one of the children, from jail in 2010 and vowed to try Torrez for a sexual assault of one child and the murder of both children from Zion, Illinois. Illinois authorities charged Torrez with the crimes in 2015 and are expected to go to trial some time in 2016. Jorge Torrez is currently sitting on death row.

Read more: NCIS Bungles the Amanda Snell Investigation by Confiding in Murderer & Neglecting to Compare DNA Evidence Found at the Crime Scene

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Jorge Torrez Convicted in Killing of Amanda Jean Snell
Former Marine Could Face Death Penalty
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Ex-Marine Jorge Torrez strangled Navy Petty Officer Amanda Jean Snell to death; Sentenced to death
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In the shadow of the nation’s capital, a mysterious death on a Marine base confounds the NCIS — was it an accident, or was it a homicide? It won’t be long before police are hunting a violent sexual predator whose trail leads right back to the base. -Discovery ID

Sgt. Bill Coffin Murdered Ex-Fiancee After Civilian Courts Issued Protective Order, Judge Alleges Army Routinely Ignores Court Orders (1997)

US Army

In 1999, the television program 60 Minutes reported on the hidden War at Home in the U.S. military. They reported that at the time of airing, Pentagon records showed that 58,000 military spouses were victims of domestic violence and that rate was three times higher than the civilian population rate. The overall concerns were that the military justice system was a system that routinely failed to punish even the most violent and abusive servicemen. As a result, it often left an abused spouse alone without protection to fight a secret war. 60 Minutes highlighted the cases of three Fort Campbell soldiers who were charged with killing their wives or girlfriends (Bill Coffin, Dane Zafari, Tracy Leonard) and one Navy spouse who was a victim of domestic violence.

One of the cases singled out was that of Fort Campbell Sergeant Bill Coffin who murdered his ex-fiance Ronnie Spence after a civilian judge granted her an emergency protection order. In December 1997, Sgt. Coffin murdered Ronnie in front of their baby daughter in a shared home near Fort Campbell, Kentucky. Sgt. Coffin shot her twice through the trailer, entered the home and then shot her in the face and through the heart. While Ronnie was lying dead on the floor, Sgt. Coffin emptied the gun into her. Several weeks before the shooting, court records showed that Sgt. Coffin had repeatedly threatened to kill Ronnie and his superior officers at Fort Campbell knew about the threats.

I think they should have confined him to that army base. They should have gotten him some help. They should have stopped him, they should have intervened. They did nothing. -Kathy Spence (mother)

60 Minutes interviewed Kentucky Judge Peter MacDonald who stated that domestic violence cases involving Fort Campbell soldiers routinely showed up in his courtroom. He said that Army commanders regularly ignored court orders issued to protect the abused spouses. Judge MacDonald issued the emergency protective order requiring Sgt. Bill Coffin to stay away from Ronnie Spence. Sgt. Coffin instead shot and killed her. According to 60 Minutes, Sgt. Coffin pleaded guilty to domestic violence and other charges, and was sentenced. Judge MacDonald felt the readiness of the troops was more important than the protection of the battered and abused spouses.

In an in depth investigation, 60 Minutes learned that the Army’s domestic violence guide for commanders listed a number of things that could have been done in Sgt. Bill Coffin’s case but were not. The guide included restricting an abuser to the barracks or assigning them to the quarters of a superior. They also learned that the military spends millions yearly on a Family Advocacy program designed to treat and prevent domestic violence. But Sherry Arnold, a licensed clinical social worker, who helped run the program for the Marines in Camp Pendleton in California, said the Commanders have preconceived notions. She often witnessed victim blaming, minimization, a hands off approach, an ‘it’s a family matter’ attitude, and indifference to the seriousness of the situation and escalating violence.

Robert Clark, the commanding general of Fort Campbell, Ky., where several particularly violent incidents have occurred, said the military does a good job handling domestic violence cases. But Peter MacDonald, chief district court judge in Kentucky with jurisdiction over Fort Campbell, said the Army routinely ignores his court orders designed to protect abused spouses. “They have no conception of what’s going on in domestic violence.” –Deseret News

After the public learned of the scandalous way the U.S. military handles felony crimes like domestic violence, rape, and stalking, the Pentagon was ordered by Congress to investigate domestic violence in the armed forces. Congress recommended stronger protections for battered spouses and stiffer penalties for the servicemen who abuse them. In 2000, Major Joanne P.T. Eldridge suggested a proposal to add anti-stalking provisions to Article 134 in the Uniform Code of Military Justice. Since 1999 and long before this, domestic violence has continued to be an on-going serious invisible issue in the military. Both military spouses and service members are victims of domestic abuse. The year 60 Minutes aired the ‘The War at Home’ programming, Fort Campbell soldier Barry Winchell was murdered because a couple soldiers suspected he might be gay. Barry’s murder prompted the lift of the controversial Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy.

The year after 60 minutes aired, civilian spouse Michelle Theer conspired with her lover, Army Ranger John Diamond, to kill her husband Air Force Captain Frank Theer for the life insurance money. In 2002, four wives were slain in six weeks at Fort Bragg in North Carolina. They were Teresa Nieves, Jennifer Wright, Andrea Floyd, and Marilyn Griffin. In 2008, Army Lt. Holley Wimunc was abused, stalked, and murdered by her Marine husband. In 2011, Holley’s father advocated for H.R. 1517 sponsored by Representative Bruce Braley. This law was aimed at protecting both domestic violence and sexual assault victims. This law would have required the removal of Commanders from the investigation and prosecution of felony crimes. The Holley Lynn James Act and any subsequent legislation, like the Military Justice Improvement Act, suggesting the removal of the Commander from the processing of felony crimes have been unsuccessful.


Rep. Bruce Braley introduces the Holley Lynn James Act — a bill to help victims of sexual assault and domestic violence in the military get justice. The bill is named after Holley Lynn James, a constituent of Rep. Braley who was killed by her husband while both were in the service. 

Related Links:
60 Minutes: “The War at Home” (transcript)
Spouse Abuse A Military Problem
Domestic Abuse Reported Higher in Military
Domestic violence in military higher than U.S. average
Stalking and the Military: A Proposal to Add An Anti-Stalking Provision to Article 134, Uniform Code of Military Justice (2000)