Navy Sailor Brandon Caserta Died by Suicide at Naval Station Norfolk; Family Pushing for Suicide Prevention Legislation ‘The Brandon Act’ Focusing on Hazing & Bullying (June 25, 2018)

Brandon Caserta Navy.jpg

AEAN Brandon Caserta, U.S. Navy (photo courtesy of the Caserta family)

Navy AEAN Brandon Caserta was stationed with the Helicopter Combat Sea Squadron 28 (HSC-28) at Naval Station Norfolk in Virginia when he died by suicide on June 25, 2018. While Brandon’s parents were on the phone with Navy leadership at the Squadron, Brandon walked out on the flight line, apologized to the plane captain (who is in-charge of the flight line), and hurled himself into a helicopter rotor, dying instantly. AEAN Caserta had a brief career with the Navy and it didn’t turn out the way he had hoped. He had failed Special Warfare Training and was transferred into a new career field as a result. And then unexpectedly Brandon broke his collar-bone in a bicycle accident, which also negatively impacted his Navy career. At the moment Brandon Caserta made his final walk out to the flight line, his father Patrick Caserta was on the phone with the command expressing concern for his son’s welfare. Patrick was making plans to fly out to Naval Station Norfolk to explore his son’s legal options.

Desperate for answers, the Casertas reached out to Brandon’s chain of command and friends but eventually everyone stopped responding. The Casertas were told by many friends in Brandon’s command that leadership ordered a cessation of communications. Before the silence, Brandon’s friends shared that they thought he appeared to be suffering from depression, feelings of worthlessness, and anger, hence the reason he left a note asking the Navy be held accountable. As a result of the information gleaned from the note and those who knew Brandon, the HSC-28 conducted an investigation of itself; basically the fox guarding the henhouse. Although they knew months in advance of the problems, the report did note that Brandon’s supervisor had a history of berating and belittling those who worked for him. As a matter of fact, this supervisor could have been court-martialed under UCMJ Article 93, Cruelty and Maltreatment, but he wasn’t. Instead, Military.com reports he received no punishment and was transferred with a “declining evaluation” (and this was only after it was heard and reported that he made “derogatory and inflammatory comments concerning the deceased”).

“I want to see as many people fired, kicked out or, at the very least, lose rank.” -Brandon Caserta, U.S. Navy

According to Military.com, the Navy’s suicide rate in 2018 was the highest it’s ever been. And it was reported that a post-mortem analyses of suicides in the military usually showed the victim “faced major issues like financial problems, relationship problems, medical issues, and mental health conditions.” The military reporter reached out to Dave Matsuda, an anthropologist at California State University-East Bay, who researched and studied a suicide cluster among soldiers in Iraq in 2010. Matsuda’s research found some non-commissioned officers (NCOs) and officers in the chain of command made their subordinates’ lives a “living hell.” Matsuda also added that although the “bad leaders weren’t fully responsible for the suicides, they helped push the soldiers over the edge.” But in a system where the Navy is investigating the Navy, we have learned that the Chain of Command isn’t going to admit there is a problem. They have a history of blaming the victim and/or scapegoating an enlisted NCO or lower ranking military officer.

Brandon’s father, Patrick Caserta, a retired U.S. Navy sailor himself, asserts the Command was “so hostile, corruptive and unethical,” that they tormented Brandon and drove him past the brink of despair. Patrick and Teri Caserta wholeheartedly believe the command murdered their son. Patrick reminded us that the military talks about trauma, exposure to war, and mental health, but they don’t talk about harassment and bullying. He believes military leadership do not want to admit harassment, bullying, and retaliation happen or admit they are at fault. In the days and weeks that followed their son’s death, Patrick and Teri also learned from those who worked with Brandon that they were all dealing with a high operational tempo and manpower shortfalls. Brandon’s co-workers believed “personal issues were not a high priority and Brandon’s death could have been prevented.” And an anonymous message sent to the squadron commander on June 18, 2018 revealed the abuse was ongoing before Brandon died.

According to the message, Brandon’s supervisor called subordinates his “bitches,” referred to the chiefs as “douchebags” and “dumbasses” behind their backs, and “treated workers worse than garbage” and “like dogs.” –Military.com (June 8, 2019)

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Military.com reported that Brandon Caserta’s death was one of 68 Navy suicides in 2018. They also reported the rise in military suicides appears to mirror an increase in suicides among the general U.S. population. Suicide experts are struggling to understand why so many are dying by suicide. Some factors for suicide risk, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), include “spending time in prison or jail, having a mental health disorder or a substance abuse problem, experiencing family violence, a history of suicide, and having guns in the home.” Brandon’s family believes their son’s suicide was a direct result of toxic leadership, one superior who harassed and bullied Brandon, pushing him over the edge. According to Army Doctrine Publication 6-22, a toxic leader “operates with an inflated sense of self-worth and from acute self-interest,” consistently using “dysfunctional behaviors to deceive, intimidate, coerce, or unfairly punish others to get what they want for themselves.” Although it appears there are multiple variables that impact when a service member chooses to die by suicide, the experts need to find out the why so we can save our service member’s lives. What is happening in their environment that makes them feel like suicide is the only way out?

The directive states, toxic leaders exhibit a combination of “self centered attitudes, motivations, and behaviors that have adverse effects on subordinates, the organization, and mission performance.” –Military.com (June 8, 2019)

Military.com reported that one of Brandon’s co-workers helped shed some insight into the toxic climate at the Navy’s HSC-28 squadron. He accused leadership of deploying personnel in retaliation for speaking up and not doing as they are told. This particular individual requested that he remain at the squadron when his wife got sick because he needed to support her and their two girls. But his leadership was going to deploy him with a detachment anyways. So he filed an Inspector General complaint and thankfully was transferred out of the squadron in a couple weeks. He believes Navy personnel have a “fear of retribution” because the command is resentful of the service members who can’t deploy. Brandon’s family experienced a form of retaliation as well. The unit held a memorial service for Brandon four days after he died but Patrick and Teri said they were not invited by anyone in the HSC-28 command. Patrick Caserta believes the family was excluded out of sheer pettiness; leadership wanted to continue to conceal and coverup what truly happened. Regardless of the reason, it was a violation of Navy policy.

“Navy policy states that the command should provide round-trip travel and allowances to family members to attend a command memorial service.” –Military.com (June 8, 2019)

On May 31, 2019, after the command learned that Military.com had made phone calls regarding the Casertas’ allegations, Navy personnel indicated there was a “culture of fear” at the squadron. The Casertas are so angry and distraught that communications have stopped that they offered a $25,000 reward to anyone who came forward with information that “lead to successful prosecution of individuals in their son’s chain of command.” They have also met with the congressional staff of at least a dozen senators and representatives, including Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA) and Senator Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) to discuss “the treatment they and Brandon received, request an independent investigation, and promote efforts to prevent suicide linked to toxic leadership.” They also would like to see the Navy implement Brandon Caserta’s request in his suicide note regarding the re-rate process: “sailors who don’t complete the training for the rate they initially sought should be able to select any other training they qualify for with their Armed Services Vocational Battery (ASVAB) test results.”

Anthropologist Dave Matsuda told Military.com that to truly address the problem of suicide in the armed forces, “all the services need to consider ‘toxic leadership’ when analyzing the deaths of each individual.” If we understand the why, we can prevent suicide. Matsuda also believes operational leaders should not rely on “the boot camp strategy of breaking people down to build them back up.” Matsuda concluded with the assertion that indeed a toxic command climate can trigger suicidal behavior. One year later, Patrick and Teri Caserta are determined to get justice for their only son, because they believe this tragedy could’ve been prevented. The pair also report that Congress is drafting “The Brandon Act,” which is “federal legislation aimed at ending military suicides, holding commanders accountable, and halting the bullying and hazing that occurs within military ranks.” Please contact both the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) members and the House Armed Services Committee (HASC) members and your Senators and Representative to ask that they too support our troops by supporting The Brandon Act. Our service members deserve a chance at a beautiful life post military.

“The Brandon Act” is designed to be a safe word that men and women in our Armed Forces can use if they are subjects of any kind of abuse whether it’s physical, emotional or mentally. Abuse comes in many, many forms to include bullying, hazing, threats, sexual, abusive leadership, and any kind of mental and emotional abuse. These are just a few abusive tactics that can be done to someone. “The Brandon Act” protects those who come forward asking for help. It is designed for these men and women to come forward and get the help they need and if the abuse merits it, the sailor or troop will have a right to ask to be reassigned to another command or unit without any retaliation whatsoever from anyone in their current command or their next assignment. Our hope is to bring suicides to an end and by using this “Act” will hopefully allow them the courage to get help when they need it and get them healed and back on the right path. This “Act” is in front of Congress right now and hopefully very soon, they will approve and pass it once it’s completely written. Thank you for reading. –Justice for Brandon Caserta on Facebook (June 20, 2019) #TheBrandonAct

Sources: Patrick Caserta (Brandon’s father), Patricia Kime, Military.com, and related links

In the News:

As Terri Caserta entered her son’s bedroom in their Peoria home, she broke down. It’s an emotion that Terri and her husband Patrick Caserta will always carry with them. Their son Brandon was in the United States Navy from 2015 to 2018. However, at just 21, Brandon would take his own life. -ABC 15 Arizona (June 14, 2019)

Related Links:
Obituary: Brandon Patrick Caserta (June 25, 2018)
3rd Cowpens CO Fired Since 2010; CMC Relieved (2014)
Army Takes On Its Own Toxic Leaders (2014)
‘I now hate my ship’: Surveys reveal disastrous morale on cruiser Shiloh (2017)
Navy: Failures of Leaders, Watchstanders Led to Deadly Ship Collisions (2017)
Former MCPON Bawled Out Staff, Made Sailors Fetch Coffee: Investigation
His Suicide Note Was a Message to the Navy. The Way He Died Was the Exclamation Point
When Driven to Suicide, at a Minimum it is Manslaughter! – The Navy’s Incessant Harassment of Brandon Caserta Ultimately Drove Him to Suicide – People Were Promoted, Instead of Held Accountable
Suicides Are Still On The Rise In The Military — Is That Really a Surprise? Spoiler: The Answer Is ‘No.’
Peoria family hopes for change in military culture after son takes his own life
Family hopes for change in military culture after son takes his own life
Family hopes for change in military culture after son takes his own life
Peoria family hopes for change in military culture after son takes his own life (YouTube)
Army Staff Sgt. Paul Norris Fatally Shot Army Spc. Kamisha Block in Iraq After She Ended a Forbidden Relationship, Then Ended His Own Life (August 16, 2007)
Camp Lejeune Marine Maria Lauterbach & Unborn Child Murdered, Remains Discovered in Fellow Marine’s Backyard; Cesar Laurean Sentenced to Life in Prison, No Parole (December 15, 2007)
Military Rape Survivor Army Sgt. Amanda Sheldon Died by Suicide After Suffering With Depression; Family Hopes Her Death May Spark Change (October 7, 2010)
Lauterbach Case Prompts Policy Reforms for Victims of Crime in the Military (December 25, 2011)
Army Directive 2011-19: Expedited Transfer or Reassignment Procedures for Victims of Sexual Assault (3 Oct 11)
Military Policy and Legislation Considerations for the Investigations of Non Combat Death, Homicide, and Suicide of US Service Members (2016)
Army Soldiers at Fort Hood in Texas Are Dying at Alarming Rates Stateside (2017)
Are More Male’s Victims of Violent Crime in the United States Than Females? (2017)
September: U.S. Department of Defense Casualties Report from September 11, 2001 to Present (2017)
Sexual Assault in the Armed Forces, Transfer Policies Panel (2017)
48 Hours NCIS Premiered ‘Trail of Fire’ on CBS: Holley Wimunc, Domestic Violence, and the Holley Lynn James Act (June 26, 2018)
ProPublica: ‘Death and Valor on an American Warship Doomed by Its Own Navy’ (February 6, 2019)
Senate Armed Services Committee Members & House Armed Services Committee Members (June 21, 2019)
The Brandon Act | Justice for Brandon Caserta
Justice for Brandon Caserta | Facebook
Navy Failed Their Son | ABC 15 Arizona

48 Hours NCIS Premiered ‘Deadly Lies’ on CBS: Marine Corporal Justin Huff Accused of Fake Rape by a Catfisher; Navy Sailor Cooper Jackson Found Guilty of Murder (June 19, 2018)

“48 Hours: NCIS” takes you inside the real-life investigation of a marine, Justin Huff, who mysteriously disappeared. “48 Hours” Senior Executive Producer Susan Zirinsky joined CBSN to discuss the episode. -CBS News

Preview: Did a duplicitous online love affair between two people who never met lead to an innocent Marine being murdered? -Deadly Lies, 48 Hours

Marine Corporal Justin Lee Huff, 23, of Camp Pendleton, California passed away January 2, 2006 in Currituck County, North Carolina. Justin was attending the Navy and Marine Corps Intelligence Training Center in Virginia Beach, Virginia. Initially, fellow Marines at Dam Neck Annex of Oceana Naval Air Station and his family considered his absence a disappearance because this wasn’t like Justin. But the US Marine Corps considered it an unauthorized absence and NCIS was tasked with investigating the suspicious circumstances. And during the course of their investigation, they would learn that Navy sailor Cooper Jackson was involved and that this wasn’t a disappearance, it was a murder. Jackson was also attending the Intelligence Training Center and he admitted to impersonating a NCIS officer in an attempt to lure Justin Huff and ultimately kill him. The reason: Jackson’s internet girlfriend (who he had never met in person) told him she had sex with a Marine and Jackson insisted it was rape because she was too intoxicated to consent. Jackson wanted revenge for a rape that turned out to be a rape hoax. As it turns out, Cooper Jackson’s girlfriend “Samantha” went along with the fake rape simply to agree with him, not realizing he had sinister plans.

Cooper Jackson admitted he impersonated a NCIS officer so he could handcuff Justin and trick him into going for a ride with him. Jackson told NCIS agents he confronted Justin about the rape and after Justin denied it, he slit his throat. Jackson basically picked a Marine, any Marine, to exact his vengeance. He told NCIS agents where Justin’s body was and where he disposed of the murder weapon and handcuffs used to subdue Justin. NCIS found Justin and recovered the instruments of murder from the river where Cooper said he tossed them. Jackson was charged with kidnapping and murder in a death penalty trial. Jackson froze when he finally laid eyes on “Samantha” in the courtroom. Cooper Jackson couldn’t even look at her and apologized to the court for his actions. Jackson was found guilty and he was sentenced to life in prison without parole. Samantha on the other hand wouldn’t spend a single day in jail. The investigators discovered she did not ask Cooper Jackson to kill Justin Huff but Justin’s fellow Marines feel differently. They say she may not have done anything criminally wrong but her actions lead to Justin’s death. Huff’s Marine brothers, who served two tours overseas with him, said if everybody was like Huff, this world would be a better place.

Editor’s Note: If you would like to watch the full episode of ‘Deadly Lies,’ please visit the CBS All Access website, visit the 48 Hours website, or download the 48 Hours app for iPad. The most recent episodes are unlocked on the 48 Hours website and app. If you would like to watch past episodes on the 48 Hours app, it cost’s $4.99 a year. There’s programming dating back to 2005 on the 48 Hours app, including some classics, to feed your true crime addiction.  

Related Links:
Fallen Heroes Project: Justin Huff
Marine from Indiana killed in N.C.
Marine remembered by peers from all walks of life
Sailor, 22, Charged In Death Of Marine
Boones Mill sailor charged in slaying of Marine
Woman’s fake rape story led to Marine’s killing, prosecutors say
Sailor Fell for a Lie and Killed a Marine
Sailor Kills Marine After Lie About Rape
Sailor kills Marine after lie about rape
Sailor admits killing Camp Pendleton Marine
Virginia: Sailor Pleads Guilty to Killing Marine
Sailor pleads guilty to killing Marine, is spared death penalty
Sailor Pleads Guilty to Killing Marine He Mistakenly Thought Was Rapist
Murdered Marine’s family, friends testify in sailor’s sentencing
Virginia sailor to face capital charges in Marine’s death
Sailor who was duped gets life for Marine’s slaying
Woman says she ”feels bad” that her deceit led to Marine’s killing
Brought together by grief
The Search for a Marine who Failed to Show up for Roll Call Launches NCIS Agents into a World of Calls and Texts, A Relationship Built on Lies, and an Ill-Fated Case of Mistaken Identity in “48 Hours: NCIS: Deadly Lies”
Cases they can’t forget: Local attorney details case of murdered Marine in exclusive interview
Catfishing Relationship Between Strangers Leads to the Murder of an Innocent Marine
“48 Hours: NCIS”: How a catfishing relationship between strangers led to the homicide of an harmless Marine
“48 Hours: NCIS”: Investigating the mysterious disappearance of a marine (msn.com)
“48 Hours: NCIS”: Investigating the mysterious disappearance of a marine (YouTube)
“48 Hours: NCIS” sneak peek: Deadly Lies

James Fields Jr. Accused of Driving into Group of Protestors in Charlottesville, Virginia Killing Heather Heyer and Injuring Several Others (August 12, 2017)

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James Fields, US Army Veteran

Army Veteran James Fields Jr., 20, from Ohio, was charged with second-degree murder after allegedly killing Heather Heyer, 32, and critically injuring several others when he drove his vehicle into a crowd of protestors in Charlottesville, Virginia. The protestors that he harmed were counter protesting a “white nationalist” protest. According to police records, Fields was previously accused of beating his mother and threatening her with a knife. James Fields Jr. served in the active duty Army for about four months from August to December 2015. He was discharged after failing out of basic training at Fort Benning in Georgia. Fields was denied bail.

“He was, however, released from active duty due to a failure to meet training standards in December of 2015,” Army Lt. Col. LTC Paul Haverstick, a Pentagon spokesman, said. “As a result he was never awarded a military occupational skill nor was he assigned to a unit outside of basic training.” –Fox News

Related Links:
James Alex Fields, Jr. : 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know
Who Is James Alex Fields Jr: 7 Facts to Know About Man Charged in Charlottesville Car Killing
What We Know About James Alex Fields, the Driver Charged in the Charlottesville Attack
James Alex Fields Jr: Full Story & Must-See Details Of Racist Charlottesville Murderer
Who is James Alex Fields Jr., arrested for deadly car attack at white nationalists rally?
Rally murder suspect is an Army dropout ‘infatuated with Nazis’
Teacher: Charlottesville car crash suspect discussed radical views
Teacher says suspected Charlottesville driver James Alex Fields Jr. showed extremist ideologies in high school
Alleged driver of car that plowed into Charlottesville crowd was a Nazi sympathizer, former teacher says
James Alex Fields Jr.: Charlottesville suspect was in the Army, spokesperson says
Charlottesville Driver Who Rammed Crowd Washed Out of Army
What We Know About James Alex Fields, Driver Charged in Charlottesville Killing
Charlottesville Murder Suspect James Alex Fields May Be A Veteran, But He Was Never A Soldier
Army: Charlottesville Driver Kicked Out Of Active Duty After Failing Basic Training
James Fields flunked out of basic Army training, denied bail in Charlottesville case
Charlottesville Suspect James Alex Fields Jr. Denied Bond at First Court Appearance
Mom previously accused Virginia driver of beating her; Bail denied
Man charged in Charlottesville attack failed training at Fort Benning


James Alex Fields Jr. is behind bars after he allegedly plowed his car into a crowd of people protesting against a white nationalist rally in Virginia. -ABC News

Honoring the U.S. Service Members Who Died in November 2016

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We lost a number of U.S. service members in November 2016. We want to honor those who died in combat and honor those who did not, both overseas and in garrison.

O God, by whose mercy the faithful departed find rest, look kindly on your departed veterans who gave their lives in the service of their country. Grant that through the passion, death, and resurrection of your Son they may share in the joy of your heavenly kingdom and rejoice in you with your saints forever. We ask this through Christ our Lord. –Catholic Online

U.S. Air Force
AMN Daniel Peregoy, Andersen AFB, Guam
SrA Travis Bennet, Andersen AFB, Guam
MSgt Greg Ramos, Andersen AFB, Guam

U.S. Army
Pvt. Wanya Bruns, Fort Hood, Texas
Pvt. Kevin Paulino, Fort Hood, Texas
Pvt. Dakota Stump, Fort Hood, Texas
Pfc. Tyler Iubelt, Fort Hood, Texas (Afghanistan)
Pfc. Shadow McClaine, Fort Campbell, Kentucky
Pfc. Thomas Snyder III, Fort Wainwright, Alaska
Pfc. David Winchester, Fort Bragg, NC
Spc. Phillip Cruz-Medellin, Fort Riley, KS
Spc. Korey James, Fort Hood, Texas
Spc. Ronald Murray, Jr., Fort Bliss, TX (Kuwait)
Sgt. John Perry, Fort Hood, Texas (Afghanistan)
Staff Sgt. Matthew Lewellen, Fort Campbell, KY (Jordan)
Staff Sgt. Kevin McEnroe, Fort Campbell, KY (Jordan)
Staff Sgt. James Moriarty, Fort Campbell, KY (Jordan)
Sgt. 1st Class Ryan Gloyer, Fort Carson, CO (Afghanistan)
Sgt. 1st Class Grant Shanaman, Fort Bragg, NC
Capt. Andrew Byers, Fort Carson, CO (Afghanistan)

U.S. Marine Corps
Recruit Zachary Boland, Parris Island, South Carolina

U.S. Navy
Midshipman Jason Jablonski, Naval Academy, Maryland
Senior Chief PO Scott Dayton, EOD, Virginia (Syria)

Navy Sailor BM Devon Faulkner Died of a Non Combat Related Injury While Underway on USS Wasp in Mediterranean Sea (2016)

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BM Devon Faulkner, US Navy (photo courtesy http://www.militarytimes.com)

Navy Aviation Boatswain’s Mate Devon Faulkner died of a non combat related injury while underway on September 20, 2016. Devon Faulkner was supporting Operation Odyssey Lightning on behalf of the USS Wasp (LHD 1) forward deployed in the central Mediterranean Sea. According to the Department of Defense, the incident is under investigation.

Related Links:
Department of Defense Identifies Navy Casualty
U.S. Navy sailor dies of non-combat injury off Libya
Sailor aboard locally based ship dies overseas
Navy Sailor dies while deployed on Norfolk-based USS Wasp
US Navy sailor from NC dies during Mediterranean operation
Sailor Dies While Supporting ISIS Airstrikes in Mediterranean
Sailor dies aboard USS Wasp in Mediterranean Sea
Injured USS Wasp sailor dies while underway in Mediterranean Sea
Department of Defense identifies Raleigh, NC Navy casualty
U.S. Navy member dies of non-combat-related injury in Libya

Navy Seaman Elizabeth Shelton and Unborn Baby Survive Murder-For-Hire Plot, Husband and Two Acquaintances Guilty of Conspiracy to Commit Murder for the Life Insurance (2015)

US Navy

Navy seaman Elizabeth Shelton, 19, stationed at Naval Station Norfolk, Virginia survived a brutal assault in her home on August 22, 2015. Police got a call for a suspected home invasion and found Shelton unconscious, lying in a pool of blood. She suffered extensive facial injuries and was having difficulty breathing; she was rushed to the hospital. Shelton’s husband Anthony Johnson was also hurt during the home invasion. He reported that one of them tried to choke him to death while he lay in his bed. Johnson also reported that some of his friends stole his car. This led police to Tristan Reeder who told them that Johnson hired him and two others to kill his wife in exchange for the life insurance. Reeder said Johnson promised to give him $40,000 and Robert Burnette $70,000. Reeder also told police he pretended to choke Johnson unconscious while Burnette actually choked Shelton. Burnette then threw her off the bed and stomped on her head a half dozen times. They took off in Johnson’s car after they saw blood.

Three men were indicted on charges for trying to kill Anthony Johnson’s pregnant wife in a murder-for-hire plot: Robert Burnette, 19; Tristan Reeder, 21; and Joseph Apodaca, 21. They were charged with conspiracy to commit second-degree murder and conspiracy to maliciously wound Elizabeth Shelton. Anthony Johnson, 21, was charged with three felonies connected with hiring the men to kill his wife. Court documents revealed that Johnson promised Burnette and Reeder more than $100,000 after he cashed in Shelton’s $400,000 life insurance pay-out. Reed, Burnette, and Johnson were held in Norfolk City Jail while they awaited trial. Johnson claimed he was framed and Elizabeth initially believed that he was innocent. She thought the men broke into the apartment because they were mad after they kicked them out the day before.

“He [Anthony Johnson] called my mother from jail and told her it wasn’t true,” Elizabeth Johnson said. “She told me he’s innocent. I didn’t have to ask him, I believed him.” -WAVY

In May 2o16, Anthony Johnson was found guilty of plotting to kill his pregnant wife in exchange for money from her life insurance policy. Joseph Apodaca testified in court that Johnson had been pressuring all three of them to kill his wife and make it look like a break-in. Initially Apodaca agreed but then when it came time to execute the plan, he backed out. A civilian jury sentenced Johnson to 35 years: 25 years for attempted capital murder, 5 years for conspiracy to commit capital murder, and 5 years for malicious wounding. Robert Burnette was found guilty of attempted capital murder and sentenced to 27 years in prison with 15 years suspended. Tristan Reeder pleaded guilty to attempted capital murder for hire and was sentenced to 5 years in prison. Apodaca was charged with failure to report a felony and sentenced to 12 months in jail. Elizabeth Shelton recovered and gave birth to a healthy baby girl.

Related Links:
3 men charged in plot to kill acquaintance’s wife
Police: Man hired trio to kill pregnant wife
Man accused of hiring hit men: I didn’t try to kill my wife
Husband charged with murder-for-hire claims he was framed
Man accused of plotting pregnant wife’s murder says he’s innocent
Judge certifies murder-for-hire charge against Anthony Johnson
Charge against husband in Norfolk murder-for-hire plot certified to grand jury
Court documents map out timeline of Norfolk murder-for-hire case
Suspect in murder-for-hire plot testifies against victim’s husband
Man found guilty in Norfolk murder-for-hire plot of pregnant wife
Jury finds Norfolk man guilty in murder-for-hire case
Virginia man convicted of hiring hit men to kill wife for life insurance
Man sentenced to 35 years in prison for murder-for-hire plot
One of three men in Norfolk murder-for-hire sentenced to 12 years in prison
Man sentenced in husband’s murder-for-hire plot against pregnant wife
Hearing continued for suspect in Norfolk murder-for-hire
Guilty plea in murder-for-hire plot
Vancouver, Wash. Native Serves with Naval Beach Group TWO (NBG 2)

Fear Thy Neighbor Premiered ‘Kill-De-Sac’ on Investigation Discovery: Robert Lorenz Shoots Duren Eldridge, Claims Self-Defense, Acquitted of Murder (June 1, 2015)

ID Go: When a freewheeling family moves from California to the buttoned down enclave of Leesburg, Virginia, they quickly get on the wrong side of their neighbour across the way. The conflict escalates until bullets fly and blood flows in the street. -Kill-De-Sac, Fear Thy Neighbor (S2, E8)

Date: April 9, 1995
Victim: Duren Eldridge, 31, truck driver
Offender: Robert ‘Bob’ Lorenz, 54, military veteran, federal employee
Location: Leesburg, Virginia
Circumstances: Annoyed with dog peeing on his lawn, Duren’s car rolled into his car and hit it causing minor damage, kids on skateboards were too loud, Bob called police & complained about neighbors multiple times, Bob yelled at the kids at Duren’s house, during confrontation at Bob’s front door, Bob shot Duren with handgun and Duren died
Disposition: Lorenz claimed self-defense, justified shooting, acquitted of murder

Related Links:
Jury Acquits Virginia Man Who Killed Neighbor
Fastidious Homeowner Acquitted of Murdering Raucous Neighbor
Man Who Shot And Killed Angry Neighbor Acquitted
Man Acquitted in Slaying of Neighbor
Loudon Slaying Acquittal Greeted with Accolades and Anger
Loudon Verdict Fits Community
Man Who Shot Neighbor to Pay $30,000 Settlement
Kill-De-Sac | Fear Thy Neighbor | Investigation Discovery (S2, E8)

Link

US NavyThe U.S. military’s enemy within

As a sexual assault case involving three U.S. Naval Academy midshipmen — all current or former football players — works its way through the system, advocates for victims of sexual assault in the U.S. military say abuse stems from a culture of misogyny and machismo in which sexual aggression and deviance are tolerated and even admired as the Right Stuff.

The culture, they told “E:60,” has been enabled by the U.S. military’s system of broken justice that allows the military to attract abusers while providing them a safe haven.

Read more: http://espn.go.com/espn/e60/story/_/id/9754343/the-us-military-enemy-within

Another Reason We NEED the Military Justice Improvement Act (US Navy)

The Navy Yard Shooting breaks my heart. As with all tragedies we must learn from them to determine what we can do as a society to prevent a similar tragedy in the future. In this case, how could we have utilized the military institution to determine whether this person needed help or was a danger to our society.  This is yet another reason we need the Military Justice Improvement Act.  We cannot continue the pattern of kicking soldiers out of the military due to mental illness or criminal activity only to become society’s problem.     
 
This case has the same theme as most of the cases I research involving either suicide or murder.  The soldier either asks for help and/or starts getting in trouble and instead of anyone helping him/her, they just toss them out on their head.  When we got tossed from the military, they never gave us any information about where we could get help, what PTSD was, nothing.  We went from straight up military life to blam, you are now a civilian and gotta figure this all out on your own (with no money). As a military member, it is not easy to transition back into civilian life.  All we needed was for someone to say, it’s not your fault, you have PTSD, and this is how you treat it. Regardless of the reason why you were tossed, you should be referred at least to the Veteran Affairs for help. There is currently no continuity between releasing the soldier from active duty and transitioning them into the Veteran Affairs for care.
 
The Military Justice Improvement Act would help us deal with situations like this.  Instead of the member getting tossed out by a Commander, who doesn’t have time to deal with the real issues, he could have been processed through a division of the military that was professional enough to understand that the person had PTSD or some other form of mental illness.  And instead of just sending them out the door, we could use this opportunity to give them the information they need in order to get well.  The trigger being as soon as the soldier starts showing signs of misbehavior then they get referred to the folks who would make the decision as to whether or not the soldier needs to be punished and/or helped. 
 
If the soldier was harmed on the job or started exhibiting symptoms of a mental illness while on the job, then it is the military’s responsibility to treat them. Please have some compassion for their cries for help so that future tragedies like these do not occur.  All the services are there for the veteran that you toss out with no aftercare plan.  Give them the tools to heal, acknowledge the harm that was caused, and stop treating us all like we are casualties. The military must be held accountable for the people they know are either sick or a danger to our society. Otherwise it ripples into every community across the world. 
 
Areas of Improvement:
  • recruiting policies and screening
  • transitioning active duty to VA for aftercare,
  • closing security clearance loopholes,
  • centralized database to track reported criminal activity while serving,
  • improving the communication between civilian and military authorities,
  • helping or locking up the person so we can prevent the crime.
 
In the news:
Navy Yard killer Aaron Alexis heard voices, but kept secret clearance http://www.mercurynews.com/business/ci_24117796/navy-yard-killer-aaron-alexis-heard-voices-but
VA Says Navy Yard Gunman Didn’t Seek Mental Health Treatment http://www.stripes.com/va-says-navy-yard-gunman-didn-t-seek-mental-health-treatment-1.242105

Army Spouse Dana Mackay Found Murdered in Virginia Home; SSG John Mackay, Nicole Houchin, Nace Houchin, & Greg Crawford Confessed to Crime (2013)

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Dana Mackay, Army Spouse, Virginia

Army spouse Dana Mackay, 42, was found murdered in her Williamsburg home in Virginia on July 27, 2013. The intruders entered Dana’s home and snuck into her bedroom in the middle of the night; she was bludgeoned to death by a blunt instrument in the midst of sleeping. She died from multiple blunt force trauma. A concerned neighbor found Dana nude on the floor next to her bed; there was blood everywhere. Initially investigators thought the homicide occurred after a sexual assault. But after further investigation, authorities would learn that Dana’s husband, John Mackay, 45, and his lover, Nicole Houchin, 37, planned the murder because Dana didn’t want a divorce. John admitted to investigators that he wanted a divorce from Dana but she refused and threatened to report his affair to his commanding officer if he didn’t stop. John was a Staff Sergeant (SSG) stationed at Fort Eustis in Virginia and adultery was a crime punishable by the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ). John did not want to risk his long standing career and apparently wanted to be with Nicole Houchin, not Dana.

John and Nicole elicited the help of Nicole’s Army husband, Nace Houchin, 35, who was also stationed at Fort Eustis, and Gregory Crawford who worked with John and Nicole at an Auto-Zone store in Williamsburg, Virginia. John Mackay promised both Nace Houchin and Gregory Crawford twenty thousand dollars ($20,000) if they would kill Dana. Did John expect a hefty pay-out from a life insurance plan on his wife? Did John promise to pay the deadly duo as soon as the money hit his bank account? John wanted the easy way out so he could be with Nicole. Dana Mackay didn’t want a divorce from John; she wanted to save the four year marriage. And although Dana innocently threatened to report John’s adulterous affair to his commander, how was she to know that it would be a motive for murder? John Mackay wanted to save his career and be with his new girlfriend. John Mackay, Nicole Houchin, and Nace Houchin confessed to the crime and pleaded guilty to first degree murder. All three were sentenced to life in prison. Gregory Crawford confessed to the crime and pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit capital murder; he was sentenced to 20 years in prison with three years suspended (17).

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John Mackay, Nicole Houchin (Top); Nace Houchin, Gregory Crawford (Bottom) Photo Courtesy of WAVY.com

Related Links:
Justice for Dana
Woman, 42, found dead inside Williamsburg home
Va. sergeant confesses to Army wife’s murder plot
Staff sergeant didn’t think military mistress would murder wife
Fort Eustis soldier confesses to plotting with mistress to murder wife
Williamsburg man, girlfriend arrested in wife’s death
New details released in deadly love triangle case
Full jailhouse interview with husband charged in wife’s murder
Third person charged in Williamsburg woman’s death
Fourth suspect arrested in murder-for-hire case
Cheating Wife Hires Own Husband To Kill Her Lover’s Spouse
Dates set for Patterson murder trial in Virginia
Fort Eustis soldier, mistress plead guilty to wife’s 2013 murder
Ex-soldier Nace Houchin pleads guilty to 2013 slaying of Dana Mackay
Three plead guilty in JCC murder-for-hire plot
Third Man Pleads Guilty in Seasons Trace Murder-For-Hire Scheme
Fourth Man Pleads Guilty in Seasons Trace Murder-for-Hire Scheme
Four sentenced in murder for hire plot
4 sentenced in James City County murder-for-hire case
Four sentenced in JCC murder-for-hire of Dana Mackay
Analysis of a murder suspect
Trial Tracker with Pat LaLama: Seven Deadly Sins Edition
Nicole Houchin and John Mackay | Snapped: Killer Couples (Oxygen)
Nicole Houchin and John Mackay | Snapped: Killer Couples, Season 6 (Amazon)
Sick and Twisted | Married with Secrets (ID on web)
Sick and Twisted | Married with Secrets (ID on YouTube)


Dana MacKay is found viciously beaten to death while her husband is out of town. One suspect comes to mind: a woman who’s been stalking Dana for the last month. But it will take a cellphone with X-rated text messages to unravel this mystery. -Married with Secrets