Military Policy and Legislation Considerations for the Investigations of Non Combat Death, Homicide, and Suicide of US Service Members

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Objective: Provide support to families who have lost loved ones to non combat death, homicide, and suicide. Prevent non combat death, homicide and suicide by providing an expedited transfer option to whistleblowers and those who feel like their lives may be in danger.

This is a small sample of the many soldiers that have died of non combat deaths, homicide, and suicide. It was hard for me to choose which ones to feature. Given the amount of families who have questioned a ruling of suicide while their loved one was serving in the US military, it’s fair to say that some suicide rulings should have a second look to determine if a homicide was ruled out. It’s important to note that if the cause of death is determined to be suicide, then the military never has to investigate again.

Brief overview of need for expedited transfers for whistleblowers in general:

John Needham and Adam Winfield had a lot in common: they both claim to have witnessed war crimes, one in Iraq, the other in Afghanistan. They both wanted to report the war crimes but didn’t feel safe doing so. They both admitted to feeling like they were set up to die or participate in the war crimes. The only difference: John’s parents were able to get him out of Iraq after he started deteriorating mentally. Adam’s parents were not able to get him out of Afghanistan and he was charged with war crimes after he was set up to participate. On the Dark Side of Al Doura and the Kill Team Movie are must sees because they show the similarity in the cases and reveal how an expedited transfer option could have helped them & saved innocent civilian lives. I included a history of crime at the bases they were stationed at to demonstrate that the crime simply follows them overseas.

John Needham, Army (2008):
Retired Army Pvt John Needham Beat Girlfriend Jacqwelyn Villagomez to Death, Then Died of Overdose on Painkillers Awaiting Murder Trial
An Inside Look at Toxic Leadership in the US Army: On the Dark Side in Al Doura, Iraq
On the Dark Side in Al Doura, Iraq on YouTube
Violent Crime, Suicide & Non Combat Death at Fort Carson

Adam Winfield, Army (2010):
Army Soldier Adam Winfield Tried to Report War Crimes But Instead was Charged with War Crimes as Part of ‘The Kill Team’
PBS Documentary ‘The Kill Team’ Nominated for an Emmy
The Kill Team on Amazon Prime
Violent Crime, Suicide & Non Combat Death at JBLM

Would the expedited transfer option help prevent suicide or homicide in these cases?

Alyssa Peterson, Army (2003)

There were concerns that Alyssa committed suicide because she didn’t want to participate in war crimes like torture. Could her life have been saved if she felt like she had a way out? Did she commit suicide? Was homicide ruled out?

Gloria Davis, Denise Lannaman, & Marshall Gutierrez, Army (2006)

Reports indicate Gloria Davis, Army (2006) committed suicide hours after she provided names and testimony to CID investigators regarding soldiers involved in a bribery scheme in Kuwait. She was a witness to the crimes and a witness for the prosecution. Did she commit suicide? Was homicide ever considered? How could this have been prevented? She was one of 3 people in the same logistics group in Kuwait tied to the bribery scheme investigation that committed suicide. Both Denise Lannaman, Army (2006) and Lt. Col. Marshall Gutierrez, Army (2006) deaths were ruled suicides by the Army as well. Were any of these cases investigated as homicides? Did anyone question why three soldiers from Kuwait tied to one investigation killed themselves?

Suzanne Swift, Army (2006)

Suzanne refused to redeploy for a third time for fear that she would be raped or assaulted this time. She went AWOL instead & was jailed. Could this have been prevented if she had a way out of Fort Lewis? She hadn’t been raped or assaulted yet. She was trying to prevent it given the isolation in Iraq. Does the expedited transfer apply to sexual harassment situations where the offender(s) are escalating? How could we have prevented this? If you look at the history of violent crime at JBLM and in Iraq, you can clearly see why Suzanne Swift was fearful for her life. She chose life and jail over rape and murder.

Genesia Gresham, Navy (2007)

Genesia and Anamarie Camacho were victims of homicide in Bahrain. Genesia was said to have been in a casual relationship with the shooter at one point. Were there red flags prior to the murder? Was the shooters behavior escalating? Does domestic violence, harassment, and stalking qualify for an expedited transfer? Could this have been prevented if Genesia had a way out when she realized she may have been in danger? The killer was never jail but instead institutionalized for mental health issues.

Jennifer Valdivia, Navy (2007)

Jennifer was at the center of command investigation of abuse of prisoners in Bahrain. It was reported that she did not want to participate in war crimes yet was belittled, harassed, and abused by a supervisor if she didn’t do what he asked. If she had a way out, could this suicide have been prevented? Was it a suicide? Was it ever investigated as a homicide?

Kelsey Anderson, USAF (2011)

The Anderson family reported that Kelsey’s health deteriorated after she learned that she could not transfer or get out of the military while stationed at Andersen Air Force Base in Guam. Why did she want a transfer? Why did she want to get out of the military all of a sudden? Did something happen to make Kelsey feel the need to get out of Guam as quickly as possible? Her death was ruled a suicide. Could this have been prevented if she was allowed to transfer? The Air Force took her gun privileges away shortly after she got to Guam because of mental health concerns. They gave it back to her a month before she died.

Danny Chen, Army (2011)

Danny was being hazed and bullied by fellow soldiers in Afghanistan. Could his death have been prevented if he had a way out of this situation? Does the expedited transfer apply to scenarios where an individual is being hazed, harassed, and physically assaulted? Did Danny fear murder? How could this have been prevented so Danny didn’t feel like suicide was the only way out?

Ciara Durkin, Mass Army National Guard (2007)

Ciara found discrepancies in the finance office in Afghanistan & feared that she made enemies. She asked her family to investigate if anything happened to her while she was overseas. Could we have saved Ciara’s life if once she realized that crimes may have been committed, she could leave and then safely report? Ciara was a witness to crime yet had to remain in the setting. Do expedited transfers apply to those who want to report crimes yet cannot do so safely in an isolated location?

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I researched the non combat deaths of female soldiers in Iraq, Afghanistan and other areas. I was alarmed by what I learned. It appears that close to 30% of the deaths of female soldiers in Iraq alone are from homicide, suicide, or unknown causes. I am working on doing the same research for male soldiers but have been overwhelmed with the number of non combat deaths of male soldiers. I am starting with 2010 to 2016. Then will focus energy on 2001 to 2010.

Non Combat Death of Female Soldiers:
Iraq
Afghanistan
Other Areas

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There are many cold cases in the military. The Army has the most cold cases. This list is a small sample of the cold cases in the military. Each case has the same theme. The families feel like they can’t get cooperation from the military to figure out what happened to their loved one. The families are devastated by the loss and traumatized further by the indifference, lack of support, and bureaucracy. If the homicide occurred on a base, they have nowhere to turn but the military because of federal jurisdiction issues. Most civilian cold case investigators ask for other investigators to take a look at cases to give them a fresh set of eyes. New investigators can add additional expertise to help find answers and give families closure. Two must see documentaries highlighting some of the major issues with investigations in the military are The Tillman Story (Pat Tillman) and The Silent Truth (LaVena Johnson).

Cold Cases:
Darlene Krashoc, Army (1987)
Gorden Hess, Army (1998)
Col Philip Shue (2003)
Lavena Johnson, Army (2005)
Nonnie Dotson, USAF (2006)
Tina Priest, Army (2006)
Kamisha Block, Army (2007)
Benjamin Griego, Army NG (2007)
Seteria Brown, Army (2008)
Stacy Dryden, USMC (2008)
Blanca Luna, USAF (2008)
Keisha Morgan, Army (2008)
Cherie Morton, Navy (2008)
BG Thomas Tinsley, USAF (2008)
Anton Phillips, Army (2009)
Amy Seyboth-Tirador (2009)
Katherine Morris, Army Spouse (2012)
Sean Wells, Army (2013)
Virginia Caballero, Army (2014)
Devin Schuette, Army (2016)
Justin Lewis, Army (2017)

Cases Solved by NCIS Cold Case Squad:
Lt Verle Hartley, Navy (1982)
Andrew Muns, Navy (1968)

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Other Areas of Concern:
David Dickson, US Army (1984) Tracking criminal behavior world wide
Kathleen Lipscomb, USAF spouse (1986) Jurisdiction Issues
Walter Smith, USMC (2006) Use of PTSD defense/stigma
Maria Lauterbach, USMC (2007) Expedited Transfer Policy
Jennifer Cole, Army (2008) Accountability/Investigations
Holley Wimunc, US Army (2008) Domestic Violence/Military Role
Morganne McBeth, Army (2010) Sentencing/Negligent Homicide
Mikayla Bragg, Army (2011) Mental Health/Suicide/Personnel Records
Kelli Bordeaux, Army (2012) Sex offender registry/Army role
Michelle Miller, Army (2013) Accountability of those in positions of power
Shadow McClaine, Army (2016) DV & attempted murder prior to homicide
Cati Blauvelt, US Army spouse (2016) DV/Accountability/Fugitives
Army Reserve Veteran Micah Johnson Murdered Five Dallas Police Officers (2016)
A List of Soldiers Targeted & Murdered for the SGLI
5 Service Members Currently on Military Death Row at Leavenworth
The US Military Recruited Violent Felons to Support the War Efforts

History of Homicide/Suicide on Military Bases:
Violent Crime, Suicide & Non Combat Death at US Military Bases

Recommendations:

  • Expand expedited transfer policy to include whistleblowers (war crimes, hazing, stalking, sex harassment, witnesses to crimes) in an effort to prevent homicide and suicide
  • Creation of cold case squads in the Army & Air Force to investigate homicide & suicide rulings
  • Centralized location for families to call to initiate an investigation of suicide ruling or cold cases, with mental health component
  • Official way to dispute findings of military investigators/medical examiners, ability to request a second independent investigation

The Feres Doctrine prevents soldiers from suing the Armed Forces for injuries incurred in the line of duty but families can sue the government in an effort to hold them accountable. Although lawyers and lengthy court battles are costly and re-traumatizing for the families. They shouldn’t have to sue the the government to get answers. They shouldn’t have to submit a FOIA request to find out how their loved one passed. Therefore it only seems fair that we give families the answers and support they need when they lose a loved one who is serving in the US military.

We need centralized databases so that records of criminal activity can be more readily tracked to prevent a violent criminal from escalating to homicide. The military is considered one team now and their criminal activity impacts service members in all branches and civilians in the US and other countries. Given the transient population and jurisdiction issues, it only makes sense to utilize the existing FBI national database in an effort to connect crimes committed on bases, overseas, deployed locations, and in the civilian jurisdictions here in the US. The overall goal is to prevent multiple victims and homicide.

Army Captain Nathan Smith Suing Barack Obama Claiming ISIS Fight is Illegal, Unconstitutional, and US President Lacks Authorization (2016)

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Captain Nathan Smith, US Army

Intelligence Officer Captain Nathan Smith, 28, US Army, is suing President Barack Obama in federal court claiming the war with ISIS/ISIL is unconstitutional and illegal. Captain Smith alleges President Obama does not have authorization to engage in a fight with Syria. At the time of the case filing in May 2016, Captain Smith was overseas deployed to Camp Arifjan in Kuwait. The original suit was rejected in November 2016 ruling that Captain Smith ‘didn’t have standing to sue and that disputes over war powers are best left to Congress and the president to fight out in the political arena.’ In April 2017, Captain Smith asked an appeals court to take the case and settle the issue once and for all.

Related Links:
Nathan Smith, US Army v. Barack Obama
Army Captain sues Obama over ISIS fight
Is the U.S. War Against ISIS Illegal?
Army Captain sues Obama over ISIS fight
An Army Captain Takes Obama to Court Over ISIS Fight
Deployed Army captain sues Obama over ISIS fight
U.S. Army Captain Is Suing Obama Over Legality Of The War Against ISIS
Army Captain Sues Obama For Unconstitutional War Against ISIS
Army Captain Sues Obama over Islamic State War
Army captain sues Obama over lack of ISIS war authorization
28-Year-Old Army Officer Suing Obama Over ISIS
Soldier Suing Obama Over ISIS War Is Doing Fine, Lawyer Says
Army captain sues President Obama over claims the war on ISIS is illegal
Army captain sues President Obama, saying he lacks authority to fight ISIS
Who Is Capt. Nathan Michael Smith? US Intelligence Officer Sues President Barack Obama Over Legality Of ISIS Fight
‘My conscience bothered me’: Army captain sues Obama over ‘illegal war’ on the Islamic State
My Brother’s Challenge to the Undeclared War Against ISIS
Analysis of Lawsuit Challenging War Against ISIL
Constitution Check: Has the U.S. war against ISIS in Syria been illegal from the start?
Does the president think his own war is illegal?
The Dangers of the Ever More Powerful Presidency
When The U.S. Military Strikes, White House Points To A 2001 Measure
Suit Calling War on ISIS Illegal Is Rejected
Soldier who supports war against Islamic State files lawsuit calling it illegal

Army Soldiers Johnny Herrera and Benjamin Cardwell, Army Veteran Todd Crow, and Daniel Francis Charged With Conspiracy to Commit Theft of Government Property (2015)

US Army Seal

Sgt. Johnny Herrera, US Army, SSgt. Benjamin Cardwell, US Army, and Todd Crow, US Army Veteran

Two Fort Carson Army soldiers, Sgt. Johnny Herrera, 29, and SSgt. Benjamin Cardwell, 41, and a former Army soldier Todd Crow, 34, were among four people charged in connection with stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of military weapons, gear and robots, then selling them to a middle man Daniel Francis, 50, who sold them on eBay for a fraction of their worth. Sgt. Johnny Herrera, Staff Sgt. Benjamin Cardwell, Todd Crow, and Daniel Francis were all charged with conspiracy to commit theft of government property. If convicted of this crime, each defendant faces not more than five years in federal prison and up to a $250,000 fine. All four defendants were scheduled to appear before the U.S. Magistrate Judge on April 21, 2015 for detention hearings.

Retired military leaders say the string of theft allegations raises serious concerns over how the post keeps track of weapons, including items deemed too sensitive to leave military control. “If that stuff wound up in the wrong hands, it could really hurt us,” said retired Army Lt. Gen. Ed Anderson, who heads the National Homeland Defense Foundation in Colorado Springs. –Colorado Gazette

Related Links:
Men stole, sold military robots and armor on eBay: FBI
4 arrested in scheme involving stolen Army property
Four Men Arrested in Scheme to Sell Stolen Material from Fort Carson
Inside Job: Military Equipment Allegedly Stolen By Soldiers Sold On eBay
Four Men Arrested In Scheme To Sell Stolen Material From Fort Carson
Colorado Springs man accused of selling stolen equipment from Fort Carson
Soldiers in Colorado Arrested for Stealing Weapons They Sold on Ebay
2 Active Soldiers Accused Of Major Thefts From Fort Carson
Fort Carson soldiers charged with stealing, selling weapons on eBay
Fort Carson soldiers arrested, accused of stealing military equipment to sell on Ebay
Latest theft case illustrates problem of missing equipment at Fort Carson
Army says keeping equipment on post a priority, will investigate Fort Carson thefts
Army says keeping equipment on post a priority, will investigate Fort Carson thefts
Violent Crime, Suicide and Non Combat Death at Fort Carson, Colorado (US Army)

Newsmax: Rowan Scarborough On False Complaints Of Sexual Abuse In Military (2013)

Virtually all media attention on a Pentagon report last week focused on an increase in service members’ claims of sexual abuse in an anonymous survey, but unmentioned were statistics showing that a significant percentage of such actually investigated cases were baseless. –Washington Times

Related Links:
False reports outpace sex assaults in the military
Victims of sex assaults in military are mostly men
Shameful: Washington Times Column Blames Female Service Members for Assault, Calls Them Liars (Miranda Peterson, Protect Our Defenders)
Sexual Assaults and Cultural Confusion in the Military’s New Gender Order
More On Sexual Assault In The Military
Victims of Sex Assaults in Military are Mostly Silent Men
National Security Expert: Women in Combat May Lead to More Sexual Abuse
U.S. military pressed to design special line of combat boots just for women
APA Retracts Shocking Military Male Rape Study
Study On Male Military Sexual Assault Rates Retracted
Military Sexual Trauma: Prevalent and Under Treated

Cold Case: Army Veteran Kanika Powell Shot Several Times at Doorway of Maryland Home, No Known Suspects At This Time (2008)

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Kanika Powell, US Army veteran

Army veteran Kanika Powell, 28, was brutally gunned down outside the door of her home on August 28, 2008 in Prince George’s County, Maryland. Kanika enlisted in the Army in 2000, served in Korea, and then got out of the military and was finally living her dream job in national security. Kanika had a top secret security clearance. Prior to the murder, Kanika had some odd encounters. Two men showed up at her house claiming to be the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). They called her by name and put a fake FBI badge up to her peephole. She did not open the door. She called her work to ask if someone sent them; they had not. The incident frightened Tanika.

Five days later another man showed up at her house, asked for her by name, claimed to have a package for her then left. Twelve hours later someone else showed up again claiming to have a package for her then left. Tanika was fearful for her safety. A few days later Kanika was shot several times. The gunman was standing right outside her door waiting for her. The police report that no hand gun was found and there are no known suspects at this time. The case has turned up few leads. Kanika’s wallet and keys were found next to her body so robbery was ruled out as a motive. The police do not believe her job was the motive. The police and Crime Watch Daily welcome tips.

“On Saturday, August 23rd, 2008, Kanika had a frightening experience where a man posing as an FBI agent had tried to gain access to her apartment. He knew her name, and approached her door, but Kanika was intelligent enough to not allow him inside. She later called the police to report the incident…When she arrived back at her apartment at approximately 11:50 a.m., someone was waiting in the hallway and shot her multiple times…Police were baffled by the seemingly motiveless crime and didn’t have so much as a single suspect.” –Trace Evidence

Related Links:
Prince George’s Killing, Apparently Planned, Opens Host of Mysteries
Unsolved: National security worker gunned down amid mysterious circumstances
Don’t Open the Door: The Kanika Powell Murder
Crime Watch Daily: Military Veteran Found Dead at Door; Who Killed Her?
The Mysterious Unsolved Murder of Kanika Powell
The Murder of Kanika Powell (027) | Trace Evidence
The Murder of Kanika Powell (EP.#027) True Crime Podcast – Trace Evidence


The Murder of Kanika Powell (027) | Trace Evidence