Kansas Army National Guard Veteran Zachary Schaffer Found Unresponsive in Kansas City Home; Death Ruled Fatal Drug Overdose (January 23, 2019)

Zachary Schaffer

Spc. Zachary Schaffer, Kansas Army National Guard

Kansas Army National Guard veteran Zachary Schaffer, 21, was found unresponsive in his Kansas City, Kansas home on January 23, 2019. According to the Dodge City Daily Globe, Zachary fatally overdosed only a few days after he was punished and discharged from the Kansas Army National Guard. According to his mother, Wendy Mottas, Zachary, or Zach, as he was known to most, was accused of failing to show up for multiple weekend drills and discharged with an “other than honorable.” In the midst of losing his military career and eventually his security clearance, Zach was flagged by his command for the prescribed use of Adderall to treat ADHD, even after he was reassured it was okay for him to take the prescription. Wendy doesn’t know if her son’s death was intentional, but stated Zach began suffering with depression and substance abuse during his time in service with the Kansas Army National Guard. Zach went from being a stellar soldier at the age of 19 to being hired as a full time military technician to losing that same position less than one year later for reasons undisclosed. Six months after being fired by the Kansas Army National Guard, he was also passed over for deployment to Afghanistan, having been told he was ‘red flagged’ for the use of Adderall. Six months later, Zach would also experience sadness and grief after losing his friend, 24 year-old Kansas Army National Guardsman Khamis Naser, who died by suicide on July 31, 2018.

Zach grew up in the Hutchinson, Kansas area and joined the Kansas Army National Guard in May 2014. Zach’s mother, also an Army veteran, said he was born in Germany when she was in the military. Zach came from a military family and it was a natural fit for him too. Wendy shared Zach was always intelligent and she knew he would be successful because he was very skilled in anything related to computers and coding. After Zach completed Army basic training and specialty training, he progressed quickly as a soldier and eventually got a full-time job with the Kansas Army National Guard at age 19. Zach was a federal military technician (Personnel Security Technician: GS-7) during the week and on Guard weekends, he was an Intelligence Analyst (E-4). Zach’s downward spiral began when he lost his full-time job as a federal technician and was made to feel incompetent by those who also originally built him up to be a great soldier with a bright future in the military. Zach’s mother does not know why Zach was fired during the probationary period, but she does suspect that Zach had information about other National Guard members whose misconduct were overlooked during routine background checks so they could maintain their security clearances.

Once Zach lost his full-time position, he went from being a professional soldier to not caring about anything anymore. He moved from his home in Topeka, Kansas to Lawrence, Kansas and became somewhat estranged from the family. Zach became secretive, fell in with the wrong crowd, stopped going to therapy and became reliant on self-medicating to take care of the pain of depression he was feeling.  Realizing this lifestyle was not healthy, Zach moved back home to Junction City and tried to get his life together in early January 2018. After about three months of living at home, he discovered the Kansas Army National Guard unit in Junction City, Kansas was tasked with a deployment to Afghanistan, to which he inquired and expressed interest to the unit’s leadership. The leadership put him through mobilization procedures for nearly a month and then his deployment orders to Afghanistan were cancelled citing he had been flagged during the pre-deployment process for Adderall use. Zach was prescribed Adderall for the diagnosis ADHD and his mother states he was prescribed the drug due to a struggle with concentration and focus. Once Zach was flagged, someone made the decision to prevent him from deploying to Afghanistan and his mother does not know if his National Guard unit influenced the decision at that time or not.

Zach was looking forward to the deployment. Instead his orders to Afghanistan were cancelled and it was then Zach started meeting regularly with mental health personnel for depression. It is unknown what Zach may have shared with health care professionals, but his family realized something changed in Zach’s life. Shortly after, Zach moved from Junction City to Kansas City with a friend with which his family was not familiar. He remained distant from his family and friends. Worse yet, the same military officer (O-4) who made the decision to fire Zachary from his full-time military technician position also influenced National Guard unit leadership to end Zach’s military career in its entirety. Leadership observed the changes in Zach’s attendance and behavior. Instead of helping him, they used it to revoke his security clearance knowing he needed a security clearance for his job as an intelligence specialist in the National Guard and his full-time job with the Marine Corps. During this time, the only thing done to assist Zach or try to get to the root of the issues he was having was to refer him to the unit’s social work office. At some point, this social worker was told to ‘stand down’ and allow the unit’s part-time civilian social worker to take care of his issues. To his mother’s knowledge, this individual never contacted Zach to offer support and he was never offered any type of assistance including participation in the Army Substance Abuse Program.

In early July 2018, Zach contacted his mom and stated he wanted to go to an inpatient rehabilitation program. He self-admitted to the substance abuse program to help him stop his drug dependency and get his life back on track. The day after Zach left the rehabilitation program and returned to Kansas City, he learned his best friend and fellow National Guardsman, Khamis Naser, had died by suicide. Zach told his mother he had talked to Khamis only five hours before he was found dead in his apartment. Zach attended the August 2018 drill weekend and his mother said he told her he was met with disdain from his leadership. Zach’s mother states she has text messages from her son indicating the NCOs in his unit were bullying him. Zach told her they said his best friend would still be alive if he ‘wouldn’t have been high’ and ‘would’ve been there for him’ (Khamis). After Zach was blamed for the death of his friend, he got in a physical confrontation with one of his NCOs. During another drill weekend, word got around the unit that leadership wanted to ‘get rid of that “shitbag”’ (referring to Zach) because he made the unit ‘look bad.’ Despite the ill treatment by the Kansas Army National Guard, Zach picked himself up and got a new job as a civilian contractor for the Marine Corps in Kansas City at age 21. Unfortunately, a short time after he got the job, he was terminated when he learned the National Guard had suspended his security clearance. At this point, Zach had no income, including from his drill weekends, due to a status discrepancy. Zach was still considered in ‘active duty’ status because of the deployment orders to Afghanistan and no one in his military leadership would assist him to get transferred back to his original unit. His mother states he discussed this with someone at his unit who agreed with him — why bother going to weekend drill if he was getting bullied and not receiving any pay? He stopped attending drill after September of 2018 and once again became estranged from his family. He would never return to the National Guard.

According to the Kansas Adjutant General’s Department, the Kansas Army National Guard suicide prevention program is “based on the premise that suicide prevention will be accomplished through the positive action of unit leaders and implementation of command policy. The key to the prevention of suicide is positive leadership and honest concern by supervisors for military personnel who are at risk of suicide and appropriate intervention for all such personnel.” Khamis Naser died by suicide in July 2018 and six months later in January 2019, Zach Schaffer died of a fatal drug overdose. How did the Kansas Army National Guard’s suicide prevention program help Khamis and Zach? Although we don’t know why Khamis Naser chose to die by suicide, we do know he was a current member of the Kansas Army National Guard. One would think losing a fellow comrade would initiate a more proactive suicide prevention approach yet instead we learn the very people tasked with a “positive and honest concern by supervisors” for military personnel at risk of suicide and appropriate intervention was not implemented in the last couple of years. Zach was a soldier dealing with the loss of his full-time job, grief from the loss of his friend, the loss of his military career, and the loss of his security clearance. Military leadership knew Zach was not well and they knew he was a risk to himself.

The top 10 most stressful life events include death of a loved one, separation, starting a new job, workplace stressors, financial problems, and chronic illness/injury. Zach’s mom shares he was dealing with six out of ten of those stressful life events at the age of 21. Wendy wonders why the military wouldn’t be especially cognizant of the fact they are molding young kids into warriors at a very impressionable time in life. At a time when young adults need guidance most, instead in the military environment, they are forced to deal with additional stressors, caused by military leadership in Zach’s case. Why would the same organization at the root of the cause of the downward spiral of young lives be interested in also pretending to care about suicide prevention of those same personnel? The moment Zach was let go from his full-time job was the moment he started to struggle. Why did he get let go? Why did it contribute to a need to use drugs to self-medicate? And one can only imagine the kind of grief Zach experienced after losing a close friend in such a tragic way. Did anyone refer Khamis or Zachary to mental health programs or the Department of Veterans Affairs?

It appears Zach’s source of pain or original stressor began when he lost his full-time federal military technician position as a Personnel Security Technician. After Zach lost Khamis, another high-paying job and his military career, his downward spiraled accelerated. Zach was dead less than six months after his friend passed. How can the National Guard implement a suicide prevention program when they are the suspected cause of the unit members’ downward spiral? Why did the National Guard choose to characterize ADHD treatment as a ‘mental health risk’? The prescription was used to assist with concentration and focus. Why would Adderall negatively impact a deployment when it is a fact the active duty deploy personnel on all kinds of prescribed medications? Why not help Zach transfer from Active Duty status back to his National Guard unit so he would be paid for drill weekends? How did Zach go from successfully holding great positions of responsibility within the unit to losing his entire military career? Why did they give Zach an ‘other than honorable’ discharge knowing it will negatively impact the rest of one’s working life, never mind the impact losing a security clearance has on anyone’s future financial security. Why did Zach have to lose everything? How does that help his mental health?

Wendy Mottas told the Dodge City Daily Globe that there is a stigma to be tough in the military. And this was confirmed the day the National Guard decided Zach was a “mental health risk” because he had a prescription for ADHD he wasn’t even currently taking. Each Commander has the ultimate say on whether or not an individual can still perform despite taking medication. The prescription was for concentration and focus and not something that had to be a military career ender. Wendy said her son could have used extra support following Khamis’s death and that she would like to see mental health be taken more seriously by the Kansas Army National Guard. While she realizes there were many factor’s influencing Zach’s death, she doesn’t understand why the National Guard wouldn’t offer to help him like so many soldiers with substance abuse are assisted. In Zachary’s case it appears leadership actively contributed to the decline of Zach’s mental health. Who at the Kansas Army National Guard would offer help to Zach after the chain of command (supervisors and leadership) decides a soldier is a “shitbag”? How does the Kansas Army National Guard implement a command driven suicide prevention program when they are the same leadership contributing to a downward spiral? How can the same people tasked with punishing their personnel with a heavy hand simultaneously help prevent a suicide or untimely death of young soldiers? At the very least, in this situation, the National Guard needs to upgrade this soldier’s other than honorable discharge to honorable to make this right for Zach and his family.  It’s one thing to let someone go, it’s an entirely different thing when a person’s life and future is destroyed.

“The military still has to take some responsibility for this, I think, and I think more could have been done to be preventative and be proactive instead of reactive. They have a responsibility to these young men and women. It’s not to live their lives for them or to be mommy or daddy or anything like that, but the soldiers still have to live by the army creed, and in order to do that, they have a role in that.” -Wendy Mottas (quote in Dodge City Daily Globe)

Source: Wendy Mottas (Zachary Schaffer’s mother)

Related Links:
Obituary: Zachary L. Schaffer, Kansas Army National Guard
Obituary: Khamis A. Naser, Kansas Army National Guard
Kansas National Guard captain submits resignation in wake of suicides
Kansas National Guard captain submits resignation in wake of suicides
Kansas National Guard Captain Submits Resignation in Wake of Suicides
Kansas National Guard captain submits resignation over handling of suicides
Kansas National Guard captain submits resignation over concerns of soldier suicide
Kansas Guard captain resigns over concern about suicides
Kansas Guard brigade captain resigns over suicide concerns
Kansas Guard brigade captain resigns over suicide concerns
Governor Kelly to sign bill aimed at preventing National Guard suicide
Sen. Moran, Bipartisan Colleagues Raise Concerns Over Alarming Increase in National Guard Suicides
Moran requests DOD review of rising National Guard suicide rate
Sen. Moran joins bi-partisan group of senators addressing national guard suicides
Bi-Partisan Senate Group Calls Attention to National Guard Suicide Rate
Department of Veterans Affairs: National Guard and Reserve
10 Most Stressful Life Events

Washington State Supreme Court Outlawed Death Penalty; Serial Killer Robert Yates’ Death Sentence Converted To Life in Prison (October 11, 2018)

Robert Lee Yates Ranker

Robert Lee Yates, Army National Guard Retired (photo: Ranker)

The Victims:
July 13, 1975: Patrick Oliver
July 13, 1975: Susan Savage
December 28, 1988: Stacy E. Hawn 
August 25, 1996: Patricia Barnes
June 14, 1996: Shannon Zielinski
August 26, 1997: Heather Hernandez
August 26, 1997: Jennifer Joseph
November 5, 1997: Darla Scott
December 7, 1997: Melinda Mercer
December 18, 1997: Shawn Johnson
December 26, 1997: Laurie Wason
February 8, 1998: Sunny Oster
April 1, 1998: Linda Maybin
May 12, 1998: Melody Murfin
July 7, 1998: Michelyn Derning
October 13, 1998: Connie LaFontaine Ellis

Source: Robert Lee Yates | Murderpedia, the encyclopedia of murderers

Click here for another list of Victims of Robert Lee Yates from Serial Killers Podcast.

“According to the Spokane Spokesman-Review, the German federal police are looking into the deaths of 26 prostitutes with assistance from U.S. Army Criminal Investigative Command. Yates, a former Navy helicopter pilot, was stationed in Goeppingen, Germany, from 1988 to 1991. The FBI has found the black van he allegedly owned in Germany and has searched it for evidence.” –Whidbey News-Times (October 18, 2000)

UPDATE:
Gov. Jay Inslee announces capital punishment moratorium
Washington pauses to reflect on death penalty
Supreme Court outlaws death penalty in Washington
State declares death penalty unconstitutional
Social worker who served Yates’ victims supports end of death penalty

In the News:

Spokane Serial Killer Robert Yates will be learning Thursday whether or not his death penalty conviction for the murders of two women near Tacoma will be overturned by the Washington State Supreme Court. -4 News Now (September 28, 2007)

In a majority opinion the Washington State Supreme Court has rejected an appeal from Spokane Serial Killer Robert Yates and upheld his death sentence for the murders of two women in Pierce County in the late 1990s. -4 News Now (September 28, 2007)

Spokane Serial Killer Robert Yates has been transferred from death row in Walla Walla to Pierce County where he will be in court Friday as Judge John McCarthy signs his death warrant. -4 News Now (September 5, 2008)

Kathy Lloyd feared that Robert Yates would live longer than her. He killed her sister, Shawn McLenahan. Now a Tacoma judge will sign Yates’ death warrant, and Lloyd is hoping Yates will die soon. -4 News Now (September 5, 2008)

Attorneys for convicted Spokane Serial Killer Robert Yates have filed their application for a stay of his execution which is scheduled for later this month. -4 News Now (September 9, 2008)

Spokane Serial Killer Robert Yates is claiming he had ineffective legal counsel in his latest appeal of his death sentence for the killings of two women in Pierce County in the late 1990s. -4 News Now (May 22, 2013)

Related Links:
Serial Murder — FBI
Robert Lee Yates | Murderpedia, the encyclopedia of murderers
Police Looking for Worldwide Trail of Death
Robert Lee Yates, Jr.: The missing years: Big time lapses between killing sprees
Serial killer’s wife suspected Yates was having affairs
Yates sentenced to life in prison
Jury finds Yates guilty of aggravated murder
Retired Army National Guard Pilot & Serial Killer Robert Lee Yates, Jr. Convicted of 2 More Murders in Washington; Sentenced to Death (September 19, 2002)
Jury Decides on Death for Serial Killer
Serial killer Yates sentenced to death (October 3, 2002)
Victims’ relatives take stand
Family letters to prosecutor in death penalty plea ruled ‘private’
Serial killer Yates calls death penalty unfair
Supreme Court to rule on Serial Killer’s appeal
Supreme Court upholds Yates death sentence
Judge to sign serial killer’s death warrant.
Spokane serial killer to be executed
Judge sets Sept. 19 execution date for serial killer Robert Lee Yates Jr.
Yates’ death still won’t bring closure to sister of victim
Spokane Serial Killer files for stay of execution
Serial killer Robert Yates Jr. seeks federal appeal of death sentence
Serial Killer Robert Yates Appealing Death Sentence
Former Oak Harbor resident Robert Yates appealing death sentence
Serial killer Robert Yates Jr. seeks federal appeal of death sentence
Serial killer Robert Yates claims ineffective counsel in latest death penalty appeal
Serial killer Robert Yates claims ineffective counsel in latest death penalty appeal
Spokane serial killer Robert Yates’ petition rejected by Washington Supreme Court
Death Sentence Upheld for Spokane Serial Killer
State Supreme Court denies serial killer’s plea
Gov. Jay Inslee announces capital punishment moratorium
Washington pauses to reflect on death penalty
Death penalty still stands for serial killer Robert Yates
State Supreme Court rejects serial killer Yates’ petition
Serial killer Robert Yates still fighting sentencing error
Case of serial killer Robert Yates heading back to state Supreme Court
Convicted serial killer Robert Yates expected in court Monday
Spokane serial killer back in court
Spokane serial killer’s attorney accuses juror of misconduct
Wife’s shock: My hubby buried a body in the backyard
Spokane Serial Killer Bob Yates Was Sentenced to Death Almost 20 Years Ago, Here’s Why He’s Still Alive
Supreme Court outlaws death penalty in Washington
State declares death penalty unconstitutional
Social worker who served Yates’ victims supports end of death penalty
The Story Of The Serial Killer Who Terrorized This Washington Town Is Truly Frightening
Robert Lee Yates Is The Most Deranged Killer You’ve Never Heard Of
The Spokane Killer: The Life of Serial Killer Robert Lee Yates Jr. (book)
America’s deadliest serial killers
Serial Killers Fast Facts

Investigation Discovery:
Unusual Suspects Premiered ‘Monster in Spokane’ on ID: Serial Killer in Washington is Retired National Guard Pilot Robert Lee Yates, Jr. (July 19, 2010)
Monster in Spokane | Unusual Suspects | Investigation Discovery (S1,E6)
Monster in Spokane | Unusual Suspects | Investigation Discovery (website)
Monster in Spokane | Unusual Suspects | Investigation Discovery (Prime Video)
Cable show to feature Yates serial killer case
American Monster Premiered ‘Family Snapshot’ on ID: Bob Yates’ Family Shocked Military Hero Father & Spouse is a Serial Killer (July 16, 2017)
Family Snapshot | American Monster | Investigation Discovery (S2,E2)
Family Snapshot | American Monster | Investigation Discovery (website)
Family Snapshot | American Monster | Investigation Discovery (Prime Video)
American Monster takes a look at Spokane serial killer Robert Lee Yates
Scene of the Crime with Tony Harris Premiered ‘Down by the River’ on Investigation Discovery: Serial Killer Robert Lee Yates, Jr. (June 4, 2018)
Down by the River | Scene of the Crime w/ Tony Harris | Investigation Discovery (S2,E1)
Down by the River | Scene of the Crime w/ Tony Harris | Investigation Discovery (website)
Down by the River | Scene of the Crime w/ Tony Harris | Investigation Discovery (Prime Video)
Spokane serial killer Robert Lee Yates murdered at least 13 people – Tony Harris recounts the investigation

Fatal Vows Premiered ‘Death Outranks Love’ on Investigation Discovery: Roger Holland Murdered Wife Margorie After She Learned He Lied About Everything (October 6, 2018)

ID Go: It’s a military match made in heaven for Roger and Margorie. But a tangled nest of financial secrets and twisted lies ruins the young couple’s future. And while the rise of their careers and romance seems meteoric, the ensuing fall is deadly. -Death Outranks Love, Fatal Vows (S6, E10)

Date: March 7, 2013
Victim: Margorie Holland, Army National Guard veteran, pregnant
Offender: Roger Holland, Army National Guard veteran, unemployed
Location: Apple Valley, Minnesota
Circumstances: Army soldier Margorie Brown of Minnesota met Army soldier Roger Holland of Missouri in the National Guard, Margorie’s ex-husband was abusive, both of them spent months overseas while serving, they eloped after a year of courtship, lived in Texas with Margorie’s brother, Margorie trusted Roger to take care of all the bills, Roger had no credit, Margorie had good credit, they bought everything in Margorie’s name, they were both E-7s making good money, they traveled a lot, Roger asked Margorie’s brother for a $6,000 loan and asked him not to tell Margorie, Margorie was unaware of the financial issues, Margorie got pregnant, they both left the military so they could focus on their family, they spent $20,000 on baby items and leased a couple new vehicles, Margorie stayed home and Roger was working for a private security contractor (claimed he made $140,000 a year), Roger never paid back Margorie’s brother, Margorie found out about a late payment notice in her name, learned they were in debt and everything was in her name, Margorie confronted Roger about the debt but he assured her it was under control, days later, something didn’t feel right so Margorie followed Roger to work and realized he wasn’t working, he was hanging out at coffee shops during the day as if he had a job but there was never a job, Roger is feeling trapped and starting to panic, Margorie confronted Roger about him not having a job, Margorie had a temper too and she would escalate but Roger always had a knack for calming her down, they had an argument at her parent’s house and she threatened him with divorce, Margorie was ready to leave Roger when he told her he got a new job in Texas and they could move to be closer to her brother, Margorie was found dead at the bottom of the stairs in their home, Roger alleged he found Margorie at the bottom of the stairs when he returned home, he believed she tripped and fell down the stairs, he gave the police his phone to prove that he had been outside the home when Margorie died, police noticed some scratches on Roger’s neck, Roger said Margorie scratched him in the morning while he was comforting her during some pregnancy cramps, the medical examiner discovered Margorie’s thyroid cartilage was broken during the autopsy which meant she had been strangled to death and this was a homicide, Margorie was 15 weeks pregnant, when police reviewed the financial records, they discovered the couple were $166,000 in debt, mostly credit cards and vehicle leases, the presumed motive was that Roger essentially built a house of cards, they also discovered a life insurance policy that he was the beneficiary of, then the police discovered Margorie was looking for any way out possible (she googled when it was safe to get an abortion), Roger did a google search about how to kill Margorie (he planned her murder), Roger was arrested for Margorie’s murder, Margorie had also learned that there was no job in Texas and that was a lie too, she learned that Roger accessed her money and used her name to get credit cards, police deduced that Margorie fought for her life in the struggle but Roger overpowered her and strangled her to death; Roger was charged with two counts of first degree murder (one for Margorie and one for the unborn baby)
Disposition: Roger Holland was found guilty of first degree murder and given two life sentences on December 16, 2013; Margorie’s family asked for consecutive sentences

Margorie Holland

Margorie Brown Holland (Photo: Investigation Discovery)

Source: “Death Outranks Love” Fatal Vows, Investigation Discovery

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.

Related Links:
Grand Jury Returns First-Degree Murder Indictment for Holland
Apple Valley man charged with murder of wife, unborn child
Minnesota Man Charged With Killing Pregnant Wife, Unborn Child
Roger Holland of Apple Valley allegedly murdered pregnant wife, attempted coverup
Man researched neck fractures before pregnant wife’s killing, police say
Trial set for man accused of killing pregnant wife
Defense: Death Of Fetus Was Abortion, Not Murder
Man accused of killing pregnant wife claims fetus’ death was abortion
Minnesota man argues fetal homicide was not a homicide but an “abortion”
Attorney Argues Death of Fetus in Minnesota Case Was Unlawful Abortion, Not Murder
Jury deliberating in Holland Murder Case
Apple Valley man found guilty of four counts of murder
Roger Holland convicted on all counts of murdering pregnant wife
Minnesota man convicted in murders of wife and their unborn child
Former National Guard member found guilty of strangling his wife while she was pregnant with their first child
Minn. man gets life in slaying of pregnant wife
Roger Holland sentenced to life in prison for murder of pregnant wife
Holland sentenced to two life sentences in murder of pregnant wife
Roger Holland gets two consecutive life terms for killing pregnant wife
Death Outranks Love | Fatal Vows | Investigation Discovery (S6, E10)

A Month in Review: In the News on Military Justice for All (June 2018)

June 2018

Missing:
Disappeared: Stacy McCall, Suzie Streeter, and Sherrill Levitt are ‘The Springfield Three’ who Vanished from Levitt’s Missouri Home on June 7, 1992
Friends, family of missing UMass nursing student Maura Murray hope funds will lead to answers

Cold Cases:
Family wants justice for Army vet found shot to death in driveway
Authorities Have Cracked a Bizarre Cold Case That Could Have Ties to the Zodiac Killer
48 Hours Premiered ’48 Hours Cold Case: Who Killed Amy Gellert?’ on CBS (June 17, 2017)

Fugitives:
Reward Offered for Armed & Dangerous Fugitive: Army Recruiter John Blauvelt Wanted for Allegedly Murdering Estranged Wife in South Carolina (2017)

Continue reading

Extraordinary Claims Should Require Extraordinary Evidence (June 26, 2018)

National GuardGuest Post by Liz Ullman:

Enrique Costas comes from four generations of dignified and recognized military service. His grandfather’s name is in the history books as one of the first soldiers to join the Puerto Rico National Guard to serve the United States. His father defended this country for 32 years, earning an Air Medal for heroism in Vietnam; his nephew will be commissioned as an officer in the next week and will be going on active duty.

Costas enlisted in the Puerto Rico National Guard in 1988. In 1999 he volunteered to be assigned as a Recruiter, earning top awards and commendations throughout his almost 14 years as the Senior Non-Commissioned Officer in Charge (NCOIC) of the Puerto Rico Army National Guard Recruiting and Retention (RR) Command office in San Juan. He was also selected and participated for seven years in the Puerto Rico National Guard Honor Guard, the team responsible for carrying our Nation’s and Army Colors in the highest of the Government’s activities and celebrations.

He was responsible for achieving monthly production for the three main tenets of the Guard recruiting office: Recruiting, Retention and Attrition Management • Staff resourcing for two Army battalions covering 13 cities • Supervising and mentoring up to 10 recruiting and retention non-commissioned officers.

Costas was a champion in mission accomplishment with the highest integrity and ethics. His walls are filled awards and photos with the Guard’s top-ranking officers, including General Clyde A. Vaughn, who personally commended Costas for his service and integrity. Costas retired in 2014 after Honorably serving our Nation for over 26 years.

The biggest mistake Costas made in his career was simply being on duty during the Guard Recruiting Assistance Program also known as G-RAP, a cash incentive opportunity for civilian soldiers to bring in new recruits. With no direction from Washington D.C.’s Strength Maintenance Division, General Vaughn’s recruiters were supposed to intuit the 60 changes in the G-RAP rules over a seven-year period, while also working to fill the dwindling ranks of Guard troops.

Just before dawn, on an early October morning in 2015, Costas’s home was stormed by six Federal agents and two State police officers, in full tactical gear. Costas thought his family was under attack, and it was – by the Government he had served. Costas was arrested and taken to a Federal Courthouse where he was charged with “crimes” dating back almost ten years, during the days of G-RAP.

Costas is one of hundreds of General Vaughn’s recruiters who have been held responsible for not knowing the G-RAP rules that were never sent to them. And not just held responsible — charged with criminal intent to commit fraud against the Government. General Vaughn, who created and administered G-RAP, and who was administratively sanctioned for poor management, is enjoying full retirement in Virginia and Arizona.

Costas is going to prison.

The government’s “evidence” against Costas and other recruiters does not even meet the standard of circumstantial. In his case, the government admitted during trial to having no actual evidence, but only a “reasonable inference” that a crime could have been committed.

As a recruiter, Costas could not and did not participate in G-RAP. There were no Army regulations that governed G-RAP because the program was run by a private Alabama-based contractor called Docupak. Docupak was essentially incentivized to run a sloppy program, earning a 17% markup on every new enlistment, on top of their contract fees and administrative expenses. This lack of training stands in sharp contrast to how the Army usually operates, with manuals and rules on almost every action and procedure.

The one rule that the prosecution seized on to brand soldiers and veterans as felons regarded the relationship between the Recruiting Officer and the Docupak civilian contractors known as Recruiting Assistants (RAs). When G-RAP began, those contractors were regarded as assistants to the Recruiting Officers. The Recruiting Officers might use the RAs to give that extra push to a potential applicant considering enlisting. The Recruiting Officers were encouraged to ask the RAs to attend recruiting events and help with the finding of potential candidates. The original program outline stated that the Recruiting Officer would provide specifics for each possible enlistment to the RA, including legal name, birth date and social security number. That information was used by Docupak to verify enlistments and process payments to their RA contractors. In later descriptions of G-RAP, the social security number would go from the new recruit to the RA contractor, bypassing the Recruiting Officer, which not a single RA contractor reports ever seeing or any evidence has ever been produced by Docupak that verifies it.

This procedural change has resulted in hundred of indictments and scores of convictions for identity theft and wire fraud. Soldiers and veterans are in prison. Costas, sadly, is on his way.

After the government filed more than 50 felonies against Costas, his defense team could not overcome the wrath of the United States and he was convicted by a jury who felt that with so many felonies filed, Costas certainly had to have done something wrong.

He did not. G-RAP was a tangle of mismanagement; the soldiers who were on duty during its tenure are paying the price of administrative failures by their command. In an internal investigation done by the Puerto Rico National Guard pertaining to G-RAP in 2012, the Investigating Officer admitted that “Recruiters had no formal training on how G-RAP operated.”

Costas and his family had their hearts broken when the prosecution opened with statements calling him a “cheater, stealer and a liar.” He said these words, “pierced the core of his soul.”

Presumption of Innocence or even the “benefit of the doubt” was never given. In the end the Government spent an estimated $100,000 prosecuting Costas and the jury found Costas guilty on three charges amounting to $3,000. Although never having a criminal record and an impeccable military career, the judge sentenced Costas to prison. In the end “reasonable inference” and circumstantial evidence weighed more than 26 years of honorable service willing to sacrifice life and limb.

Recently the United States Court of Appeals for the 6th District reversed and vacated a conviction of an accused soldier involving G-RAP and determined, that the “Government did not retain a revisionary interest in the funds and that it did not exercise supervision or control over the funds”. This decision cannot be applied to Costas unless the United States Court of Appeals for the 1st District, the Supreme Court, or Congress rules on it.

“Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.”
― Carl Sagan

The claims were extraordinary. The evidence was missing. And yet, a United States military hero and veteran has been sacrificed.

We respectfully request that Congress or the White House appoint a commission to review the G-RAP investigation, to identify Soldiers that have been unjustly stigmatized by it, and to recommend suitable cases for clemency and pardon.

Related Links:
Stop G-RAP Injustice | Facebook
The Conspiracy Behind the G-RAP War on American Soldiers (March 30, 2016)
If You Look at the Dollars, Guard Recruiting Assistance Program Investigations Make No Sense (July 12, 2016)
Top Ten Problems with the National Guard Recruiting Assistance Program (G-RAP) Investigations (December 15, 2016)
An Open Letter to Congress Regarding the Investigations of the National Guard Recruiting Assistance Program (June 5, 2017)

Murder Comes to Town Premiered ‘Hellfire in the Hollow’ on Investigation Discovery: Military Spouse Rose Goggins Murdered by In-Laws Sylvia & Steven Beersdorf Sr. (June 19, 2018)

When a 21-year-old mother doesn’t return from night classes and her car is found burned, investigators immediately suspect foul play. However no one is prepare for the web of lies that ultimately unfold due to her disappearance. -Murder Comes to Town, Investigation Discovery

Victim:
Rose Mary Marie Goggins, 21, was killed by her future in-laws on January 14, 2010 in Lawrenceburg, Tennessee. Steven and Sylvia Beersdorf Sr. pleaded guilty to homicide, disposing of her body, and setting her car on fire. Rose’s fiancé, Steven Beersdorf Jr., was at Camp Shelby in Mississippi with the Tennessee Army National Guard preparing to ship off to Iraq. Authorities stated that although Beersdorf’s parents were guilty, Goggins’ fiance was not involved in her murder.

Defendants:
Sylvia Beersdorf, 43 – pleaded guilty to criminal conspiracy to commit first-degree murder; sentenced to 15 years in prison
Steven Beersdorf Sr., 46 – pleaded guilty to first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder charges; sentenced to life in prison

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.

Related Links:
From Missing Person to Murder Victim
Rose Goggins murder case: Remains found at future in-laws house are of female; DNA testing under way
More details released in killing of young Tennessee mom; 2 charged
Tennessee: Couple charged in death of son’s girlfriend
Tennessee couple plead not guilty to murder of son’s fiance
Couple Pleads Not Guilty In Woman’s Death
Couple plead not guilty to murder of son’s fiance
Couple plead not guilty to murder of son’s fiance
Couple plead not guilty to murder of son’s fiance
Couple Waives Rights To Preliminary Hearing
Rose Goggins murder: Grandparent suspects waive preliminary hearings
Couple face trial in slaying of daughter-in-law
Plea Deals Accepted In Future Relative’s Death
Couple plead guilty in death
Wayne Couple Pleads Guilty To Killing Grandson’s Mom
Rose Goggins Murder To Be Re-Lived When “True Crime” Pgrm. Airs In Fall
Homicide in the Heartland | True Crime with Aphrodite Jones | ID (YouTube)
A Rose Amongst Thorns | Wicked Attraction | Investigation Discovery (website)
A Rose Amongst Thorns | Wicked Attraction | Investigation Discovery (Dailymotion)
Hellfire in the Hollow | Murder Comes to Town | Investigation Discovery (website)
Hellfire in the Hollow | Murder Comes to Town | Investigation Discovery (YouTube)
In Loving Memory of Rose Mary Marie Goggins (Facebook)

Scene of the Crime w/ Tony Harris Premiered ‘Down by the River’ on ID: Retired Army Pilot Robert Lee Yates is the Monster in Spokane (June 3, 2018)

Tony Harris pieces together the 1990 case of three prostitutes killed in Spokane, Washington, and discovers a pattern of murders connected by twenty-two caliber bullets, a killing spree that shocked a city and a suspect with a stunning new identity. -Down by the River, Scene of the Crime with Tony Harris (S2,E1)

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:
The Spokane Murders | TIME
Death Sentence Upheld for Spokane Serial Killer
Social worker who served Yates’ victims supports end of death penalty
Robert Lee Yates | Murderpedia, the encyclopedia of murderers
Retired Army National Guard Pilot & Serial Killer Robert Lee Yates, Jr. Convicted of 2 More Murders of Women in Washington (September 19, 2002)
Unusual Suspects Premiered ‘Monster in Spokane’ on ID: Serial Killer in Washington is Retired National Guard Pilot Robert Lee Yates, Jr. (July 19, 2010)
American Monster Premiered ‘Family Snapshot’ on ID: Bob Yates’ Family Shocked Military Hero Father & Spouse is a Serial Killer (July 16, 2017)
Washington State Supreme Court Outlawed Death Penalty; Serial Killer Robert Yates’ Death Sentence Converted To Life in Prison (October 11, 2018)
Down by the River | Scene of the Crime w/ Tony Harris | Investigation Discovery (S2,E1)
Down by the River | Scene of the Crime w/ Tony Harris | Investigation Discovery (website)
Down by the River | Scene of the Crime w/ Tony Harris | Investigation Discovery (Prime Video)
Spokane serial killer Robert Lee Yates murdered at least 13 people – Tony Harris recounts the investigation