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?
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:
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).
Gorden Hess, Army (1998)
Col Philip Shue (2003)
Lavena Johnson, Army (2005)
Tina Priest, Army (2006)
Kamisha Block, Army (2007)
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)
Sean Wells, Army (2013)
Virginia Caballero, Army (2014)
Cases Solved by NCIS Cold Case Squad:
Lt Verle Hartley, Navy (1982)
Andrew Muns, Navy (1968)
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
A List of Soldiers Targeted & Murdered for the SGLI
Army Vet Micah Johnson Responsible for Dallas Police Officer Shootings
6 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
- 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 and families from suing the Armed Forces to hold them accountable financially in an effort to force change. Therefore it only seems fair that we give families the 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.