Reasonable Doubt Premiered ‘Failure to Remember’ on Investigation Discovery: Penny Brummer Maintains Innocence in the 1994 Homicide of Sarah Gonstead (June 21, 2017)

Penny Brummer, a military vet, is accused of murdering her ex-girlfriend’s best friend in a jealous rage. However, Penny was so drunk that night she was in a blackout state. Can Chris and Melissa help fill in the gaps of her memory to prove her innocence? -Reasonable Doubt, Investigation Discovery

Air Force veteran Penny Brummer was convicted on October 1, 1994 of murdering her ex-girlfriend’s best friend 21-year-old Sarah Gonstead in Madison, Wisconsin. On March 14, 1994, after a night of heavy drinking with Penny, Sarah was shot in the back of the head execution style and found three weeks later in a secluded field. Detectives theorized that Sarah most likely trusted her killer. On this episode of Investigation Discovery’s Reasonable Doubt, Penny’s mother, Nancy Brummer, turned to Detective Chris Anderson and criminal defense attorney Melissa Lewkowicz to help her prove Penny’s innocence. Nancy believes the prosecution had no concrete evidence except for circumstantial evidence and she also believes the the jury was biased and led to believe that lesbians are inherently violent. Detective Anderson and Melissa Lewkowicz worked with Nancy Brummer by taking a second look at Penny Brummer’s case featured in the ninth episode of Reasonable Doubt aptly titled ‘Failure to Remember’. It’s their job to investigate the cases that family members swear are wrongful homicide convictions and in the end the duo share their assessment of guilt or innocence based on meticulous investigative work.

Nancy Brummer has been fighting to free her daughter for twenty-two years. She told Detective Anderson and Melissa that they were her last hope. The two learned that Sarah Gonstead left her mother’s house to go out for a night of drinking to celebrate her 21st birthday with her friend Penny but Sarah never came home. Twenty-five days later, Sarah was found in a secluded field in Madison. Sarah had been shot execution style in the back of the head and Penny was the last known person to see her alive. Eight days later, Penny was arrested and charged with first degree murder. Penny claims she pulled over to clean up some beer that spilled in her vehicle and Sarah exited the vehicle to walk half a block to her best friend Glenda’s house. But prosecutors painted a darker picture. They theorized the two got drunk and Penny drove Sarah out to a empty soy field and murdered her. Prosecutors believed the motive was jealousy because Glenda had just broken up with Penny and Penny blamed Sarah for the break-up. They claimed Penny wanted revenge and the jury bought it. Penny Brummer is currently serving life in prison and her first opportunity for parole is in 2045.

Detective Anderson and Melissa met with the Nancy Brummer first to hear her plea for justice. Nancy stated that she wanted to find the person who committed the crime and free Penny so she can come home. Nancy confirmed that Glenda and Penny were dating and broke up about a month prior to Sarah’s disappearance. Sarah was Glenda’s best friend and the three of them would hang out and party together. Penny was in her early twenties at the time of the homicide so her behavior was typical of most young people at that stage in their life. Nancy Brummer described Penny as very social and happy-go-lucky. She said Penny was really into sports and she was on the softball team and volleyball team in high school. Nancy opined Penny was a typical teenager and started drinking around the age of seventeen. After high school, Penny joined the Air Force and shared with her mom that it was hard being in the military because of the secrecy she had to maintain regarding her sexual orientation. Nancy Brummer believes that the jury was biased and led to believe that a lesbian is more prone to violence. She referenced a questionnaire that Melissa agreed was inflammatory and would need a second look.

The prosecution painted a picture that Penny was jealous of the friendship between Glenda and Sarah. The two were strictly friends and Sarah was straight. Nancy observed that Penny was sad and disappointed about the break-up but not what one would consider obsessive. She reminded Detective Anderson and Melissa that the prosecution had nothing: no physical evidence, no DNA, no blood evidence, nothing that tied Penny to the murder. The prosecution said the gun that was used in the commission of the crime was a 22 handgun that belonged to Penny’s father. Nancy admits that her husband’s gun did go missing and was never recovered. When Sarah’s body was found, Nancy said a witness came forward to the police and said that he had driven by the scene of the crime a day or two after the murder and saw a suspicious vehicle along the side of the road. He saw a man standing behind the vehicle with what looked like a pink and purple duffle bag and as it turns out, Sarah’s jacket was the same pink and purple color. Nancy said this evidence was ignored. Nancy informed both Detective Anderson and Melissa that even if they don’t find Penny innocent, she will keep fighting for her release.

Detective Anderson and Melissa began their investigation. Detective Anderson started with the man who was the eyewitness. This man told Detective Anderson that he did in fact see a vehicle by the side of the road near the location of where Sarah’s body was found in the field. He claims he made eye contact with the man in question but that was about the extent of it. He said after the man made eye contact with him, he put his head down. The eyewitness was concerned that this man was trying to move the body, after all it was only a couple days after she had gone missing. He said the police informed him that they already had a suspect in the case and he felt that his testimony was largely discounted and ignored. Melissa investigated the prosecutors jealousy motive. One of Penny’s close friends described her as a great friend and a someone she went bar-hopping with. Penny’s friend believes that she was a binge drinker and most likely an alcoholic because she would drink until she blacked out. Penny’s friends said she hoped she would get back together with Glenda but certainly didn’t act like a jealous ex-girlfriend. Penny’s friend Mary believes she is innocent.

Detective Anderson met with a forensic expert to go over the physical evidence or lack there of. The two examined the crime scene photos and other evidence available. The forensic expert didn’t see any signs of struggle and it appeared Sarah’s body fell forward after she was shot in the head. There was no sexual assault and no beating. It was an execution style killing and Sarah most likely knew and trusted the person who shot her. Sarah was walking in front of the perpetrator when she was shot in the back of her head. Detective Anderson visited the last known location of both Penny and Sarah, a local bar in Madison. A witness said Sarah and Penny were celebrating Sarah’s birthday because she had just turned twenty-one. The two had been drinking prior to their arrival at the bar but the witness didn’t think either appeared to be drunk. She said they showed up at the bar around 10:30 p.m. and left a couple hours later; they had a couple drinks while they were there. The witness observed they were both in great spirits and having fun and they were both able to carry on a conversation. On the night in question, Sarah was kind of quiet while Penny appeared to be enjoying herself with others at the bar. Neither of them were agitated or upset; they both appeared to be in a really good mood.

Detective Anderson interviewed Penny via the telephone. Penny said she dated Glenda for 8 or 9 months and admits she fell in love with her. She also claimed to have a nice friendship with Sarah. She shared that Sarah never did anything bad to her and never meddled in her relationship with Glenda. Penny said Glenda just decided one day to end things and told her she was going back on birth control. Penny assumed Glenda wanted to go back to guys. After the break-up, Penny was heartbroken. She admitted she got physical with Glenda one time; they pushed each other during an argument. On March 14, 1994, Penny said she got out of work around 7:30 p.m., got some beer, and went to Sarah’s house. Penny said they stopped at a couple bars and drank more beer. Penny said she doesn’t remember being at Jakes (the bar where the eyewitness last saw both Penny and Sarah at around midnight). Penny admitted she was an alcoholic then and was very intoxicated. Penny and Sarah were on their way to pick up Glenda when Penny spilled some beer in her car and stopped to clean it up. Penny said Sarah wasn’t feeling well so she started walking to Glenda’s house which was about a half a block away. Penny told Detective Anderson she doesn’t know why she didn’t take Sarah to Glenda’s house but she went home after cleaning her car. Penny reminded Detective Anderson that she isn’t the type to kill anyone, she didn’t have a weapon, and she had absolutely no reason to hurt Sarah.

In the meantime, Melissa looked at the questionnaire that was given to the jury asking them about their thoughts about lesbians and violence. Melissa said, as a criminal defense attorney, she would insist that the jury not be subjected to or see the questionnaire because it is inflammatory. Melissa also spoke with Glenda who was the glue that held the case together. Glenda claimed she dated Penny for about a year but wasn’t necessarily in love with her. Glenda claimed Penny drank a lot but could still function; she just wouldn’t remember it. Glenda described Sarah as a shy, soft-hearted, and loyal friend. Glenda believed that Penny was jealous of her friendship with Sarah. Glenda admitted that Penny did in deed find her birth control pills and assumed that she was breaking up with her so she could date men again. Glenda admitted she broke up with Penny because she was way too controlling. Glenda also claimed Penny was pissed that she broke up with her. When Glenda ended it, Penny shoved her and she shoved her back and kicked her out of her house. Glenda said the look in her eyes scared the crap out of her and she began to cry. Glenda believes they have the right person and is still grieving the loss of her friend.

Detective Anderson and Melissa met with Nancy Brummer to share the results of their investigation. Nancy claimed the jury was bias because of Penny’s sexual orientation and Melissa believes she was absolutely right. Melissa said the questions asked of the jury were highly prejudicial. Penny’s close friend felt that the motive of jealousy was crap but Glenda was 100% convinced Penny was the killer. Glenda claimed the motive in this case was vengeance. Glenda declared that if Penny gets out of jail, she is moving to another state because she is scared of her; if Penny did this once, who is to say she won’t do this again? Nancy doesn’t believe Glenda and said she is a good actress. Detective Anderson told Nancy he followed up with the eye witness at the scene of the crime and said this was a problem because each and every lead needs to be taken seriously. He also shared that only one of the detectives was alive and he refused to meet with him. Melissa confirmed that there is no physical evidence tying Penny to the crime. Detective Anderson addressed the gun they believed was used in the commission of the crime and Nancy confirmed the 22 they owned had indeed gone missing. Detective Anderson addressed the autopsy photos and shared that the forensic expert did not observe any signs of struggle. It was a cold night and if someone ran towards Sarah, she definitely would have heard it. Detective Anderson deduced Sarah was shot by someone she knew or was led into the field at gunpoint.

“Circumstantial cases are a series of little things that add up until they point in one direction.” -Detective Chris Anderson, Reasonable Doubt

Nancy Brummer said there was no way her daughter would have shot Sarah in the back of the head. But Detective Anderson had some serious issues with the fact that the only person who claims Penny was in a black out that night is Penny. He spoke with a bartender who claimed that Penny appeared to be functional. Jake’s bar is significant because it is less than two miles from where Sarah’s body was found. Detective Anderson noted that Penny said she couldn’t remember being at Jake’s that night but she remembered very specific things earlier and later that night. Detective Anderson felt it was suspicious that Penny remembered everything really well that night except being at this bar. Is this a form of convenient amnesia? Melissa empathized with why Nancy felt a sense of injustice all these years. The biased questionnaire, the ignored witnesses, and the overall investigation had major problems; the evidence was highly circumstantial. Penny was the last known person to see Sarah alive that night; Penny was last seen at a bar with Sarah which is located less than two miles from where Sarah’s body was found; Penny said she can’t remember being there but does remember a lot of details earlier and after Sarah went missing; Sarah was killed with a 22 and Penny’s father owned a 22 that was now missing; Penny was a military vet who was trained to shoot guns; and Sarah wasn’t trying to run away, she didn’t struggle, and she most likely knew and trusted her killer.

Why would Penny do this? Melissa shared that she read through the police reports and noted that Penny admitted she was heartbroken when things ended with Glenda. Penny also admitted that after the break-up she wondered who Glenda was with, where she was, and what she was doing. Penny also said Glenda was in her head 24 hours a day (obsessed) and that she resented Sarah because she assumed Sarah was trying to drag her back into the straight world. On the night of March 14, 1994, Penny did what she always did. Melissa explained Penny got really drunk, the break-up was fresh, her feelings were raw, and she spent the entire night with the person she believed came between her and the woman she loved. Melissa asked, “did Penny plan to walk Sarah into the woods or was it just a horrific idea fueled by fifteen drinks? Did she remember shooting Sarah, does she remember her falling to the ground, or does she not remember anything at all?” Ironically, Penny admits that prison saved her life. Penny believes she would not have made it to thirty had it not been for prison. Penny said she turned her life around behind bars. Based on the leads Nancy provided and an independent investigation, Detective Anderson and Melissa revealed there was nothing new in the investigation that would bring Penny home. They both suggested Nancy ask her daughter the tough questions and then she will know, even 22 years later.

“The problem is that the things Penny remembers are the things that will help her and the things that she can’t remember are the things that would potentially hurt her.” -Melissa Lewkowicz, Reasonable Doubt

Source: Reasonable Doubt ‘Failure to Remember’

Twenty-one years ago a jury found Penny Brummer guilty in the murder of Sarah Gonstead. The family of Brummer has spent those 21 years working to prove her innocence. Dave Delozier reports. -Channel 3000 | News 3 (December 14, 2015)

MJFA Links:
Sarah Gonstead was Shot Execution Style in the Back of Head After a Night Out Celebrating 21st Birthday with Friend & Air Force Veteran Penny Brummer (March 14, 1994)

Related Links:
Who Killed Sarah?
Seeking justice for Penny Brummer
New Trial for Penny Brummer, Wrongfully Convicted | Petition
Penny Brummer Defense & Support Fund by Truth in Justice

1994
Sarah Gonstead Murder

1995
Reasonable Doubt by Ingrid Ricks | The Advocate

1997
State of Wisconsin v. Penny L Brummer

2003
A short history of exposing misconduct

2005
Chapter 1: A tale of three young women
Chapter 2: A hole in her story
Chapter 3: A surprise witness appears
Chapter 4: Defense sows seeds of doubt
Chapter 5: Emotional debate ends in guilty verdict
Chapter 6: Supporters of Brummer offer their theories; they say the evidence was too thin and question makeup of jury
Gift enables investigative journalism class to probe old murder case

2012
Dane Co. DA Approves DNA Testing in 1994 Killing
Wisconsin DA approves DNA testing in 1994 killing
Will DNA Save Penny Brummer?
Spring Green woman could be cleared

2013
Innocence project founder promotes cause of Madison woman convicted of murder
Did Homophobia Convict a Wisconsin Woman of Murder?

2014
A Look Back After 20 Years
A look back at a 20-year-old murder and if the right person was convicted

2015
Who killed Sarah? The trial of Penny Brummer
Group questioning conviction of Penny Brummer in 1994 death of Sarah Gonstead
Reward offered in 21-year-old homicide conviction
$10,000 Reward Offered in Wrongful Conviction Case
Person of Interest Hits Wrongfully Convicted for Serving in U.S. Military
On Wrongful Convictions and Penny Brummer

2016
Penny Brummer’s fight for justice
The Lynching of a Madison Lesbian: Wisconsin’s Wrongful Conviction of Penny Brummer
Wrongful Conviction: Penny Brummer Is Innocent and Still in Prison
Richmond Crime Author Sheila Berry Takes on Wrongful Convictions Nationwide

2017
Penny Brummer convicted of murdering Sarah Gonstead, but is there Reasonable Doubt?

Books:
Who Killed Sarah? by Sheila & Doug Berry (2005) | Amazon
Who Killed Sarah? by Sheila & Doug Berry (2005) | Walmart

Video Links:
Reward offered in 21-year-old homicide conviction
Reasonable Doubt | Investigation Discovery | Amazon
Failure to Remember | Reasonable Doubt – Investigation Discovery
Failure to Remember | Reasonable Doubt | Investigation Discovery | YouTube

MFJA Links:
Sarah Gonstead Shot Execution Style on 21st Birthday; Friend & Air Force Veteran Penny Brummer Found Guilty of 1st Degree Murder, Sentenced to Life in Prison (March 14, 1994)
Air Force Veteran Penny Brummer Found Guilty of the 1st Degree Murder of Sarah Gonstead; Sentenced to Life in Prison with Possibility of Parole After 50 Years (October 1, 1994)

A List of Soldiers Targeted & Murdered for Military Survivor and Life Insurance Benefits (SGLI)

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This research is not complete. As a matter of fact, it has only just begun. This list was created as a result of one google search and the discovery of a few cases as research is conducted in other areas. The majority of these murder for life insurance cases are examples of civilian women targeting mostly Army soldiers. Criminals are in fact targeting soldiers for lifetime benefits including monthly financial benefits, housing, medical, and the Servicemen’s Group Life Insurance. The best armor is education. If it seems too good to be true then it probably is. If it appears that your significant other is especially interested in financial matters despite just meeting them, red flag. If they appear adept in how the military works and begin controlling you by threatening to go to your Commander, is that love? How many other soldiers did they marry or date before you? Often we want to overlook things for the sake of peace and the benefit of the children involved. Is it fair that you are an after thought and all that really matters is your paycheck? Be careful of who you let in your world and who you marry. Most of these cases involve a woman targeting a male soldier. Was there substance abuse and/or domestic abuse prior to the final act of homicide? Did they verbally threaten the soldier’s life? Did the soldier feel trapped because they had nowhere to turn without risking their career? How can we prevent these crimes from happening in the future?

All our soldiers need a safe place to turn if they suddenly realize they are trapped in a situation they didn’t bargain for. Spouses literally have a license to abuse on a federal military base. The Commander cannot hold them accountable because they are civilians. Civilian authorities do not have jurisdiction on federal bases. Who holds civilian spouses accountable on federal bases for crimes against soldiers? How often is the soldier punished and held accountable for the spouse’s behavior? Will reporting these crimes mean risking losing their career? Are our male soldiers afraid they won’t be believed or they will be belittled by their Chain of Command and Commander? The spouses who have you murdered in the end for the life insurance are the same spouses that will level false allegations against you, use the children as a weapon, and blow your money while you are fighting wars and risking your life in Iraq and Afghanistan. Our soldiers need a safe way to exit domestic abuse situations without worrying about this same spouse lying to the Commander to manipulate the narrative. This is why seasoned investigators would benefit our soldiers to help evaluate and assess the situation in an effort to keep people safe and prevent further harm. We cannot ‘believe all women’ as evidenced by the female perpetrators in the majority of these life insurance motivated homicide cases. As of now we are dependent on the assessment of one Commander. It all depends on who can tell the best sob story. You have a 50/50 chance at justice in the military if you are dealing with some kind of sociopath hell bent on revenge because you rejected them. Is this why soldiers are not reporting domestic abuse and instead ending up dead?

In Their Name:
James Goodyear, US Air Force (Orlando, Florida, 1971)*
Kenneth Barnes, US Army (Fort Gordon, Georgia, 1972)*
Chester Garrett, US Army (Fort Bliss, Texas, 1977)*
Lee Hartley, US Navy (Jacksonville, Florida, 1982)*
Bill Lipscomb, US Air Force (Lackland AFB, Texas, 1986)
Anthony Riggs, US Army (Fort Bliss, Texas, 1991)*
Joseph Snodgrass, US Air Force (Clark AFB, Philippines, 1991)
David Russo, US Navy (Lemoore Naval Air Station, California, 1994)*
Elise Makdessi, US Navy (NAS Oceana, Virginia, 1996)*
Doug Gissendaner, US Army Veteran (Auburn, Georgia, 1997)*
Kevin Spann, US Army (Fort Gordon, Georgia, 1997)*
Marty Theer, US Air Force (Fayetteville, North Carolina, 2000)*
Lynn Reister, US Army (Fort Bliss, Texas, 2002)*
David Shannon, US Army (Fort Bragg, North Carolina, 2002)*
Jeremy Meyers, US Army (Fort Lewis, Washington, 2003)
Gary Prokop, US Army (Fort Hood, Texas, 2003)*
Paul Berkley, US Navy Reserve (Raleigh, North Carolina, 2005)*
Michael Severance, US Air Force (Dyess AFB, Texas, 2005)*
Donald Gower, US Army (Fort Hood, Texas, 2007)
Gilbert Hart, US Army Retired (Clarksville, Tennessee, 2009)*
Remano Campbell, US Army Veteran (Mobile, Alabama, 2011)*
Travis McGraw, US Air Force Reserve (Saluda, North Carolina, 2011)
Isaac Aguigui, US Army (Fort Stewart, Georgia, 2014)*
Alphonso Doss, US Navy (Orange Park, Florida, 2014)*
John Eubanks, US Army (Fort Stewart, Georgia, 2014)*
Brandon Horst, US Army (Minnesota National Guard, 2014)*
Michael Walker, US Army (Aliamanu Military Reservation, Hawaii, 2014)
Michael Andrews, US Army (Fort Benning, Georgia, 2015)*
Dmitry Chepusov, US Navy (Armed Forces Network, Germany, 2015)*
Jonathan & Lenin Otero, US Army (Florida National Guard, 2015)
Nathan Paet, US Air Force (Nellis AFB, Nevada, 2015)*
Elizabeth Shelton, US Navy (Naval Station Norfolk, Virginia, 2015)**
David Wi, US Army (Fort Campbell, Kentucky, 2015)

The asterisk (*) denotes that the soldier was a victim of homicide or attempted homicide for the insurance money. **Elizabeth Shelton and unborn baby survived the murder-for-hire plot.

Air Force Court of Criminal Appeals Overturns Rape Conviction & 20 Year Prison Sentence for Lackland Basic Military Training Instructor MSgt Michael Silva (2017)

image1-4

MSgt Michael Silva, USAF

In the 2011/2012 timeframe, the Lackland Air Force Base Sex Scandal coverage began to gain serious momentum in the media. As a result, military leadership set up a hotline number for former recruits to report claims of sexual abuse while attending basic training. After a base wide investigation, 35 basic military training instructors were court-martialed for allegedly abusing trainees or sex related offenses. MSgt Michael Silva was one of two basic military training instructors at Lackland AFB found guilty and sentenced by the military courts to 20 years for rape. SSgt Luis Walker was the other instructor and committed suicide shortly after learning his appeal was denied. At an Article 32 evidentiary hearing convened in Silva’s case, he was facing charges of raping a basic trainee from 1995 and two ex-wives (one in the 1992-1993 time frame and another in 2007). In January 2015, Silva was convicted of raping two of the alleged victims, the basic trainee in 1995 and one of the ex-wives. MSgt Silva wrote a clemency letter to the convening authority in the courts-martial at Joint Base San-Antonio claiming that he was falsely accused and wanted to retire with the rank, pay and benefits of an Air Force senior master sergeant, the rank he earned but was never allowed to wear. Silva claims that his accusers (also military members at the time of the alleged incidents) were motivated to accuse him of rape in an effort to collect veteran’s benefits totaling over $3000 a month. The alleged victim’s names in this case have been protected for their own privacy. Both the 2nd AF SJA office and the convening authority taking action on this case were provided over 150 pages of evidence found post trial proving that the alleged victims were either lying or not credible.

On July 20, 2017, Save Our Heroes reported that MSgt Michael Silva’s rape conviction and twenty year prison sentence had been overturned by the Air Force Court of Criminal Appeals. MSgt Silva’s defense presented seven arguments and the Court of Criminal Appeals made their decision after seeing only one of those arguments, although they referenced some of the injustice in the other arguments, they ruled them moot at this point and would not be answered. MSgt Silva’s case was overturned due to an error on the part of Judge (Col) Natalie Richardson provided, inter alia, the following instructions to the court members before counsels’ arguments on findings:

“An accused may be convicted based only on evidence before the court, not on evidence of a general criminal predisposition. Each offense must stand on its own, and you must keep the evidence of each offense separate. Stated differently: if you find or believe that the accused is guilty of one offense, that—you may not use that finding, or that belief as a basis for inferring, assuming, or proving that he committed any other offense. . . . Proof of one offense carries with it no inference that the accused is guilty of any other offense.”

“Evidence that the accused committed one sexual offense alleged in a Specification—so 1, 2, 3, or 4 of the Charge—may have no bearing on your deliberations in relation to any other of those Specifications unless you first determine by preponderance of the evidence, that is more likely than not, that one offense alleged oc- curred. So if you determine by preponderance of the evidence that the offense alleged in the specification of the Charge occurred, even if you are not convinced beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused is guilty of that offense, you may nonetheless then con- sider the evidence of that offense for its bearing on any matter to which it is relevant in relation to the other alleged specifications. You may also consider the evidence of such other sexual offenses for its tendency, if any, to show the accused [sic] propensity or predisposition to engage in sexual offenses. You may not, how- ever, convict the accused solely because you believe he commit- ted this other offense or solely because you believe the accused has a propensity or predisposition to engage in sexual offenses. In other words you cannot use this evidence to overcome a fail- ure of proof in the government’s case if you perceive any to exist. The accused may be convicted of an alleged offense only if the prosecution has proven each element beyond a reasonable doubt. Each offense must stand on its own, and the proof of one offense carries no inference that the accused is guilty of any other of- fense. In other words, proof of one sexual offense creates no in- ference that the accused is guilty of any other sexual offense. However, it may demonstrate that the accused has a propensity to commit that type of offense. The prosecution’s burden of proof to establish the accused [sic] guilt beyond a reasonable doubt re- mains as to each and every element of each offense charged. Proof of one, proof of one charged offense carries with it no infer-ence that the accused is guilty of any other charged offense.”

“…There were weaknesses in the Government’s case. The alleged crimes occurred far in the past. There were no eyewitnesses other than the victims themselves. The only one of the charged or uncharged victims to report the alleged crimes to law enforcement prior to 2012 was JB, and she recanted her initial allegation. The Prosecution presented no physical, scientific, or photographic evidence of any of the offenses. The Government offered no confessions or admissions to any of the offenses by Appellant, who did not testify.” –United States Air Force Court of Criminal Appeals

MSgt Silva was merely a scapegoat in the Lackland sex scandal. His wife Lisa made the following statement: “They finally did the right thing by admitting that my husband wasn’t afforded a fair trial. They simply used him as a scape goat because of all the political pressure and attention on the alleged Lackland Sex Scandal. By convicting Mike they were sending a message to all the MTI’s both past and present demonstrating that they would go after them no matter what. I don’t know who would want want to even be a MTI knowing that a potential false allegation could be hanging over their head for 20 years and potentially ruin your life. Mike was an amazing mentor to so many over his 24 year career and all they did was destroy him. He was defeated by the very institution he served to protect and defend.”

The political witch hunts produced convictions of military training instructors to appease congressional leaders, and it resulted in one sided investigations. In MSgt Silva’s case, they didn’t even verify statements made by the accusers. In other words, there was no evidence to charge MSgt Silva to begin with because this was indeed a purely ‘he said, she said’ case. And the Air Force Office of Special Investigations (AFOSI) went on a fishing expedition when they sought out MSgt Silva’s ex-wives, who technically may not have the necessary credibility if they were at all resentful or angry that the marriage ended. It appears the AFOSI attempted to connect three accusers in an effort to prove MSgt Silva was a serial rapist with a propensity to commit crimes in the future. As part of a response to the high profile Lackland sex scandal, the Air Education and Training Command (AETC) set up a temporary hot line. One accuser used the specially created hotline to report an alleged rape in 1995 and the other two accusers were ex-wives sought out by AFOSI to bolster their case (one recanted her allegation). Instead, they gave the Air Force Court of Criminal Appeals grounds to throw the conviction out because the alleged criminal modus operandi was not similar in pattern whatsoever and MSgt Silva was never charged or convicted of any crimes prior to his court-martial. Let’s hope the United States Air Force does the right thing in this case and demonstrates to Congress and the civilian organizations that they are serious about fighting crime only when there is evidence to support it.

“The court authorized a rehearing where the government could, in theory, bring new evidence justifying a new trial. This is highly unlikely, given that a new trial would only deepen the embarrassment.” –John Q. Public

Related Links:
Lackland Rape Charge the Result of Air Force Outreach
New Charges At Lackland On 20-Year-Old Case
Air Force sergeant charged with raping 3 women
Master sgt. faces hearing on multiple rape charges
Master sgt. Michael Silva on trial in 1995 rape
Rape hearing runs 30 minutes
Lackland’s Master Sgt. Silva guilty in 1995 rape
Lackland instructor gets 20 years in prison in rape cases
Air Force instructor at Lackland AFB gets 20 years in prison for rapes
Air Force instructor gets 20 years in prison for rapes
Conviction in Air Force rape case
Air Force jury sentences former instructor to 20 years in prison for rapes
Gender-based focus groups to address sex harassment at AMC
Is Accuser’s Facebook Update Riddled With Inaccuracies?
Social Media Postings Reveal Much About ‘Psychic Medium’ Who Accused AF Basic Training Instructor of Sexual Assault
Something’s Seriously Wrong When Military Justice System Sides With Psychics, Convicted Felons and Porn Queens
Clemency Letter Reveals Much About Pentagon’s Eagerness to Convict Military Men on False Sexual Assault Allegations
MSgt Michael Silva. Falsely accused and convicted of rape…serving 20 years for a crime he didn’t commit
A Complete List of the 35 Basic Military Training Instructors Court Martialed in the Lackland Air Force Base Sex Scandal
The Lackland Air Force Base Sex Scandal, Texas (2011)
Save Our Heroes Official Website
Save Our Heroes on Facebook
U.S. Air Force Court of Criminal Appeals Decision for MSgt Michael Silva (2017)
MSgt Michael Silva is Save Our Heroes very first client and the husband of Save Our Heroes co-founder Lisa Silva
Military appeals court drops sexual misconduct conviction of former Air Force drill sergeant
Lackland Rape Case Tossed on Appeal, Wrongly Convicted SNCO to Walk Free
30 Days After Appellate Ruling, Air Force Continues Wrongful Imprisonment of MSgt. Mike Silva


A widening sex scandal has rocked Lackland Air Force Base in Texas. Four male instructors are charged with having sex with trainees and in one case raping female trainees. -AP

Shannon O’Roark Griffin Murdered Estranged Husband’s Mistress V.A. Psychiatrist Dr. Irina Puscariu; Sentenced to 20 Years in Prison (January 13, 2012)

On January 13, 2012, Shannon O’Roark of Texas drove 250 miles to Missouri to kill her estranged husband’s mistress fourty-six year old Dr. Irina Puscariu. Shannon O’Roark Griffin was an aeronautical engineer who worked for NASA training astronauts until she experienced a seizure that put her on definite sick leave. Shannon’s husband was a Colonel in the Air Force who decided he wasn’t ready to retire. Shannon and Col. Roscoe Griffin had been living separately for quite some time and discussed divorce but it appeared Shannon did not want a divorce after twenty years of marriage. Meanwhile, Col. Griffin lost a fellow service member to suicide and it devastated him.

Col. Griffin began seeing Dr. Irina Puscariu, a Veterans Affairs psychiatrist, for help. The professional relationship evolved into a romantic relationship, which is strictly forbidden in the world of psychiatry. Dr. Puscariu put her own career at risk when she chose to date Col. Griffin. Shannon found out thru social media that her husband was seeing Dr. Puscariu when he posted a picture with Irina on Facebook. Col. Griffin also changed his relationship status to “it’s complicated” which to Shannon was rejection, and rejection was the trigger. Col. Roscoe Griffin had no idea what was in store for him when someone is dumped and dangerous.

Shannon may have felt like the post meant the last twenty years were horrible and now I am going to replace you. Shannon asked Col. Griffin to go to a counseling appointment with her one last time in an effort to save the relationship. It would be here she would learn her husband of twenty years loved Dr. Puscariu and wanted to continue to see her. After this counseling session is when Shannon decided to go to Missouri and kill Dr. Puscariu. She wanted to obliterate Dr. Puscariu from her life so the problem would go away. She drove 250 miles to Irina’ home in Missouri and shot and killed her four times in front of her own mother, the last shot was to her face.

Shannon then fled the scene back to Texas and was held in custody until she could be extradited back to Missouri for a murder charge. Shannon plead guilty to second degree murder to avoid a trial. She was sentenced to twenty years for second degree murder and twenty years for armed criminal action. Investigators noted that before this incident Shannon had zero criminal history or violent behavior, she didn’t even have a speeding ticket. But when she got rejected by her husband Col. Roscoe Griffin, it would be jealousy and revenge that would drive her to murder the woman who stole her life.

Source: Dumped and Dangerous, Deadly Women, Investigation Discovery

In the News:

A woman charged in the slaying of a Gladstone psychiatrist will be coming back to Missouri to face first-degree murder charges. -KMBC 9 (January 17, 2012)

Shannon O’Roark-Griffin, charged in the slaying of a Gladstone doctor, returns to Missouri for the first time since her arrest last week. -KMBC 9 (January 19, 2012)

A former NASA training specialist from Texas allegedly drove to Missouri and gunned down her husband’s mistress after he admitted in therapy that he was not willing to give up the affair. -HLN (December 3, 2012)

Investigation Discovery:

When their love life goes sour these Deadly Women take lethal revenge. They are “Dumped and Dangerous.” -Dumped and Dangerous, Deadly Women (S11,E13)

Editor’s note: With a cable subscription, you can download the free ID Go app and watch Investigation Discovery programming at your convenience. And for those who do not have cable, you can watch “unlocked” episodes on the ID Go app including the latest premieres. For those who prefer commercial free programming during your binge session, Prime Video has an ID channel: ‘True Crime Files by Investigation Discovery” available for $3.99 a month. It’s a compilation of older seasons but totally worth the cost if you are a true crime addict. Download the ID Go app or purchase ID True Crime Files & binge away.

Related Links:
Woman Accused of Killing Husband’s Mistress
Former NASA employee accused of killing alleged mistress
Former JSC worker accused of killing husband’s mistress
Report: Former JSC employee accused of killing husband’s alleged mistress
Anger, sorrow after wife of Air Force colonel accused of murder
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Woman Waives Extradition In Psychiatrist’s Slaying
Woman accused of murdering a Gladstone psychiatrist extradited back to Missouri
Police: Woman charged in death of Gladstone psychiatrist
Woman charged with killing Gladstone psychiatrist brought to Clay County
Granbury Woman Charged in Death of Psychiatrist Having Affair With Her Husband
Ex-NASA employee charged with killing husband’s mistress
Texas woman charged in death of Missouri psychiatrist
Wife Kills Husband’s Mistress: Shannon O’Roark Griffin Charged With Murdering Irina Puscariu
Jaded Wife Shoots Husband’s Mistress in the Face, Charged with Murder
Former NASA trainer ‘drives 250 miles to shoot dead her husband’s mistress’
Woman charged with killing psychiatrist to appear in court Monday
Woman charged with killing psychiatrist to appear in court Monday
Judge denies Shannon O’Roark Griffin lower bond, mental evaluation
Plea entered in murder case
Wife Kills Mistress of Husband after Marriage Counseling Session
Wife of Air Force colonel sentenced for shooting husband’s alleged girlfriend
Woman who drove from Texas to Mo. to kill husband’s lover sentenced to 20 years
Former NASA employee gets 20 years in Gladstone slaying
Another NASA Love Triangle?
The Malignant Divorce: Has NASA Gone Postal?
Understandable Revenge is No Defence
Kansas Murder Scene Video
Accused killer back in Clay County
Gladstone Slaying Suspect Returns To Missouri
Woman Charged In Gladstone Slaying To Return To Missouri
Ex-NASA employee charged with killing husband’s mistress
Wife Kills Husband’s Mistress: Shannon O’Roark Griffin Charged With Murdering Irina Puscariu
Dumped and Dangerous | Deadly Women | Investigation Discovery (S11,E13)
Dumped and Dangerous | Deadly Women | Investigation Discovery (website)
Dumped and Dangerous | Deadly Women | Investigation Discovery (Amazon)
Dumped and Dangerous | Deadly Women | Investigation Discovery (Hulu)
Deadly Women Premiered ‘Dumped and Dangerous’ on ID: Shannon O’Roark Griffin Ended Husband’s Affair With a Gun (November 24, 2017)
Deadly Women: 30 Military and Veteran Homicide Cases Featured on Investigation Discovery

Army Soldier Ashley Barnes Stabbed to Death by Estranged Husband; Fort Campbell Army Soldier Khaleefa Lambert Sentenced to Life in Prison (2009)

Ashley Barnes-Lambert, US Army (2009)

Ashley Barnes-Lambert, US Army

Army soldier Ashley Barnes-Lambert, 18, was murdered by her husband, Khaleefa Lambert, also an Army soldier, on March 7, 2009. Ashley was home on leave from Afghanistan and was in the process of filing for divorce. Lambert drove up from Fort Campbell, Kentucky, kidnapped Ashley at knife point from her hotel room in Clarksville, Tennessee, and stabbed her to death in the parking lot of the hotel. The State of Tennessee sought the death penalty in this case but Lambert’s attorneys filed a motion to dismiss the death penalty notice. Lambert was charged with two counts of aggravated kidnapping and two counts of first degree/felony murder. A jury found Khaleefa Lambert guilty and he was given a life sentence in prison with eligibility for parole.

Related Links:
Wife found dead in Army soldier husband’s SUV
Female Army Soldier Found Dead in Husband’s SUV
Woman’s body found in SUV; Husband charged
First degree murder charges filed in murder of female soldier
Police: Wilmer soldier killed by estranged husband in Tennessee
State of Tennessee v. Khaleefa Lambert (March 4, 2013)
Husband of murdered Tennessee soldier given life sentence
Fort Campbell Soldier Murder Case
Trained in One Battle, Losing Another: PFC Ashley Cecelia Barnes

Air Force SSgt Michael Severance Fatally Drugged by Wife in Texas; Wendi Davidson Plead ‘No Contest’ to 1st Degree Murder, Sentenced to 25 Years (January 15, 2005)

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SSgt Michael Severance, US Air Force

Air Force SSgt. Michael Severance was poisoned with animal medications by his veterinarian wife Wendi Davidson on January 15, 2005 in San Angelo, Texas. SSgt. Severance enlisted with the United States Air Force in 1998 and was a flying crew chief stationed at Dyess Air Force Base. He met Wendi at a local club and they hit it off right away. Shortly after meeting, she got pregnant with his child. Michael wanted to do the right thing so he eventually married Wendi and moved in with her in a small apartment attached to her new Veterinarian Clinic. He commuted 90 miles one way to the base where he worked. Michael was reported missing to the local police on January 16th after his wife Wendi informed Michael’s parents that she wouldn’t make the flight to Maine with him for a visit with their child because he was nowhere to be found. She cancelled the flights for all three of them. Michael’s parents also called the base to report him missing but Air Force leadership informed them that their hands were tied until he was considered Absent Without Leave (AWOL). After Michael’s leave was up 8 days later and he didn’t return to duty, he was officially considered AWOL. This prompted the Air Force Office of Special Investigations (AFOSI) to join forces with the local civilian authorities. Wendi led all the investigators to believe that Mike had deserted the military. She claimed that he didn’t want to go back to Iraq and was thinking about heading to Canada. Michael, Wendi, and their child were planning a trip to visit his parents in Maine because Mike was scheduled to deploy to the Middle East after returning from the trip.

The San Angelo police department investigators visited Wendi at her veterinarian clinic on January 17, 2005. Wendi told them Mike had been drinking lately and was out all the time, but investigators observed that all of his personal belongings were still at their shared apartment. On January 18th, Wendi filed divorce papers and attempted to get a restraining order against Mike. Civilian investigators were suspicious of Wendi and believed that she was cold and calculating. They gave her a polygraph test but the results came back inconclusive. Once Mike’s leave was up and he was considered officially AWOL, AFOSI joined the San Angelo police department investigation. AFOSI doubted that Michael was a deserter and would just up and leave. In the meantime, the San Angelo police department put a GPS tracking device on Wendi’s car. They learned that on February 7th, Wendi traveled to a remote area owned by a friend of hers. Because investigators considered Wendi a person of interest, they traveled to the location where she had been and found a large retaining pond on the property. In March 2005, investigators were able to look at the search history on Wendi’s computer and learned that Wendi had done a search for ‘decomposition of bodies’ and ‘how to pass a lie detector test’. Investigator’s confronted Wendi but didn’t buy her story so they started turning up the heat. Wendi appeared to dismiss the investigators and then after the interview left the vet clinic in a hurry. She traveled back to her friend’s remote property but this time the police were there to make sure she wasn’t able to disturb a potential crime scene while they worked on obtaining a search warrant.

In the meantime, Wendi confided in her brother Marshall. She told him that she came home and found Mike dead. She said she was scared so she disposed of his body. But her brother didn’t buy her story either and reported her to the police. On March 6th, law enforcement searched the pond on her friend’s property and found Michael Severance’s body anchored down with cinder blocks. When they searched Wendi’s home and business, they found a knife, rope, drug log book, and bottles of medication. Wendi was arrested for the murder of Mike Severance and after 32 days behind bars, her parents raised the $500,000 bond to get her released. Investigators learned that they had only been married for four months when she murdered him. Wendi gave birth to her first child in October 2001. In December 2003, she met Michael and eventually got pregnant but Michael wasn’t ready to settle down or get married quite yet. And Wendi’s parents apparently didn’t like Mike and labeled him lazy and disrespectful; they did not want Wendi to marry him. In September 2004, Wendi gave birth to their son and they were quietly married twelve days later at the courthouse. Two weeks later, Wendi purchased a veterinarian clinic and Mike moved in with her, despite the commute 90 miles one way to work at the base. Shortly after moving in, Mike was sent to Airman Leadership School in Wichita Falls and then he got orders to go to the Middle East. Mike planned a vacation to Maine in January 2005 so his parents could meet his new wife and child, their grandchild, before he was deployed overseas. After Mike returned from Airman Leadership School shortly before their trip to Maine, he observed that Wendi was cold towards him and her mother made it clear that she didn’t like Mike and she didn’t want Wendi going to Maine.

The coroner was not able to determine if there was physical trauma to Mike’s body due to decomposition. But an autopsy revealed that Michael overdosed on drugs usually found in an animal clinic. They found Phenobarbital and B-Euthanasia in his system and he was stabbed 41 times after he was dead. Investigators learned from Wendi’s google searches that Mike was most likely stabbed post mortem so his body wouldn’t float to the surface in the pond. Wendi was arrested again on April 15th for evidence tampering after police learned she falsified log records at the animal clinic so she could justify taking the medication she used to kill her husband. Her bail was now $100,000 per tampering. In the meantime, her family arranged for her to have a privately administered polygraph. On May 24th, a grand jury indicted Wendi for murder and shortly after she was released on bond again. While awaiting trial, on August 20th, Wendi was arrested for child endangerment. One of her children got lost while looking for her; she was out at a night club. She spent another night in jail. In preparation for trial, prosecutors theorized that Wendi concocted her homicidal plan on January 14th. She asked Mike out to dinner on January 15th and then afterwards they went to a bar where they drank and danced. Upon return to their residence, prosecutors believe that Wendi mixed Phenobarbital in his drink. After he was unconscious, she plunged a syringe full of B-Euthanasia into his chest. Then she had to get rid of his body so she drove him out to the pond on her friend’s property and used fishing line to tie cinder blocks to his body. From google searches she learned that gases will make the body float so she went back to the retainer pond and stabbed him 41 times to release the gases; she attached more weight to his body.

Wendi Mae Davidson was looking at 9 to 99 years in prison so instead of going to trial, she plead ‘no contest’ which also left things open for appeal. Her lawyers argued the validity of the search warrants and believed that the GPS tracker was placed in an illegal manner; the resulting evidence was fruit of the poisonous tree. Wendi Davidson was found guilty of first degree murder and sentenced to 25 years in prison. She also received an additional 10 years for evidence tampering. Investigators and prosecutors were somewhat baffled with the motive for this crime and because Wendi plead ‘no contest’, we may never know the real reason she murdered Mike. Authorities theorized that maybe Wendi was motivated to kill because Mike Severance wanted to leave her. They theorized that Wendi’s mother didn’t like Mike so instead of divorcing him, she killed him. They also theorized that Wendi and her family wanted custody of the child with no incident. It’s important to note that Michael’s family believes Wendi also wanted the $500,000 life insurance payout. This was an unusual case because Wendi never had any known predisposition or tendency for violence but Mike’s family believes that her mother specifically had something to do with Wendi committing the murder. The question remains why didn’t she just divorce him instead of killing him?

Wendi may have made this decision because control and financial motive is a common motive for murder. It was noted that Wendi met Mike at a bar and shortly thereafter became pregnant; he may have been targeted for exploitation. It was noted that Wendi was in debt after purchasing a new animal clinic providing the motive for financial gain. It was noted that the crime was premeditated as evidenced by her plan to steal the medications from her animal clinic used to kill Mike. It was noted that Mike was murdered only four months after marrying Wendi; was he a means to an end? It was noted that Wendi’s parents didn’t like Mike and their beliefs may have been the fuel to light the fire; she may have been manipulated because she didn’t want to defy or disappoint them, afraid of the consequences. It was noted by Mike’s family that Wendi was the recipient of the life insurance policy. It was noted that Wendi attempted to manipulate the investigation and make Mike out to be someone he was not; even going so far as to get a restraining order a couple days after she killed him. Wendi Davidson does appear to be cold and calculating. Wendi Davidson appears to be a sociopath; but she exercised her right to remain silent in another attempt to abuse the process, she knows how the system works. As a result, she is eligible for parole in April 2019; she will be 41 years old.

Source: Nightmare Next Door ‘The Unwelcome Wagon’


Preview: When Staff Sgt. Michael Severance goes AWOL the community of San Angelo rallies around his new bride. But there is something more sinister behind his disappearance, and investigators uncover a saga of treachery and passion as big as the state of Texas. -Nightmare Next Door, Investigation Discovery (S10 E2)

Related Links:
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A Poisoned Passion by Diane Fanning
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The Venomous Veterinarian: The Murder of Michael Severance (YouTube)
Servicemen’s Group Life Insurance is a Common Motive for Murder
Newlywed Wife Reports Airman Husband Missing | Investigation Discovery
The Unwelcome Wagon, S10 E2 | Nightmare Next Door | Investigation Discovery (YouTube)
Maine Fallen Heroes


When Staff Sgt. Michael Severance goes AWOL the community of San Angelo rallies around his new bride. But there is something more sinister behind his disappearance, and investigators uncover a saga of treachery and passion as big as the state of Texas. -Nightmare Next Door, Investigation Discovery (S10 E2)

Editor’s note: With a cable subscription, you can download the free ID Go app and watch all of the Investigation Discovery programming at your convenience. And for those who do not have cable, you can watch “unlocked” episodes on the ID Go app including the latest premieres. Download the ID Go app and binge away. For those who prefer commercial free programming during your binge session, Prime Video has an ID channel: ‘True Crime Files by Investigation Discovery” available for $2.99 a month. It’s a compilation of older seasons but totally worth the cost if you are a true crime addict.