Peterson Air Force Base Staff Sgt. Austin Bieren Died of a Non Combat Death in Syria; Suspected Natural Causes, USAF Would Not Elaborate (March 28, 2017)

The Department of Defense announced today the death of a security forces airman who was supporting Operation Inherent Resolve. Staff Sgt. Austin Bieren, 25, of Umatilla, Oregon, died March 28 in northern Syria in a non-combat-related incident while deployed in support of combat operations. He was assigned to the 21st Space Wing at Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado. AP said in a statement from the base, Bieren died from “suspected natural causes.” Wing commander Col. Douglas Schiess says Bieren was “a beloved member of the team and will be sorely missed.” Bieren graduated from Umatilla High School in 2010 and entered the Air Force that November. He had been stationed at Peterson since June 2014.

According to the Burns Mortuary of Hermiston obituary, Austin Leo Bieren, 25, “was born on January 7, 1992 in Pendleton, Oregon to John Timothy Bieren and Tracy Ann (Gibson) Finck. Austin loved to hunt, fish, and hunt some more. He enjoyed anything and everything outdoors, the true definition of a mountain man. He avidly worked out and did everything to stay healthy and active. After basic training, he married his wife, Rachel (Kennedy) Bieren, and they both moved to Minot, North Dakota and were there for three years, and then moved to Colorado Springs where Austin worked at Peterson AFB. He was deployed three times.”

Notable Quotes:

“The Air Force did not elaborate on Bieren’s cause of death.”Denver Post (March 30, 2017)

“It’s tragic that we lost that young man in kind of a strange way for a 25-year-old, but nonetheless space is embedded in everything we do. So anywhere you have American military people, you’re going to have space.” (Air Force Gen. John Hyten)Fox News (March 31, 2017)

Col. Doug Schiess, 21st Space Wing commander mentioned Staff Sgt. Austin Bieren, a member of the 21st SW who died while serving in Syria. “We brought him home to his family, took care of his family and still are.”21st Space Wing, USAF (June 21, 2017)

Related Links:
Obituary: Staff Sgt. Austin Bieren
DoD Identifies Air Force Casualty
Staff Sgt. Austin Bieren | Military Times
Umatilla airman dies in Syria
DOD Identifies Airman Who Died in Syria
DoD identifies airman who died in non-combat incident in Syria
Airman from Oregon Dies in Non-Combat Incident in Syria
Airman from Oregon dies in non-combat incident in Syria
Airman from Oregon dies in non-combat incident in Syria
U.S. Air Force staff sergeant from Oregon dies in Syria
U.S. Air Force staff sergeant from Oregon dies in Syria
U.S. Air Force staff sergeant from Oregon dies in Syria
Airman’s Death in Syria Highlights Role of Space Command Downrange
Peterson Air Force Base airman died of “suspected natural causes” while deployed in northern Syria
Peterson Airman dies of suspected natural causes while deployed in Syria
Peterson airman, 25, dies of natural causes while serving in Syria
U.S. Air Force staff sergeant dies of ‘natural causes’ in Syria
Staff Sgt. Austin Bieren dignified transfer
Memories of fallen airman Bieren shared at service
Gov. Brown orders flags flown at half-staff to honor Oregon native killed in Syria
Flags at half-staff for Syria casualty from Oregon
Honoring Staff Sgt. Bieren’s memory
One last time: Col. Schiess presents final Commander’s Call
Anniversary of Staff Sgt. Austin Bieren’s passing
Inside America’s Secret War with ISIS
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What you need to know about US military involvement in Syria as Trump orders withdrawal
Trump offers condolences to families of American service members killed in Syria blast
A look at deaths of US troops in Syria
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CJTF-OIR reflects on significant military gains, fighting ISIS in 2018
Department of Defense Casualty Status (March 22, 2021)
DoD Instruction: Criminal Investigations of Noncombat Deaths
State of Oregon: Oregon’s Most Honorable

Air Force Veteran Colleen McKernan Shot Husband Robert 10 Times; Plead Guilty to Manslaughter to Avoid 3rd Trial, Sentenced to 7 Years in Prison (2014)

Robert McKernan, 29, was shot ten times in his home in Massillon, Ohio by his wife Colleen on New Year’s Eve, December 31, 2014. Originally charged with murder, US Air Force veteran Colleen McKernan went to trial twice in 2016 and both times jurors were deadlocked. Colleen claimed she had been ‘hit by her husband’ of eight months for the last time and admitted shooting him ten times in self-defense. It was duly noted that Colleen was a Security Forces airman who not only had extensive fire arms training but that training included how to stay calm in stressful situations and environments. Colleen McKernan accepted a plea deal on the eve of her third trial and was given a 7-year sentence for manslaughter in 2017. Under the plea deal, Colleen could serve as little as 3 1/2 years in prison.

Related Links:
Northeast Ohio police investigate fatal shooting
Air Force Veteran Accused of Killing Husband on New Years Eve
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Two killed in Stark overnight: Wife charged with murder in Massillon; second man killed in Canton Township
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MISTRIAL: McKernan back in court Tuesday after jury fails to reach verdict in murder trial
Colleen McKernan to be tried again for murdering husband
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Coroner: 10 bullets found in Robert McKernan’s body
Defense argues Robert McKernan was shot in face first
Prosecutor Grills Colleen McKernan After She Sobs Through Story of Shooting Husband
Attorney Ian Friedman Discusses Retrial of Colleen McKernan for Murder
Trial in fatal New Year’s Eve shooting ends in 2nd hung jury
Deadlocked again: Judge declares mistrial in McKernan case, third trial possible
Trial in fatal Canton, Ohio New Year’s Eve shooting ends in 2nd hung jury
Newlywed Colleen McKernan’s Murder Trial Ends With Second Hung Jury
Attorney Ian Friedman Discusses Similarities Between Both Colleen McKernan Murder Trials
Colleen McKernan Looks To Relocate
McKernan jurors: What if Colleen and Rob’s roles were reversed?
McKernan could serve 3 1/2 years under plea deal
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Colleen McKernan Reaches Plea Deal
Storify: Colleen McKernan agrees to plea deal
Colleen McKernan: Father Speaks Out–Part 1
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‘Til Death Do Them Part: A Husband Pushed Off a Cliff, a Wife Drowns and Other Newlywed Homicides
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The Ultimate Pledge | Bride Killa (Investigation Discovery on YouTube)
48 Hours Premiered ‘The Evidence Room’ on CBS (2017)
Incident | Gun Violence Archive | Robert McKernan, Ohio


New Years Eve 2014 a holiday full of anger destroys a young Ohio couple when one is charged with the other’s murder. But this marriage is not a story of deceit and betrayal but rather a cautionary tale of how a volatile relationship can develop. -Bride Killa, Investigation Discovery

Air Force Reservist Travis McGraw Murdered his Wife Vanessa for the $100,000 Life Insurance Policy; Sentenced to Life, No Parole (2011)

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Vanessa Mintz and Travis McGraw

On February 19, 2011, Vanessa Mintz was found shot and killed at her family owned mountain Lodge in Saluda, North Carolina. After police conducted a thorough investigation they learned that a shell casing at the scene of the crime matched a gun owned by Travis McGraw, a police officer in the Air Force Reserve. They also learned that Travis was in love with a woman by the name of Mary-Beth who gave him an ultimatum. Mary-Beth asked Travis to choose her or Vanessa and get back to her once he decided. Less then 48 hours later, Vanessa was dead. It is believed that Travis killed Vanessa for the $100,000 military life insurance policy. At trial, the public learned that Travis asked his Air Force Commander about the life insurance policy within twelve hours of Vanessa’s death. Travis was found guilty by a jury of his peers and sentenced to life without parole. Travis McGraw appealed his conviction but it was denied.

Learn more: Servicemen’s Group Life Insurance is a Common Motive for Murder

Related Links:
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McGraw Backs Out of Plea Agreement
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Travis McGraw Guilty Plea Withdrawn on Friday
McGraw found guilty of first-degree murder
McGraw sentenced to life in murder of wife
McGraw Murder Appeal Hearing Set for Wednesday
McGraw Murder Conviction Appeal Denied
McGraw murder conviction appeal denied | Life Insurance Fraud
’48 Hours’ report on Mintz murder airs Saturday
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Mary Beth Fisher on Travis McGraw’s reaction to his wife’s murder
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The Ultimatum: A crucial clue and shocking secret revealed in the hunt for a North Carolina mother’s killer [Video]
Vanessa Mintz, Travis McGraw: CBS’ 48 Hours Features Hendersonville, North Carolina Murder Case
Local “48 Hours” Case Update


Two daughters are determined to find their mother’s killer.
Will the investigation expose hidden secrets? -48 Hours