*Submitted to the House Armed Services Committee on September 11, 2020 and received no response
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.
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
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.
“In August 2007, [Fort Hood Army] Specialist Kamisha Block’s family was told that their 20-year-old daughter had died in Iraq as a result of friendly fire – one shot to the chest. The family was floored. They didn’t quite understand what that meant and they wanted answers. But Kamisha would give them a sign. When Kamisha’s mom, Jane, arrived at the funeral home to see her daughter one last time, she noticed a bullet sized hole on Kamisha’s head that had been covered with makeup. Her knees buckled as she thought – what have they done to my baby girl? And the answer she would get would never quench the Block’s family desire for real answers. Kamisha had been killed intentionally by another soldier – Staff Sergeant Paul Brandon Norris. Norris and Kamisha had been dating on and off for a few months and their relationship was against military regulations.” Listen to Episode 38 on the Military Murder Podcast website here.
If you would like to help the family get a congressional hearing and investigation, please call the ranking members of the HASC and SASC. #JusticeforKamishaBlock
Goals and Questions from Kamisha Block’s Family:
1. Hearings to discuss service wide responses to dangerous situations, negligence, and preventable deaths
2. There’s a break down in continuity of ‘no contact orders.’ For example, may be enforced in US but not in Iraq, may be enforced in civilian jurisdiction but not on base, etc.
3. Discussion of how a victim of crime copes when they report and are ignored or they don’t report for fear of their lives, loss of career, retaliation.
4. Brandon Norris was in Kamisha’s enlisted chain of command and was able to manipulate the situation to keep Kamisha under his control. When the Chain of Command learned about the forbidden relationship, one of them should have been moved to address the situation.
5. When the homicide-suicide occurred in Iraq, military members were told not to talk to Kamisha Block’s family. Out of fear, they remained silent until they watched an Investigation Discovery episode outlining what happened in Iraq. Most are veterans now and as a result of time and conscience, they now are willing to come forward and testify at hearings.
6. The service members who were in Iraq are now suffering with what we would refer to as moral injury. They knew the truth, they were shocked the Army told Kamisha Block’s family she died by friendly fire. They were fearful of coming forward while still serving in the US Army.
7. Brandon Norris was problematic before being deployed to Iraq. His behavior was erratic, he was drinking, he very likely could have had PTSD due to prior deployments, and he should not have been sent back to Iraq. When the command found out about the forbidden relationship, they issued a no contact order, which is virtually useless when both parties are on the same small base. They sent Brandon Norris to Iraq knowing there was a no contact order. There were a number of red flags in Brandon’s history to warrant getting him evaluated and medically retiring him. Although PTSD isn’t an excuse for violence, the mental health breakdown that comes with that diagnosis will send someone into a downward spiral if not addressed. These are co-occuring issues. Prior problems with domestic violence and PTSD are a deadly combination if no intervention.
8. When they sent Brandon Norris back to Iraq, it made Kamisha even more fearful because she could not escape him, there was nowhere to turn and she was isolated. The expedited transfer policy needs to be expanded to include all victims of crime and those who are fearful of their lives and trapped in dangerous situations. Did Brandon manipulate fellow leaders to see things his way? Why didn’t they protect Kamisha from Brandon’s escalating violence?
9. Why was the no contact order ignored, why was Brandon not removed from Kamisha’s Chain of Command, why was Brandon sent to Iraq with Kamisha, why did the Army tell Kamisha’s family she died by friendly fire, why was the Chain of Command not held responsible for negligence, why did Kamisha feel like she had nowhere to turn, why were service members told to remain silent, why did it take this long to get Kamisha’s case reopened? Why was Kamisha Block’s case closed before any of the questions were answered? Why was it closed because there was “no evidence” to support one allegation?
10. Why was Kamisha’s computer wiped clean before it was returned to the family? Why was it returned to the family if it was considered evidence? Why would anyone wipe the computer clean when it was full of potential evidence that would help us understand the victimology of Kamisha and what was going on in her life at the time? Service members informed family they were asked to destroy all paperwork and personnel records before Army CID arrived to investigate. Why would anyone destroy evidence needed to evaluate and investigate a homicide-suicide? How can we prevent the Chain of Command from destroying evidence in the future?
11. The morning of the homicide-suicide, it is alleged that Brandon Norris was experiencing a mental health breakdown. Why was his gun not taken from him immediately if there were already concerns about his behavior, actions, and deteriorating mental health state. This is another example of how this tragedy could have been prevented had the Army intervened and sent him home. Again, he should have never been sent to Iraq on a deployment with Kamisha. The no contact order is impossible to enforce if both are in the same unit on the same base in Iraq. Kamisha clearly expressed fear of Brandon and wanted the no contact order enforced, they ignored it. Why? Did they need warm bodies in Iraq? Did Norris manipulate them? Did the chain of command not care about Kamisha’s safety?
12. Why was Brandon sent to Iraq instead of discharged? Why was he not held responsible for an illegal relationship with a subordinate? Why was his mental health and problematic behavior ignored? Why would the chain of command issue a no contact order that can’t be enforced when two service members are serving together in the same unit on the same base whether in the US or overseas? Had any of these things been addressed and investigated, it could have saved Kamisha’s life.
13. Was Brandon Norris taking any medication for his mental health issues? If so, what were the prescriptions and what are the side effects. It is alleged that Brandon was taking ambien to help with sleep in a war zone. If this is the case, what is the responsibility of the mental health professionals or other military doctors who prescribed this medication to him? What is the responsibility of the chain of command if they have knowledge of medications? Do the health professionals and chain of command discuss whether it is healthy for a service member to deploy while on said medications? Did the medications or the side effects of the medications contribute to a downward spiral? Did he abruptly stop taking the medications at any point? Why was his health and medication management not considered before he was sent to Iraq? This puts everyone in danger if the person is not taking medications as prescribed and/or not well.
14. Discussion of Feres Doctrine. This archaic, unconstitutional Supreme Court decision is preventing us from holding key players accountable. Lawsuits are a form of checks and balances in the system. How do we hold the military accountable if we can’t utilize one of the three forms of government to force positive change for all service members in the future? Wrongful death lawsuits help us find the answers we may not get in an investigation or if something was not investigated. Lawsuits are used to force change and prevent the same tragedies from happening over and over. This is not happening in the military as evidenced by years of failed reforms. Preventable deaths are a common occurrence and until we can hold them accountable, nothing is going to change. How do we begin the process of getting the Feres Doctrine overturned? If congressional members do not do their jobs and help family members learn the truth, where do we turn? How do we get a case reopened without re-traumatizing ourselves over and over. It took years for Kamisha’s family to get her homicide case reopened and one year before the Army closed it again. The family wants the chain of command held criminally responsible for what they know was a preventable death. What do families do if Congress doesn’t help them? What do families do if the media won’t help tell their story? What do families do when they want an independent investigation because they question the outcome of the Chain of Command and CID’s investigation?
15. Does the Chain of Command involved in the wrongful death of a soldier deserve to continue serving in the military? Why are they not held responsible for manslaughter or negligence? If their actions or inaction lead to the death of someone under their command, shouldn’t they be held responsible for that death as well? Shouldn’t they be held responsible for not taking care of Brandon or Kamisha when they had the chance? Why was Brandon’s escalating violence and problematic behavior ignored at Kamisha’s expense? How do we hold them accountable when they destroy evidence? How do we prevent them from destroying evidence and wiping computers and phones clean before giving them back to the family?
16. There are a number of female soldiers who have died under suspicious circumstances while deployed to Iraq, Afghanistan and other overseas locations. There were a cluster of deaths around the time Kamisha died as well. If you study each female service member’s story, it fits a pattern, a pattern recognized in Kamisha’s case as well. It reveals the continued repeated pattern of placing people in dangerous situations with potentially dangerous service members. We need an evaluation of all the non combat deaths overseas to find out what the root causes are in an effort to prevent these suspicious deaths and/or suicides from happening in the first place. Did the service member ask for help, report a crime, etc. before they died. We need to know how and why they died to help us create deployment policy that can be enforced in an effort to prevent a wrongful death. They need the expedited transfer policy expanded to capture all the dangerous situations not related to a sexual assault or rape. This can be used to save the service members life if they chain of command ignores them. The danger increases exponentially in a war-time environment one cannot escape.
17. Lastly what about the impact this has on the loved ones left behind? First off, the families should be compensated for the pain and suffering the military causes them when they question the cause of death ruling or they question what happened to their loved one who died under suspicious circumstances. We must address how the military treats families in these situations. Most don’t even know where to start. They don’t know how the military works. They don’t know the Commander is the central investigator and CID does what is asked of them. They don’t know how to FOIA records. They can’t make sense of records they do obtain because most of it is redacted or blacked out. No family should have to FOIA any records related to their loved ones death. This should be an automatic for them. The system is set up to make the family feel hopeless and give up, and that’s exactly what most do because the current system re-traumatizes them when they learn that no one will take responsibility for what happened under their watch or help them find the answers they deserve to have. They should not be expected to simply accept the military’s outcomes. In the civilian world, they have more access to the case and those involved and it is a proven fact a second set of eyes on a case can be the deciding factor in learning the truth. Military families don’t have this option. They should be assigned a victim advocate and or a special victims counsel like those provided to victims of sexual assault and rape. They should be treated with kindness, not ignored, transferred from person to person, and intimidated. The current system is reinforcing the trauma originally experienced from losing their loved one to a preventable death. This is unacceptable and causes irreversible harm. The truth is all that is wanted and it shouldn’t come at the expense of the family member’s health and wellness.
18. Lastly, what is the role of the FBI? Why is it that they can investigate a case in Nigeria involving folks pretending to be soldiers to scam people of money but they can’t investigate any of the suspicious deaths of female soldiers in Iraq, Afghanistan, etc. If you do the research and look at how many suspicious deaths of service members occurred overseas, you will see the pattern. Every family who loses a loved one to a non combat death overseas deserves answers and a full investigation of the circumstances if they believe they were murdered or pushed to suicide because they had no way out. We lost a lot of female soldiers to non combat death overseas but we also lost a lot of male service members too. Would the expansion of the expedited transfer policy save their life? Or are they still trapped because current policy dictates their commander make that decision. Why can’t we have a bug out plan for the service members who were ignored like Kamisha? Why can’t we provide them with a plan that safely helps them extricate themselves from a dangerous situation if the chain of command chooses to do nothing because they don’t care or don’t understand how violence escalates?
Questions from Retired U.S. Federal Special Agent:
1. Was SSG NORRIS still legally married to his “third” and last wife at the time the relationship between him and SPC BLOCK initiated at Ft. Hood, Texas…or…elsewhere?
2. If SSG NORRIS was still legally married at the time he and SPC BLOCK became sexually involved, the military offense of ADULTERY, as well as other possible military offenses, was applicable…and…that military crime must not have been permitted to occur without subsequent “mutually applicable” ADULTERY military legal action against both SSG NORRIS and SPC BLOCK!
3. At the time of his suicide, was SSG NORRIS divorced or still married to his last wife?
4. According to the U.S. Army, upon his death, who was officially designated as SSG NORRIS’ “immediate legal surviving relative”
5. Was there any company level chain of command knowledge of the SSG NORRIS-SPC BLOCK relationship at Ft. Hood, Texas, prior to their respective departures from that unit to the Basic NCO Course (BNOC) (SSG NORRIS) and Iraq (SPC BLOCK)?
6. Must ID and interview their family, close friends and company level chain of command back at Ft. Hood prior to the SSG NORRIS and SPC BLOCK respective departures, to attempt to determine any possible degree of knowledge about their “pre-departure” existing relationship, which is already somewhat detailed by an unidentified soldier in one of the case’s enclosed CID Sworn Statements.
7. Must clarify, as far back as possible…due to their respective different military ranks…and…probable age difference, where exactly did their relationship commence…at Ft. Hood, Texas…or…elsewhere before that…for example, at the U.S. Army Military Police School (USAMPS), Ft. Leonardwood, Missouri,…or…somewhere in-between…in order to determine for how long their Chains of Command permitted their, most likely UNLAWFUL or at least PROHIBITED, fraternization and personal romantic relationship to exist.
8. When did each of them, SSG NORRIS and SPC BLOCK, first arrive at their MP Company in Ft. Hood, Texas…and…from where?
9. Obtain copies all written U.S. Army Regulations and policies relative to FRATERNIZATION PROHIBITIONS and “SOCIAL DISTANCING” applicable to Non-Commissioned Officers (NCOs) (Rank of Corporal to Sergeant Major) and Enlisted Personnel (Rank of Private to SPC) applicable to both SSG NORRIS and
10. Obtain any and all possible evidence of where exactly did both SSG NORRIS and SPC BLOCK received official information concerning #9 above.
11. When American military personnel are discharged from any military duty, they are issued a DD Form 214, with extensive official individual military history pertaining to promotions, awards, tours of duty, type of discharge, etc. Need to determine what form is issued by the U.S. Armed Forces to the official legal survivors of dead military personnel, and obtain a copy of the ones issued to SSG NORRIS and SPC BLOCK to see what information they contain.
12. Obtain copies of their respective Death Certificates…what cause and/or manner of death is listed in each?
13. Who, from the U.S. Armed Forces, first officially notified BLOCK’s family of her death…when…where…how?
14. Exactly what was the BLOCK family initially told concerning the cause and/or manner of death of SPC BLOCK?
15. Was SPC BLOCK “posthumously” awarded a “Purple Heart” medal by the U.S. Army?
16. If SPC BLOCK was indeed awarded a “Purple Heart” medal, a copy of the corresponding “Citation” must be obtained, and its obviously FALSE content noted…as it is a medal officially authorized to be awarded ONLY for: “Being wounded or killed in any action against an enemy of the United States or as a result of an act of any such enemy or opposing armed forces…”
17. Did the official legal survivor of SSG NORRIS receive any government “Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance (SGLI) payment in connection with any claim for his death by suicide?
18. The Chain of Command should have, upon receipt of the initial complaint against SSG NORRIS, made rapid administrative/personnel arrangements for the separation and transfer of SPC BLOCK or SSG NORRIS completely out of the area, to another overseas assignment or back to a base other than Ft. Hood,
Texas, and into a different MP Company, back in the Continental United States (CONUS)…not merely to transfer SPC BLOCK from SSG NORRIS’ squad to another squad…IN THE SAME PLATOON!
*THE FAILURE TO REMOVE SPC BLOCK AND SSG NORRIS FROM EACH OTHER IS THE MOST SERIOUS CHAIN OF COMMAND NEGLIGENT FAILURE WHICH LED TO THE MURDER OF SPC BLOCK! IF NOT FOR “A” THEREFORE NOT “B!”
19. There was also two(2) appearances or perceptions of possible CONFLICT OF INTEREST at the military law enforcement and criminal investigation level which took place at this crime scene:
a. “Off Duty” Military Police personnel, from SSG NORRIS’ and SPC BLOCK’s MP unit and MP platoon became overly involved at the crime scene, acting as if they were the first responding “On-Duty” MPs, which as far as I can tell they were NOT! At this time, I do NOT recall having read anything, in the E-mailed documents I have thus far received, which details anything about when or which “On-Duty” MPs or CID Agents arrived and took over complete and total control of the chaotic crime scene.
*FOR CLARIFICATION PURPOSES: Unless something has changed of which I am not aware, in the U.S. Army, Military Police personnel exist and perform under a “double supervision” system. They have an “OFF-DUTY” unit of assignment…as in their MP company…under the supervision of that company’s Chain of Command. And, as the need arises, they are basically provided to the “Provost Marshal” (Military Chief of Police) to be under his/her OPERATIONAL or “ON-DUTY” control.
b. In one of the Sworn Statements, it is revealed that one of the CID Special Agents at the crime scene was a former Military Police NCO at the same MP Company and possibly assigned to the same platoon as SSG NORRIS and SPC BLOCK, back in Ft. Hood, Texas. In that Sworn Statement, that MP witness also stated he had conversed with that CID Agent while in the vicinity of the SSG NORRIS and SPC BLOCK murder/suicide crime scene…and…that the agent had been one of his MP platoon leaders back at Ft. Hood, Texas…and…he had made a prior courtesy visit to that CID agent at the Camp Liberty CID Office, upon hearing that said NCO was now working there as a CID Agent. Obviously, based on this information, the CID Agent in question applied for the U.S. Army CID Program while he was assigned to that same MP Company back in Ft. Hood, Texas, before the unit was deployed to Iraq. That “SFC” ranked CID Special Agent should have informed his CID supervisor(s) he was formerly an NCO member of the MP Company where the SSG NORRIS and SPC BLOCK murder/suicide crime scene was located…and…should have been recused from any involvement in the case, ESPECIALLY IF HE PREVIOUSLY PERSONALLY KNEW OR SUPERVISED EITHER OR BOTH SSG NORRIS and SPC BLOCK FROM HIS ASSIGNMENT AT THE MP COMPANY BACK AT FT. HOOD!
20. Are MEDICS now organically attached to or assigned to MP units? I sensed some of the individuals involved at the crime scene, subsequent to the murder/suicide, were MP-connected MEDICS.
21. A Staff Sergeant counseling another Staff Sergeant about fraternization or anything else? That is strange to me…and…indicative of Chain of Command NEGLIGENCE in delegating this important preventive measure to an NCO of the same rank as the individual receiving the counseling! In my opinion, any and all counseling involving SSG NORRIS should have been done by a higher ranking NCO or a Commissioned Officer, not by his Platoon Sergeant OF EQUAL RANK. I feel such counseling should have been done by either the First Sergeant, Platoon Leader, Executive Officer or Company Commander.
22. Maybe, just maybe, I am just TOO OLD ARMY, but off-post squad parties at a squad leader’s off-post private home…and…drinking beers and going to off-post clubs with my squad leader?! Unheard of for me in my Army days…never happened! In my time there was strict “social separation” between Enlisted Soldiers, Non-Commissioned Officers (NCOs) and Commissioned Officers! Each rank category had their own SEPARATE on-post clubs…ENLISTED CLUB…NCO CLUB…and…OFFICERS CLUB. I’ve got a feeling that, at least in this particular MP company, there was a bit of too much socializing among the Enlisted soldiers and the NCOs…and this, as it does with Commissioned Officers also, is a pure social seed planting environment which blooms into prohibited FRATERNIZATION situations.
23. I suspect that SSG NORRIS came to a realization that he could get away with his fraternizing relationship with SPC BLOCK because he had gotten away with for so long, everyone was looking the other way and in denial…and…no one was really challenging him to not continue fraternizing with her!
24. My gut also tells me that SSG NORRIS’ anger streak was common knowledge around his MP Company, and most of his immediate supervisors and some in the Chain of Command, preferred NOT to confront him and hold him accountable for anything. THEY ROUTINELY GAVE HIM A PASS! And most soldiers were simply afraid and/or reluctant to report and complain about him.
25. I am in total agreement with all critique and comments previously provided about the CID Crime Lab apparent shortcomings.
*Most importantly…WHAT EXACTLY WAS IN THE CELL PHONES AND LAPTOPS! Must demand the transcripts and photos from each of those devices. What was the final legal disposition of those EVIDENCE ITEMS?!
Spc. Kamisha Block, U.S. Army in Iraq (2007)
Vidor family of soldier Kamisha Block alleges cover-up after 2007 shooting in Iraq -12 News Now (February 12, 2019)
Families from across the U.S. held a rally outside Fort Hood demanding answers about the deaths of their loved ones who died while serving. -KCEN News (July 11, 2020)
“In August of 2007, Kamisha Block was killed by friendly fire while serving in Iraq – or that was what her family was told. Her family uncovered several lies by the U.S. Army and ultimately learned that Kamisha was murdered. Why did the military lie to the Block family? This is a story about domestic abuse, murder, a military cover-up, and the relentless pursuit of justice by the Block family.” –Kamisha Block, Murderific True Crime Podcast (December 8, 2019)
Vanity Fair Confidential featured an episode called Don’t Ask Don’t Kill on Investigation Discovery highlighting the case of Army Pfc. Barry Winchell at Fort Campbell, Kentucky in 1999. Winchell was bludgeoned to death by a fellow soldier while he lay asleep in his cot on July 5 in the barracks. Winchell was described by his friends as someone who would give the shirt off his back for you. He was a model soldier and had dreams of becoming a Warrant Officer. He was a member of the elite Screaming Eagles, 101st Airborne and was considered a perfect fit for the military. He was described by fellow soldiers as a 50 caliber expert.
After Barry Winchell died, the military immediately began downplaying what had occurred on base at Fort Campbell. They initially claimed it was a fight that had gone too far. They told the family that Barry Winchell had been kicked in the head with a boot but his injuries did not match that theory. As a result, the family and media outlets were convinced the military was hiding the real story and believed they were trying to cover up the crime. Why? The military concluded that this was a rare soldier on soldier attack in their barracks but the claim that he was kicked in the head did not match the crime scene either. Although the military was tasked with the investigation of the murder, they declined to speculate on a motive.
The Army was not cooperating with anyone. ~Vanity Fair Confidential
When Barry’s girlfriend Calpernia Addams learned about what happened to Barry, he was on life support and considered brain dead. He died twelve hours after the attack and she didn’t get an opportunity to see him. Calpernia learned that he had been murdered on base and believed that there was more to this story then what the Army was sharing. As a result, she set out to make sure both Barry’s parents and the media knew what she knew and suspected had happened. Calpernia was born a boy. She served in the US Navy as a transsexual and then once she got out of the military, she began her transition from man to woman. When Calpernia and Barry met, they hit it off immediately and started dating. When she met Barry, she was halfway to becoming a woman. She lovingly shared that Barry accepted her for who she was and supported her in her transition from man to woman.
Calpernia strongly believed that people were blurring the lines between whether Barry was gay or straight. She wanted people to know that he was straight and he liked women. Calpernia believed that Barry’s troubles began with an anonymous accusation that Barry was gay. She claimed that a fellow soldier said he saw Barry giving oral sex to a man in a Nashville gay bar. But no one believed it and his military comrades didn’t think he was gay. Calpernia believed that it was Barry’s roommate, Justin Fisher, who started spreading the rumors in an effort to cause harm to Barry. In 1999 the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy was in effect and a soldier could in fact lose their career if they were found out. Justin Fisher didn’t have the best reputation. He was described as someone who thought he was a gangster even though he was from Nebraska. And some believed that Justin never should have been allowed to join the military.
According to Calpernia, Justin Fisher and Barry Winchell had a love/hate relationship. Fisher tormented him, joked about his sexuality, about him being a homosexual, and kept calling him a faggot. He told others that he didn’t trust him and eventually openly spread rumors that Barry was gay. Fisher also blackmailed Barry with his alleged homosexuality. He told their Non Commissioned Officers (NCOs) about him being gay knowing that Barry could lose his career under the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell (DADT) policy. Back in those days, once accused of being gay, you were dead in the water in a military setting. Some believe this case reveals that if gone unchecked the military can become an incubator for hate. At the time of DADT, it was virtually impossible to report anti-gay harassment and Barry’s family and friends were not quite sure how he dealt with the regular doses of harassment. As evidenced in this case and many others, he had nowhere to turn without fear of losing his cherished career.
At the time of DADT, it was virtually impossible to report anti-gay harassment without fear of losing your career. ~Vanity Fair Confidential
The military was in charge of the investigation because the crime occurred on a federal base. As with many cases, family, friends, and the media forced the Army to be accountable for what happened on their base on their watch. So as the investigation into Barry’s Winchell’s death continued, we learned what actually happened. Calvin Glover, an eighteen year old new recruit, was ultimately charged with the murder of Barry Winchell. Observers felt that he did it because of a combination of too many men, too much alcohol, and too little to do. The day before the murder, Calvin and Winchell got into a fight. Apparently Winchell dealt him one punch in the face and he went down. Calvin who was highly intoxicated swore he would get him back but Winchell apologized to him the next day and it appeared that everything was fine. Unfortunately, Justin Fisher (Winchell’s roommate) was provoking Calvin all day long asking him if he was going to take Winchell’s abuse.
That same night after Calvin Glover had consumed seventeen beers, he decided he was going to bed. Fisher went to his room and told him that Barry was telling everyone that he beat him up and they were all laughing about it. Fisher handed Calvin a wooden bat, suggested he hit Barry with it, and Calvin said he felt compelled to use it. In a drunken, peer pressured stupor, Calvin hit Barry Winchell multiple times in the head with the wooden bat. Barry Winchell was asleep and couldn’t defend himself. After Calvin was done hitting Barry, Fisher was laughing, jumping up and down, and told Calvin that they would keep it in the family. Then Calvin immediately began to destroy evidence. Fisher acted like he stumbled upon Winchell on the cot and was trying to help him. The soldiers tried calling 911 but they were not able to get through to emergency services on a base phone. Barry was taken to the hospital and twelve hours later, he was dead. Everyone in the barracks was wondering who would come in the barracks and kill them.
The soldiers tried calling 911 but they were not able to get through to emergency services on a base phone. ~Vanity Fair Confidential
In the course of the investigation, Justin Fisher eventually identified Calvin Glover as the culprit. As a result of Calpernia Addams and others that stepped forward, we learned that there was more to the story underneath the surface. We learned that Justin Fisher had a much larger role in the crime then he was willing to admit. Justin Fisher introduced Calpernia Addams to Barry Winchell. Apparently Justin Fisher was interested in Calpernia Addams and after she chose Barry, he asked her if she would hook him up with one of her drag queen friends. Justin ended up hooking up with Kimmie Mayfield, who was a man. Everyone suspected that Justin was interested in guys because of his relationship with Kimmie. They hooked up several times in the course of a few months. We also learned this wasn’t Justin’s first walk on the wild side. He had a history of experimentation. Barry shared with Calpernia that one time he woke up to Justin playing with his feet. Calpernia deduced that Justin may have been jealous of Calpernia being with Barry or vice versa. It was noted that people tend to hate those who remind them of something they don’t want to face.
In the end about 90% of the soldiers who served with Barry Winchell, Calvin Glover, and Justin Fisher didn’t think this was a hate crime but instead a crime of passion. They did not witness any anti-gay rage; but they did witness too much alcohol. One of the soldiers believed that Justin Fisher also hit Barry Winchell with the bat because of the blood spatter evidence left at the crime scene. It matched someone who was left handed and Fisher was left handed. One of the soldiers mentioned this to Fisher and Fisher told him he was in the wrong career and should be a detective instead. The soldiers who served with them believed that Justin Fisher was the murderer and Calvin Glover was the murder weapon. Calvin felt pressured by Justin Fisher to hit Winchell while he was intoxicated. It is suspected that Fisher hit Winchell with the bat as well and may have been the one that dealt the fatal blows. Calvin participated in the Vanity Fair programming by phone from prison and did in fact express remorse for his role in Barry Winchell’s death.
Both Calvin Glover and Justin Fisher were court martialed. In the end, Calvin Glover was convicted of pre-meditated murder and was sentenced to life in prison with an opportunity for parole. Justin Fisher was charged as an accessory and restricted to his barracks while he was going through trial. Observers felt that it was ridiculous that Fisher was restricted to his barracks when in fact he was the mastermind of the murder. He too was convicted and sentenced to twelve and half years but was released early in 2006 after only serving seven years. Observers felt that Justin Fisher’s sentence was a miscarriage of justice considering it never would have happened if it wasn’t for him pushing Calvin Glover to hit Barry Winchell with the baseball bat that night. Justin Fisher now lives in the Mid-West and declined to comment on this Vanity Fair episode. He walks as a free man. In retrospect, Calvin Glover shared that he feels like this was a love triangle gone wrong and he wishes that he could take it all back.
At the end of the programming, Pat and Wally Kutteles (Barry’s parents) shared that they sent their son off to serve in the military, they did not send him off to be beaten to death with a bat while he was sleeping. Dixon Osborn from the Servicemen’s Legal Defense Network (SLDN) believed that the military simply wanted to sweep it under the rug with no connection to the gay reference. The military hoped the general public, the media, and Barry’s parents would just accept that it was a drunken brawl. All those involved felt like the military investigation was a joke. Calpernia Addams, Barry’s parents and friends, and the SLDN wanted to honor Barry’s memory by exposing the truth about Barry’s untimely death. They used Barry Winchell’s case as a catalyst to lift the dangerous Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy. According to those involved, President Bill Clinton’s DADT policy was the biggest mistake ever for the military because it taught people to lie. At the peak of DADT, there were 3-4 soldiers discharged per day for their sexual orientation. DADT was a failure of the Clinton administration.
All those involved felt like the military investigation was a joke. ~Vanity Fair Confidential
In an interesting twist, the Commander who was in charge at the time of the death of Barry Winchell sparked protest in Washington DC in 2000 when he was reassigned to the Joint Chiefs of Staff at the Pentagon. In response, Eric Shinseki, the Army’s Chief of Staff, stated that General Clark’s command at Fort Campbell had been “distinguished by great competence and compassionate leadership. The Army has placed its trust and confidence in Major General Clark and I am confident he will continue to excel in service to our nation.” The military concluded in a public statement that this was the first gay bashing murder in over ten years and that soldier on soldier violence was rare. In October 1999, President Clinton signed an executive order increasing penalties for hate crimes in the military justice code and allowed a sentencing authority to hear evidence that a violent crime was based on race, color or sexual orientation. However, the order only applied to crimes committed after Nov. 30, 1999.
Barry Winchell’s parents lobbied with the SLDN to help change the DADT policy after losing their son. Even though their son was not gay, he was accused of being gay which eventually led to his death. Roughly ten years later in 2010, President Barack Obama signed a historic bill ending the DADT policy, a policy that compelled gay and lesbian service members to hide their sexual orientation. The ending of the policy made it official for gays and lesbians to serve openly in the Armed Forces. President Obama said he “hopes all those who left the service because of the policy will seek to re-enlist. And he encouraged all gays to consider service.” Although, gays and lesbians were cautioned to keep their identity to themselves until the law was official in 2011. This comes as one of the first major actions by Secretary Defense Leon Panetta, who had been on the job for three weeks. SecDef Panetta also lifted the ban on women in combat in 2013. Our military is now officially equal in all respects.