Fear Thy Neighbor Premiered ‘Night of the Machete’ on Investigation Discovery: Veteran Twain Thomas Flipped Out on Camera After VA Cut Off Monthly Benefits (June 7, 2016)

ID Go: Two young couples in an Idaho apartment building walk on eggshells around a neighbor who can’t stand the one couple’s music and the other’s dog. Tensions keep rising between all parties until finally hell breaks loose and a violent rampage erupts. -Night of the Machete, Fear Thy Neighbor (S3, E10)

“Thomas Twain, an Idaho man with a machete, kicked down the door of home of Kaila Gearhart and James Cvengros and attempted to attack the couple. Upon hearing the shocking sounds of the door coming off its hinges, Cvengros ran the front room, screamed at Twain to leave, and ultimately shot the intruder.

The Idaho machete attacker survived the gunshot wound, and faces up to 15 years in prison for the home invasion. Idaho prosecutors claimed that Thomas Twain’s years of military service meant that he was a danger to the public.”

Read more here: Idaho Machete Attack: Veteran’s Military Service Used By Prosecutor In Attempt To Garner Longer Prison Term (The Inquisitr)

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.

In the News:

Man with machete breaks into apartment; victims tell all. -KAKE News (January 15, 2015)

February 2014, Twain N Thomas was shot three times after he kicked in a neighbors door and came at the occupants with a machete. -Idaho State Journal (January 16, 2015)

Twain Thomas sentenced. -KIFI Local News 8 (January 16, 2015)

Interview with Bannock County Prosecutor and footage of Thomas being shot after knocking down neighbor’s door. -Idaho State Journal (January 16, 2015)

An attempted murder is caught on camera, along with a confession. CNN’s Brianna Keilar reports on the Idaho machete attack. -CNN (January 28, 2015)

Watch as a man with a machete hacks into a neighbor’s apartment – not realizing he brought a knife to a gun fight! -True Crime Daily (September 26, 2018)

Related Links:
Machete man smashes door in ‘Shining’ attack
Homeowner shoots machete wielding home invader
Man sentenced for attempted murder
Twain Thomas machete attack: man kicks down apartment door before being shot by homeowner
Dramatic Moment When Machete-Wielding Attacker Breaks Down Door
Man with a machete shot 3 times… and the entire thing was caught on video (VIDEO)
Video shows man use machete to hack through door, get shot by tenant
Terrifying moment machete attack man smashes through door like in horror film before being shot
Machete-wielding man chops through neighbor’s door before being shot: VIDEO
WATCH: Machete-wielding Idaho man tears through neighbor’s door before being shot
Machete-wielding Idaho man chops through apartment door before tenant shoots him to end ‘Shining’-style rampage (VIDEO)
Man Relives Bone-Chilling Moment When a Neighbor Kicked Through His Door and Came at Him With a Machete: ‘It Was Like ‘The Shining”
Machete-Wielding Suspect Shot As He Breaks Through Door In GRAPHIC VIDEO
Terrifying footage shows man kicking down apartment door wielding a MACHETE just moments before he is shot by the homeowner
Pocatello man who was shot while breaking into neighbors’ apartments to threaten them with machete is sentenced
Idaho man sentenced for attempted murder with machete
Man sentenced to 15 years for machete attack
State v. Twain N. Thomas (Idaho Ct. App. 2016)
Idaho Machete Attack: Veteran’s Military Service Used By Prosecutor In Attempt To Garner Longer Prison Term

Video Links:
Man with machete breaks into apartment; victims tell all
Machete wielding intruder shot on camera
Machete-wielding Idaho man breaks through door before tenant shoots him
‘The Shining’-esque machete attack caught on camera
Prosecutor discusses video of intruder shot on camera
Twain Thomas sentenced
He brought a machete to a gun fight
Night of the Machete | Fear Thy Neighbor | Investigation Discovery (S3, E10)

Carlos Holcombe, US Army Veteran, Sentenced to Life in Prison for Kidnapping & Raping a 12 Year Old in El Paso, Texas (2014)

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Carlos Holcombe, US Army Veteran

Carlos Antonio Holcombe, US Army veteran, was accused of kidnapping a twelve year old child from a high school parking lot and raping her on August 22, 2014 in El Paso, Texas. He lured the little girl by asking her if she would help him move some boxes. He then pointed a gun at her back and forced her into his truck. He took her to his home, put duck tape over her eyes, bound her, and raped her. School cameras caught him in the act of the abduction and he was arrested by police the next day. He was indicted on one count of aggravated kidnapping and three counts of aggravated sexual assault of a child. According to reports, Holcombe served ten years in the US Army in support of Operation Desert Shield and was honorably discharged. He now claims he has Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) yet has not received any treatment from the Department of Veterans Affairs. He used the PTSD defense claiming that he suffers from a disassociative disorder he developed after he was sexually abused as a child. He also used the temporary insanity defense, claiming he was drinking alcohol and smoking marijuana right before the incident. A psychologist testified that he examined Holcombe by giving him several psychological exams and the results of the exams showed that Holcombe was exaggerating or lying about his symptoms. Holcombe was found guilty by a jury of three counts of aggravated sexual assault of a child, and one count each of aggravated kidnapping and indecency with a child involving sexual contact. He was sentenced to life in prison on one count of aggravated kidnapping and 20 years in prison on a charge of indecency with a child involving sexual contact. The sentences will be served concurrently.

“You don’t get to claim you have PTSD and commit a rape.” -Prosecutor Alyssa Nava

Related Links:
Man indicted on aggravated kidnapping, 3 charges of aggravated sexual assault of child in Aug. incident in Horizon
Trial date set in Horizon City kidnapping, sexual assault case
Trial underway for man accused of kidnapping girl from Horizon HS football game
Trial underway for man accused of kidnapping 12-year-old girl from Horizon High School football game, raping her
Evidence shown in day three of Carlos Holcombe trial
Cameras show 12-year-old’s kidnapping
Girl testifies about kidnapping, sexual assault
Texas man convicted of kidnapping, raping girl, 12
Army vet found guilty of kidnapping, raping girl in Texas
Man found guilty of kidnapping, raping girl
Former soldier guilty of kidnapping, sexually assaulting girl he bound, blindfolded outside El Paso
Man gets life in kidnapping, rape of girl
Texan gets life in prison in kidnapping, rape of girl, 12

Fort Carson Army Officer Aaron Lucas Sentenced to 20 Years to Life for Child Sex Crimes, Accused of Preying on Children in Military Uniform (2012)

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Aaron Lucas, US Army

“Our daughter was taught to trust the uniform.” -Retired Chief Navy Petty Officer

DNA evidence linked Army officer 1st Lt. Aaron Lucas to a string of child sex crimes in three states: Colorado, Alabama, and Texas. Aaron Lucas was a 4th Infantry Division Army artillery officer stationed at Fort Carson, Colorado. He is married with two children. According to reports, Lucas had a glowing resume and received countless awards including the Bronze Star after a deployment to Afghanistan. On October 23, 2012 Aaron Lucas was arrested by Colorado civilian authorities and accused of indecent exposure, kidnapping, and rape of children during the 2009-2012 time frame. He was also accused of committing child sex crimes in Alabama in 2007 and Texas in 2009. 1st Lt. Lucas was charged with 20 counts of sexual abuse in Colorado. It appears that Lucas preyed on and targeted children in the nearby communities while stationed at Fort Carson. Some he kidnapped and raped. Investigators also noted that Lucas was linked to 11 attempted abductions in Colorado and all the crime appeared to cease when he was deployed to Afghanistan. Victim testimony revealed that Lucas attacked most of his victims while in military uniform. Aaron Lucas has an identical twin brother Brian whose DNA is a near identical match to his. Therefore Aaron attempted to use the ‘evil twin defense’ and blamed the crimes on his brother who was also accused of committing his own list of crimes. Although investigators concluded that there was no evidence uncovered to link Brian Lucas to the crimes as he wasn’t even in the same states where the crimes occurred. In November 2013, Aaron Lucas dropped the ‘evil twin defense’ and pleaded guilty to the crimes prior to the trial because he loved his family and didn’t want to put them through it. He also begged the judge to get him treatment. The defense noted that it is difficult to argue someone else committed the crimes when you can’t put the person at the scene of the crime. Prosecutors argued that treatment does not work for someone who repeatedly and deliberately makes the decision to prey on children. Aaron Lucas was sentenced to 20 years to life. In his defense, Aaron’s father claims his son is a hero and that combat stress prompted the crimes. According to his father, Lucas is also a victim of sexual assault. In other news, Brian Lucas was convicted of sodomy and sexual abuse charges in February 2015 in Alabama.

Related Links:
Fort Carson Investigates Possible Sexual Assaults
Prosecutor: DNA evidence links soldier to Colo., Ala. assaults
Soldier arrested on sex charges possibly connected to AL crime
Decorated Army Officer Faces Child Sex Charges
Fort Carson GI held on sex assault, child luring charges
Madison Co. sheriff’s investigators working with Colorado authorities in Army officer sexual abuse case
Army officer charged with more than 20 counts of sexual abuse in Colorado to be investigated in Madison County
Authorities: DNA connects suspect to Texarkana kidnapping cold case
DNA evidence links 2007 Madison sexual assualt case to soldier in Colorado
Warrant sought in local assault case
Fort Carson investigates ‘several’ soldiers in sexual assaults of girls
Sex assault suspect: My evil twin did it!
Sex-assault suspect blaming twin brother for attacks
Army Officer blames sex crimes on twin brother
Army officer is blaming DNA match in assaults on his twin brother
Suspect Blames Twin for Sexual Assaults: DNA Evidence Implicates Army Lt. and Brother
Bronze Star Army officer accused of ‘trying to abduct and sexually assault young girls’ will claim his TWIN was behind attacks
Aaron Lucas Accuses Twin Brother of Sexual Assaults He is Charged With
Sibling DNA Twist in Serial Rape Trial
Is a Decorated Soldier Being Tried for His Twin’s Sex Crimes?
Judge: Suspect Allowed To Blame Identical Twin In Sexual Assault Case
Judge: Sex assault suspect allowed to blame twin
Judge allows Colorado soldier’s defense of citing twin as potential suspect
Judge allows “Evil Twin” Defense In Rape Cases!
Judge allows Colorado soldier’s defense of citing twin as potential suspect
Accused rapist allowed to raise identical twin defense at trial
Army sex assault suspect is allowed to blame twin
Judge: Sex assault suspect allowed to blame twin
Army Officer To Use Identical Twin In Defense Of Sexual Assault Charges
Army Officer Uses Evil Twin Defense In Sexual Assault Case
Twin Brother Of Aaron Lucas Arrested On Sexual Abuse Charges
Twin Brother of Aaron Lucas, Brian Arrested on Sexual Abuse Charges
Twin Brother of Aaron Lucas, Brian, Arrested Again For Sexual Abuse
‘Evil twin’ defense dropped, Fort Carson officer to plead guilty to sex assault
Army officer drops ‘evil twin’ defense, pleads guilty to sex assaults
Army Officer Drops ‘Twin Defense’ for Sexual Assault
Man pleads guilty to assaults, won’t blame twin
Man pleads guilty to assaults, won’t blame twin
Army officer who blamed twin for sexual assaults pleads guilty
Aaron Gregory Lucas, Army Officer Who Blamed Twin For Sexual Assaults, Pleads Guilty
Army officer Aaron Lucas who blamed twin for sexual assaults pleads guilty
Colorado soldier who named twin as sex crimes suspect pleads guilty
Hero ex-Army officer who tried to blame his twin for string of sex attacks on children is jailed for 20 years – as twin is held for the SAME offenses
Former Army officer sentenced to 20 years in prison for child sex assaults after admitting his twin didn’t do it
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Ex-Army officer gets 20 years in child-sex cases
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How do you convict an identical twin of rape? A new DNA test hopes to clarify evidence
Lucas parents say sexual abuse turned their son into child rapist
Violent Crime, Suicide & Non Combat Death at Fort Carson, Colorado (US Army)

Iraq War Army Veteran Steven Russell Jr. Convicted of the Capital Murder of Girlfriend Joy Owen; Sentenced to Life in Prison, No Parole (2012)

Steven Russell

Steven Russell, Jr., US Army Veteran

Army veteran Steven Russell, Jr. was convicted of the capital murder of his girlfriend Joy Owen on January 27, 2012. Russell was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. Prosecutors say Russell killed Joy because she tried to leave him. In the middle of the night on November 3, 2009, Russell cocked his gun and fired it four times at Owen with no apparent provocation. The North Little Rock Police Department found Joy Owen’s body around 4:30 a.m. In the course of the homicide investigation, police learned that Russell had received 5-years probation in Clark County, Arkansas for the second-degree domestic battery of another girlfriend in 2008. According to reports, the U.S. Army said Russell was a mechanic stationed at Fort Sill, Oklahoma and he enlisted in the Army in 2001; the year he left the Army was not available.

Steven Russell’s defense team admitted he killed Owen but blamed the shooting on post-traumatic stress disorder brought on by his war service in Iraq in 2003. The attorneys appealed the decision claiming he “had the dubious task of recovering bodies and equipment after they had come in contact with improvised explosive devices.” But the state Supreme Court disagreed with the defense saying the judge was confronted with conflicting forensic evaluations. While two mental health professionals “found that Russell lacked capacity as a result of mental disease or defect to conform his conduct to the requirements of the law or to appreciate the criminality of his conduct, the court also had before it (another doctor’s) opinion to the contrary.” The Supreme Court upheld a Pulaski County jury’s 2012 conviction of capital murder.

“You would have to believe [Owen] did something that reminded him of his Iraqi war experience … and I can’t make that jump. To me, it was too convenient, and there was too much purposeful action.” –Dr. Brad Diner, psychologist

Related Links:
Arkansas Iraq War vet gets life in prison for killing girlfriend
Joy Owens, former MP daughter, students talk about her slaying
Ark. court upholds veteran’s murder conviction
Arkansas Man Challenging Judge Barring Partner At Home

Civilian Joy Owen Shot Four Times by Boyfriend; Army Veteran Steven Russell, Jr. Sentenced to Life in Prison for Capital Murder, No Parole (2009)

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Joy Owen, Arkansas

Army veteran Steven Russell, Jr. was convicted of the capital murder of his girlfriend Joy Owen on January 27, 2012. Russell was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. Prosecutors say Russell killed Joy because she tried to leave him. In the middle of the night on November 3, 2009, Russell cocked his gun and fired it four times at Owen with no apparent provocation. The North Little Rock Police Department found Joy Owen’s body around 4:30 a.m. In the course of the homicide investigation, police learned that Russell had received 5-years probation in Clark County, Arkansas for the second-degree domestic battery of another girlfriend in 2008. According to reports, the U.S. Army said Russell was a mechanic stationed at Fort Sill, Oklahoma and he enlisted in the Army in 2001; the year he left the Army was not available.

Steven Russell’s defense team admitted he killed Owen but blamed the shooting on post-traumatic stress disorder brought on by his war service in Iraq in 2003. The attorneys appealed the decision claiming he “had the dubious task of recovering bodies and equipment after they had come in contact with improvised explosive devices.” But the state Supreme Court disagreed with the defense saying the judge was confronted with conflicting forensic evaluations. While two mental health professionals “found that Russell lacked capacity as a result of mental disease or defect to conform his conduct to the requirements of the law or to appreciate the criminality of his conduct, the court also had before it (another doctor’s) opinion to the contrary.” The Supreme Court upheld a Pulaski County jury’s 2012 conviction of capital murder.

“You would have to believe [Owen] did something that reminded him of his Iraqi war experience … and I can’t make that jump. To me, it was too convenient, and there was too much purposeful action.” –Dr. Brad Diner, psychologist

Related Links:
Arkansas Iraq War vet gets life in prison for killing girlfriend
Joy Owens, former MP daughter, students talk about her slaying
Ark. court upholds veteran’s murder conviction
Arkansas Man Challenging Judge Barring Partner At Home

US Army Soldier Robert Marko Convicted of the Rape & Murder of Disabled Civilian Teen Judilianna Lawrence in Colorado (2008)

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Robert Marko, US Army

On October 10, 2008 Judilianna Lawrence, 19, was reported missing. On October 13 the body of Judilianna was discovered after Robert Marko led the police to her.  After an investigation, it was learned that US Army soldier Robert Marko of Fort Carson lured the disabled teen on MySpace, raped, and murdered her. He was also accused of raping another teenager and threatening to kill her five days earlier. Marko was convicted of the rape and first degree murder of Judilianna in 2011 and sentenced to life without parole.

Learn more: Violent Crime, Suicide & Non Combat Death at Fort Carson, Colorado (US Army)

Related Links:
Teen Missing After MySpace Meeting
Police: Soldier Led Searchers to Teen’s Body
Body Identified As Missing Girl
Search for Missing Teen Ends In Tragedy
Soldier With History of Delusions Is Suspect
Ft. Carson soldier accused in killing
Soldier Accused of Murder
Carson soldier admits he killed woman, sheriff’s office says
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Man Accused In Two Rapes, Murder Back in Court
“He hears sounds which seem to be voices”
Mental State of Soldier Questioned
Fort Carson Soldier Pleads Insanity In Slaying
Fort Carson: Iraq Veteran Stands Trial For Murder
Fort Carson Soldier In Court In MySpace Slaying
SUNRISE: Jury to get case of soldier accused of murder, rape
Decatur soldier convicted of murder
Fort Carson Soldier Convicted In Woman’s Slaying
Soldier Convicted Of Killing Woman He Met On MySpace
Fort Carson soldier found guilty of first-degree murder and sexual assault
War Vet Gets Life Sentence for Rape, Murder of Teen
Ex-Soldier Convicted Of Murder Gets Life In Prison
Decatur soldier accused in rape, murder led chilling life online
Victim’s father in Marko case speaks out: ‘My baby gets some justice’
When Judilianna Lawrence Met the Predator
The rape and murder of Judi Lawrence
Soldiers suspected in Colorado slayings
Death on the Home Front
U.S. Slayings by Vets Linked to War Stress
War trauma may have role in slayings
Army looks at troops accused in U.S. killings
Army To Probe 5 Slayings Linked To Colo. Brigade
A Focus on Violence by G.I.’s Back From War

Retired Marine Walter Smith Drowned Girlfriend Nicole Speirs in Bathtub and Blamed Post Traumatic Stress; Sentenced to 15 Years in Prison (2006)

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Nicole Speirs

In August 2004, hard working Walter Smith was managing a photoshop at a local department store in a town outside Salt Lake City, Utah. Walter met the future mother of his children Nicole Speirs on a social media site. Nicole was a tomboy, she was into skateboarding, adventure, and the two appeared to get along really well. They went out on a couple dates and spent the night together. But Walter was not sure how close he wanted to get because he had other things on his mind. He only recently returned home after a tour of duty in the Marine Corps. He joined the Marine Corps after high school and in early 2000, he was at boot camp in California. One of his Marine friends spoke highly of him and shared that one wanted to spend time with Walter because he was very interesting. Then September 11, 2001… Of course the Marines were deployed to Iraq and in February of 2003, Walter and and his team were some of the first on the ground during Operation Iraqi Freedom. This was war and the possibility of dying was something they had to accept after witnessing many of their own die around them.

In the summer of 2003 after six months in Iraq, Walter returned to Utah for a visit and then was sent to a marksman training course in Virginia. While on a rifle range, the sounds of munitions were giving Walter flashbacks and he thought he was shooting at people in Iraq. According to a comrade, something was triggered inside him and he just lost it. The was the beginning of his medical discharge. He was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and medically discharged from the USMC. One of Walter’s Marine friends shared that most begin to experience the PTSD after they get out but they don’t push the subject with one another. But everyone recognized that Walter was depressed; he wasn’t the same person he was when they met him. Walter met Nicole Speirs shortly after his military discharge. Although after a few dates and intense nights spent together, Walter retreated. In the meantime, Nicole called Walter to let him know that she was pregnant. He went to the first doctor visit with her and they found out together they were having twins.

Walter wasn’t sure he was ready to have a family. He also learned that his parents were getting a divorce after 25 years of marriage. It rocked the foundations of all of the siblings. Walter retreated completely after the doctor visit with Nicole and requested a DNA test to prove they were his children. Nicole had to accept Walter’s decision; she didn’t know that he was struggling with PTSD. Walter became quiet and withdrawn. Once harmless, the civilian world now had several threats everywhere after his return. Walter’s family couldn’t understand what he had been through. Walter’s comrades shared that he engaged in one of the most violent fights during the deployment in Iraq. They were hit with an RPG and three guys were hurt. The enemy was packing families in cars and driving right at them. Walter had no choice but to use the gun to stop the existing threat. They had a hard time witnessing the innocent children die. The Marines in Walter’s company were never the same.

Now that Walter was back in Utah, his depression was getting worse. He was downward spiraling. By September 2004, Walter’s dad moved in with him. The family was concerned for them because they both were feeling extremely depressed. Walter’s dad shared that his own father committed suicide when he was young because he felt that he was a burden to the family. On June 30, 2004, Walter reached a breaking point. His thoughts were more distorted. Walter Sr. didn’t know it but Walter was experiencing violent tendencies. He feared for his own father’s life. He left their home before he harmed his father and made a decision to kill himself with a shotgun. He called some family to say goodbye but before he could pull the trigger, a friend contacted the local police to intervene. As a result, Walter was admitted into a psychiatric ward. He was diagnosed with PTSD, severe depression with psychosis, and alcohol dependency. Meanwhile, Nicole was on bedrest with a difficult labor and gave birth a month earlier then expected.

Nicole’s babies were both underdeveloped and needed to remain in the NICU for over a month but they finally got the green light to take them home. Nicole had a girl and a boy. Walter never went to visit Nicole at the hospital. By the time the children were five years old, Nicole filed for child support. Meanwhile, Walter looked at Nicole’s pictures on social media and could tell that the children were his right away and wanted to see them. This time, he told her the truth about the PTSD. Walter met the children and things seemed really good. Nicole was a phenomenal mom and this appeared to help Walter cope better too because she was calm and caring. Nicole was really excited that Walter came back. But Walter still doesn’t feel the same way as Nicole and wasn’t sure that he ever would; he had his own demons to contend with. But, they were both trying to strengthen their relationship for the sake of the children.

On March 9, 2006, Nicole was feeling dizzy so she left work and went home to rest. Two weeks later on March 24, 2006, Nicole and Walter were up late after a relaxing evening together at home. They made love and got in the bathtub to get cleaned up. Nicole asked Walter what she thought about their future; she wanted to get married. Walter said he needed more time and wasn’t ready to make that decision. He knew that he wasn’t ready for that kind of commitment. She was upset about this but decided to play it out and see where things went. The next morning Walter and the children left at 5 am to visit his family. The rest of the grandchildren were going to be there for a group photo. Shortly after Walter arrived, he began arguing with a relative and acting erratically. The family eventually called the police on Walter because they were concerned about his behavior. Walter called Nicole and told her he was returning instead of spending the night with his family.

Walter entered through the garage around 1 a.m. like he usually did and put the children to bed. He went to the bathroom where he heard water running and found Nicole face down in the bathtub. She appeared to be dead. He called 911. He was rattled, couldn’t remember the address, he realized that she was dead and this appeared to deflate him. Walter was hesitant to do the CPR when asked by the 911 dispatcher but he did it and unfortunately it was too late. Nicole was gone. Police arrived to find Walter and Nicole’s dead body. The body had been in a cold tub which made the time of death difficult to determine. There was no clear sign of foul play. Walter was questioned and claimed that Nicole was taking an anti-depressant for depression. His demeanor striked investigators as guarded and numb. Walter was with his family so could corroborate his whereabouts. Walter made the dreadful phone calls to family members and loved ones but Nicole’s death didn’t make sense to any of them.

In the days after Nicole’s death, the police kept their eye on Walter Smith. They questioned neighbors who denied any knowledge of abuse or volatility in the relationship; as a matter of fact, neighbors observed that both appeared happy together. The Speirs family was concerned about when Nicole got sick and wondered if that had anything to do with it. And suicide was a theory that Walter planted until Nicole’s autopsy put an end to that. There were no drugs in her system but the manner of death was drowning; the cause of death was unknown. The big question was why and how did this happen? Walter and the Speirs family worked together to take care of the children over the next few months. But nothing could hold back the depression that Walter was fighting off. Sometimes he felt like the PTSD was going to break him.

On December 4, 2006, Walter drove himself to the Veterans Affairs hospital emergency room because he was feeling suicidal and homicidal. He called his Uncle Craig and told him he couldn’t live another day. After questioned by his uncle, Walter admitted that he had something to do with Nicole’s death. His Uncle Craig recommended he remain silent until he got there but Walter Smith already told the VA that he felt guilty about what happened to Nicole. The VA called the police department who showed up around the time that his uncle showed up. He was quiet initially but then told them he was responsible for Nicole’s death. It was not an accident; it was something more. He was arrested for suspicion of homicide and taken in custody. Walter Sr.’s heart was shattered and he was in absolute disbelief that his son could do something like this. Walter Sr. and Craig let Nicole Speir’s family know right away that Walter admitted to being responsible for Nicole’s death.

Two days later, detectives got a second crack at Walter. Walter explained that he was in the bathtub with Nicole. She was sitting towards the faucet with him behind her. She washed her hair and she had to bend forward to rinse it. He then pushed her head down in the water from the back until she drowned to death. He was emotionless, matter of fact, and flat when he talked about the crime. He admitted that they had not been arguing prior to the act. When asked, Walter said that Nicole did fight back to the best of her ability. The detectives did not believe PTSD was an excuse because he took advantage of her in the most vulnerable position. Investigators exclaimed that this was an intimate domestic violence encounter that could only be accomplished in that position of trust. Walter didn’t know why he did it; he couldn’t explain it to those who were questioning him. His reasoning for coming forward was because he wanted help; the crime had in fact eaten away at him. After his confession, Walter was charged with murder in the first degree. But the legal teams validated that PTSD is a legitimate mitigating factor to reduce a charge from murder to manslaughter.

The prosecution recognized and believed this murder probably would not have happened if not for PTSD. The Speirs family learned from the prosecution that there was a lack of physical evidence, that most likely a jury would be sympathetic to a war vet with PTSD, and that these factors could lead to a not guilty verdict. As a result, the family agreed to a plea deal and a sentence was negotiated; Walter Smith received 1 to 15 years in prison. The sentence automatically gave the Speir family custody of the two children. The family felt the sentence was weak but ultimately they wanted to protect the children. Detectives wanted the public to remember that this was still a homicide and the PTSD didn’t cause this. Walter began serving his sentence in the fall of 2007. Four years later, his family and the Speirs family attended his parole hearing; Walter wasn’t allowed to look at any of them. As he sat hunched and humbled, he was asked if there was anything he wanted to say. He was silent at first but then he finally said that he didn’t disagree with what the family wanted including spending all 15 years in prison because he deserved it. He also said he was truly sorry for what he did. Walter Smith’s parole was turned down and he will spend the entire fifteen years in prison.

Did the status as a Marine with PTSD shape the way this crime was handled?

Learn more: Complex Post Traumatic Stress and Dissociation in Military and Veteran Populations

The PTSD Defense:

  • Vet with PTSD dissociates, overreacts, self defense
  • Vet with PTSD dissociates, blames suicidal thoughts & pain, unravels
  • Vet who is violent criminal, doesn’t have PTSD, yet uses as defense
  • Vet who is violent criminal & has PTSD, yet would have committed crime regardless because violent criminal first (who happens to have PTSD)
  • How do we differentiate between dissociation & violent criminal activity?
  • When do we apply PTSD as a mitigating factor in homicide cases?
  • PTSD doesn’t cause crime, the propensity to harm is innate, can have both
  • Although manslaughter is lesser offense, it is still a homicide
  • Is it fair to use mitigating circumstances like PTSD, crime of passion, jealousy, etc. when the end result was murder? Impact on victim’s family.

Related Links:
Judge orders exhumation in Tooele murder probe
Woman’s body to be exhumed
Man Admits to Taking Part in Girlfriend’s Death 
Local Marine now accused killer
Man Accused of Murdering His Girlfriend Deemed Competent to Stand Trial 
Man Sentenced in Drowning Death of Girlfriend
Woman’s killer sentenced to prison
Man who drowned girlfriend sentenced to prison
Man Sentenced in Drowning Death of Girlfriend
Man who drowned girlfriend sentenced to prison
Ex-Marine gets up to 15 years for slaying girlfriend in tub
2006 slaying capped vet’s descent
Tooele woman’s parents want her killer to serve maximum sentence
An Iraq Veteran’s Descent; a Prosecutor’s Choice
Home from war, and traumatized Walter Smith killed a young mother, but was his treatment to blame?
The Case of Lance Cpl. Walter R. Smith
No parole for Utah Marine who drowned girlfriend
A New Theory of PTSD and Veterans: Moral Injury
Nicole Speirs murder 3/25/2006 Tooele, UT *Boyfriend Walter Smith charged with her murder*
Update: Nicole Speirs murder *Walter Smith convicted, sentenced to 1 – 15 years in prison*
Unraveled: Deadly Demons (Investigation Discovery)
Unraveled: Deadly Demons (ID GO)

“Walter Smith is a Marine Corps soldier just back from Iraq. Diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, Walter finds comfort in the arms of young artist Nicole Speirs. But in the darkest recesses of the mind, their cruel fate is already decided.” -Discovery ID