Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Exclusive:Recording Shows that Army Punished Soldiers Who Asked for Help

After three combat tours, Sgt. Dennis Tackett was kicked out of the Army for punching a man in the face while drunk. It didn’t matter that he had been diagnosed with PTSD (by the Army) and had tried to get help (from the Army) for the drinking it led to. It didn’t matter that he was in the late stages of a medical discharge that would get him out soon anyway — with benefits. What mattered to the commanding general at Fort Carson, Colo., who spoke to him that day in November 2012 was that he had tried to fight the discharge with the help of a pair of civilian watchdogs, Georg-Andreas Pogany and Robert Alvarez.

“If you had not gotten involved with those advocates, it would have gone differently,” Tackett remembers the commander, Lt. Gen. Joseph Anderson, telling him. Anderson is now commander of Fort Bragg, N.C.

A recording obtained by Al Jazeera America suggests Tackett and soldiers like him were retaliated against because of an increasingly rancorous relationship between commanders at Fort Carson and the civilian advocates.

Read the entire story here.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Two Cases, One Conclusion on Military Justice

Senator Kirsten E. Gillibrand, the New York Democrat who failed to push a bill through Congress that would have removed military commanders from the prosecution of sexual assault cases, has said it is “like your brother committing the sexual assault and having your father decide whether to prosecute.”
Read the entire story here.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Death Anniversary

Sgt. Patrick Rust was assigned to the 10th Mountain Division headquartered at Fort Drum, New York. He picked up a rifle and defended our way of life against the terrorists who want to destroy it. He was our soldier, his mom and dad’s son, our friend and neighbor, central New York’s very own defender. He survived deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan, only to die mysteriously right here in his own country, not far from where he was born.
Patrick went missing from a bar – ironically named Clueless – in Watertown, New York on March 16, 2007. Six months later his remains were found in a farmer’s field over seven miles from the bar and the apartment he was staying at in Watertown. It is unknown how he got to that location. He didn’t have a car and it’s doubtful he’d have walked there on a cold March night. He wasn’t robbed and his remains showed no trauma. His cause and manner of death remain undetermined.
So what happened to Patrick Rust, our soldier, our son, our friend and neighbor? Did you see him that night? Do you know where he went after leaving the Clueless and who with? Do you know how he got to that farmer’s field? Do you know somebody who does know?
Please central New Yorkers, help us find out what happened to Patrick. He went to battle for us. Now we need to explain to his family how he died. They deserve answers. Don’t we owe them that much?
Bill Sullivan, Forensic Consulting Specialties
Denny Griffin, Investigator
If you have any information about this case, contact Judy Rust through this website.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Army widows say Martinez jury tainted

ALBANY — In 2008, when a military jury acquitted a National Guardsman from Rensselaer County of murdering two superior officers in Iraq, it outraged the families of the slain soldiers.

Now the widows of those soldiers contend they know a prime reason behind the acquittal — juror misconduct.

Siobhan Esposito and Barbara Allen say they have learned that a juror on the panel used her military rank to bully lower-ranking jurors and halt deliberations before a verdict was reached in the murder trial of Staff Sgt. Alberto Martinez of Schaghticoke.

Read the rest of the story here.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Death Memorial

2nd Lieutenant Kirk Charles Vanderbur, USMCR
December 28, 1967 – February 16, 1992

Kirk was shot in 2 places, in the stomach with his shotgun and in the head with his rifle. There were two different weapons. A Spas 12 was discharged into the abdomen at an upward angle and a Ruger-Mini 14 rifle with a bullpup stock (.223) shot between the eyes.
There was no gunshot residue on his hands but it was said that both shots were at close range. Both weapons were 10 feet apart. There was no homicide investigation. Yet it got tagged with suicide as the cause of death.

The scene at the time of death was located at a shooting range at Hubert, NC; therefore the first investigation was done outside the military installation where he was stationed.  Because of the inconsistencies in both the NCIS and Sheriff Ed Brown investigations, the Vanderbur’s asked the help of a Doctor Thomas L. Bennett, their home State of Iowa Medical Examiner. Bennett had originally agreed to do a second autopsy for Gene and Lois; however, Kirk’s body was released without an examination.

Since these sites are public by virtue of the fact that they are on the Internet to be accessed by those people who need them, as is our site, we have provided them for your further study of injustice at work and for your further finding that the death of Kirk Charles Vanderbur was not in vain.
We asked Lois if she would be willing to submit the story of her son Kirk. Her reply was that the story has already been written and she gave us permission to use the information that has been written as the basis for this story.

By now you will have read the story in our History pages about how Untill We Have Answers was started and that Lois Vanderbur was a hard working member of that group. Her devastation, frustration and motivation came from having been notified that her son, Kirk had committed suicide while stationed at Camp Lejeune NC and she and her husband always knew this was not the truth! Lois turned around that black mark on her heart – and her son’s integrity. She and Kirk served as a major cornerstone to the legislation that came out of what she and other members of UWHA made happen.   Thanks for the following legislations: 1185, 2187 and 5505.10.

Kirk’s death ended up being a double loss for he had wanted to be an organ donor.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Death Memorial

Cpl. Andrew White, USMC

Our youngest son, Cpl. Andrew White, USMC, was home from Iraq five days when his older brother, SSgt. Robert F. White, 82nd ABN US ARMY, was killed in action in Afghanistan on September 26, 2006.

On 12 February 2008, Andrew died while being treated by the VA for PTSD.  He was taking 60 mg. Paxil, 4 mg. of Klonopin, and 1600 mg. of Seroquel.  He died in his sleep.

Since then, his mother and I have been on a mission to find answers so that no other family will suffer these losses while their loved ones are being treated for PTSD.

With the help of several new friends, we have found that at least 57 others have died in similar circumstances — some from these same meds, while other deaths are still under investigation.
If you know of any families that have lost loved ones while taking these meds, please contact us through this website.  We have been to Congress with our story and the stories of at least eight other families (five in West Virginia).  Our goal is threefold:
  1. Collect the stories of other soldiers who have died from meds while being treated for PTSD.
  2. Lobby Congress to force the DOD and VA to use less medication and more counseling for PTSD, and
  3. Lobby for an in-depth investigation into why the VA and DOD continues to prescribe the lethal mix of antidepressants, antipsychotics and pain killing drugs.
Stan and Shirley White, Cross Lanes WV
To contact the Whites, email us and we’ll forward your message.

Sunday, February 02, 2014

Death Memorial


Seaman Adam J. Palecco

Seaman Adam Palecco, Camp Hansen, Okinawa. ” Seaman Adam Palecco, USN, 21, of New Jersey was brutally murdered on February 2, 2005, by three service members who had been falsely told that Adam was going to testify against them regarding their participation in a theft ring. This false information was made up by a military officer who has yet to be held responsible, despite all the family’s efforts for accountability by the military.”
Link to story

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Death Memorial

My story begins on January 18, 2005 (January 19th — Guam).  It was about 10:30 p.m. when two Naval officers knocked on my door.  When I opened the door, the first thought that crossed my mind was that Matt had been hurt or in an accident.  It never occurred to me that he was dead.
I asked them to come in and my husband and daughter came downstairs.  My husband had this terrible look on his face and my dughter and I didn’t know what was happening.

I said, “What happened to Matt?  Is he OK?”  They said, “No, your son has passed away.  He was found not breathing in his barracks.”

That is all the information we were told.  They had no explanation.  I thought someone had hit me with a truck and knocked me down, all I could do is say there must be some mistake.  I just talked with him the day before and he was fine.

Neither officer had any details as to what happened or why he was dead.

Before entering the service, Matt had never had any major medical problems — no migraine headaches, just the normal kid and teenagers illnesses.  After boot camp he was sent to technical school and then he requested Guam as one of his top picks.  He was then transferred there for a two year stay.

After about six  months, he was bitten by some kind of poisonous spider.  They had to operate on his knee to remove the poison and he was hospitalized for a week.  He started going to the ER everytime he got one and their protocol was Percocet and morphine shots and go back to your barracks and sleep it off.  They always did the same thing.

For some time he would visit the doctor’s office or the ER — approximately 45 times to be more accurate.  During that time, he was given numerous prescritions for pain.  He complained about not liking to take some of them because they messed his eating and stomach up.  At one pint, they admitted him to the hospital for testing to try and figure out what was happening.

One doctor did a spinal tap and Matthew had to go back to the hospital to get a blood patch where his spinal fluid was leaking and causing problems.  During this time he was placed on medical hold, meaning he could not be moved to another duty station until he was better.  He was referred to a neurologist in town for treatment, which meant Acupuncture.  The neurologist prescribed Valium.
Even though his medical doctor on base referred him to the doctor in town, not once were records of the outcome of the appointments sent back on base.

At one point, the base doctor consulted a USN Neurologist for his opinion, and was told to abort giving Matt any morphine.  Also, the medical doctor on base requested he be sent to Tripler Army base in Hawaii for treatment, but she never followed up.

When Matt would come home for a visit, he never complained of headaches.  We thought they had gotten better.  The last visit home was Thanksgiving 2004.  He came home and surprised me the week before.  He was healthy and seemed to be happy.  He was excited that he was finally going to be taken off medical hold and moved to another duty station.  He went back to Guam on December 10th.

I talked with him several times a week and everything seemed to be fine.  On January 17th, he called and talked for a while and was again, very happy to be moving to California.  According to his friend, that day he got very sick and was throwing up and complaining about a headache.  She said she wanted to take him to the ER.  He did not want to go because he didn’t want to mess up his leaving Guam.  However, she insisted and took him anyway.  While he was there, he got the standard treatment.  His friend said they gave him two shots in his IV and a prescription to take home.  They left them back in the ER room for about two hours.

When the nurse came back by, his friend said he was complaining of blurred vision and is still not better.  The nurse said, “He will feel better in a while.”  She then proceeded to place a pen in his hand and help him sign his name.  At this point, they left the hospital.

Matthew’s friend took him back to his barracks and said he could barely stay awake to eat anything.  He then went to bed and she said he started snoring very loudly, which for him was unusual.  She fell asleep and about 8 a.m. woke up and he was not breathing.  She then called 911 and they came and tried to revive him.  They took him to te hospital where he was pronounced DOA.

It took ten days for the Navy to return my son to us.  They performed their autopsy and said Matt died of pneumonia.

I was told that is what they were putting on the death certificate in order to get him released.  They were still waiting on toxicology reports and various other tests that would take some time to complete.

In the meantime, he was shipped home and we buried him.  Several months went by and we called about every two weeks to discuss how the JAG investigations were going.

At some point, we were given another updated death certificate which stted that Matt died of an accidental overdose.  As far as the Navy was concerned, he woke up in the middle of the night and took some other drugs to ease his pain and that is what caused him to die.
According to a witness who was with him all night, he never got up at all after he went to bed.  During the course of the investigation there were many unanswered questions tht were left unanswered.

We were visited by some JAG investigators to interview us about Matt.  Of course we had no idea what to say.  We only knew what was going on over in Guam according to what Matt told us.
On September 21, 2005, we were hand delivered the complete JAG report.  It contained several interviews with Matt’s friends and co-workers along with doctors’ reports, medical reports, etc.
The findings of the JAG report were nothing but a lot of procedural changes along with a few disciplinary actions on some of the medical personnel involved with Matt.  When I requested information as to when those actions were to be taken, I was told that was strictly information for the Navy and not for me.

I still think that there are many pieces of the puzzle still missing.  I am not sure who is responsible for my son’s death, and I am not sure I will ever know.  I do know that there are doctors practicing medicine on young boys and men in the service who are not held accountable for anything, which I think is an atrocity.  I never knew what the Feres Doctrine was until this happened to us.  I am sure there are many Americans who have never heard of it.

We are currently still waiting for the NCIS Investigation to be completed.  It has now been three years and I really don’t know much more than I knew on the night I was told about Matt’s death, except there were lots of medical mistakes made during his time in the Military.  He was given a lot of drugs that he should not have been given.  He was a good sone and I would have given my life for him to still be here.

Mary Ann White, mother of Matthew Brandt.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Report: Marine accidentally killed by bulldozer as he slept

SAN DIEGO — A 20-year-old Marine who died in March during pre-deployment training at Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center, Twentynine Palms, was killed by a bulldozer as he slept in a hand-dug foxhole, a Naval Criminal Investigative Service investigation concluded.

Pfc. Casey James Holmes, of Chico, Calif., was participating in a training exercise with his Hawaii-based unit, 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, when the accident happened.

The Chico Enterprise-Record obtained the NCIS report on Holmes’ death after filing three Freedom of Information Act requests, then shared the report with The Desert Sun, which posted the documents online.

To read the rest of the story, click here.

Wednesday, January 08, 2014

Death Memorial

Spc. Donald Anthony Wilder died Jan. 8, 2006, in Manheim, Germany. He was 21.  He died after hazing (beating) by a Masonic group within the military.  Official cause of death was acute alcohol poisoning.

Tribute video

Thursday, January 02, 2014

Death Memorial

Staff Sgt. Ryan D. Maseth, 24, of Pittsburgh, Pa., died in Baghdad, Iraq, on Jan. 2, 2008 of injuries suffered in a non-combat related incident.  He was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne), Fort Campbell, Ky.  The incident is under investigation.   According to the family, he was electrocuted while in the shower.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Death Memorial

Family sues military, doctors in Marine's boot camp death

DETROIT -- Renee Thurlow knew her 18-year-old son was sick when she talked to him about two months after he left for boot camp at Parris Island, S.C.
"You sound awful," she told Justin Haase over the phone about a week before Christmas 2001.
Haase, of Macomb County's Chesterfield Township, promised to see a doctor, but didn't mention how exhausted he was or the headaches that made him cry.
One week later, he died of bacterial meningitis.
Now, nearly two years after Haase's death, his mother has filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Detroit against the Navy, two Marine sergeants, a Marine medic and a Navy doctor. The suit, filed last month, says an internal military report shows a series of medical mistakes hastened Haase's death.
The lawsuit challenges a 54-year-old U.S. Supreme Court ruling that essentially says the military cannot be held responsible for the death or injury of active duty service members.
"That law has got to be changed," Thurlow told the Detroit Free Press for a Tuesday story.
Maj. Ken White, a Parris Island spokesman, said a thorough investigation was conducted.
"We identified people who violated policy and we held them accountable for their actions," White said.
Thurlow and her lawyers hope to show that a neglectful chain of events began when Haase arrived at Parris Island.
Haase missed the dose of antibiotics that recruits receive to ward off infections because he was allergic to penicillin.  He should have received an alternative, but the Marines' review found no evidence that he did.
Military doctors argue that the initial treatment would not have fought bacterial meningitis. The lawsuit claims Haase likely would not have become susceptible if treated upon arrival.
During a Dec. 22 training course that began at 6:30 a.m., Haase vomited and later began to cry.
A drill instructor took Haase to a military field medic who did not check his breathing, his pulse or temperature, records show.
Haase stayed in bed for most of the day. When he awoke that evening, he could barely keep his eyes open and was incoherent.
Just after 8 p.m., a senior drill instructor called 911 and said Haase had "taken a spill" during the training course. He was sent to Beaufort Naval Hospital.
A doctor initially focused on a possible head injury until a rectal temperature reading showed a 102-degree fever. A bacterial infection was suspected.
But Haase's spinal fluid was not checked for more than another two hours. Healthy people have clear fluid. Haase's looked like skim milk.
At 11:30 p.m., Justin received his first antibiotic treatment.
At 1:55 a.m. on Dec. 23, he was taken for a brain scan. Care for meningitis patients includes five methods to reduce or pre-empt brain swelling. None of those methods was used, medical records show.
Haase was again moved at 2:25 a.m. He spent the next several hours thrashing in bed and was put in restraints.
A nurse found Haase with fixed and dilated pupils at 5:30 a.m. He had suffered severe brain trauma.
Around 7 a.m. doctors prepared to fly him to Savannah Memorial Hospital in Georgia and called his family in Michigan.
Haase was pronounced brain dead at 3:16 p.m. on Dec. 23.
In early January, a one-page, unsigned letter from Parris Island arrived at the Thurlow house.
"What happened to your son," the letter said, "was a freak accident that could have been prevented."
Thurlow began her quest for answers.
Haase's father, Don Haase, though angry and grieving, said it is difficult to blame the Marines.
"Clearly things could have been done differently," Don Haase said. "At any point, they could have done something to save him and maybe the outcome would have been different.
"But at what point in time was it too late?"
Field medics at Parris Island now must consult a doctor by two-way radio when recruits are sick or injured. Drill instructors are educated about warning signs of infectious disease.
But Thurlow, who wears Haase's dog tags around her neck, says the lawsuit remains necessary.
"It's about stopping this before it ever happens again," she said.
--From the Wednesday, August 20, 2003 online
edition of the Augusta Chronicle
Dear Military People and Nonmilitary People:
What you are about to read is one of the most important things you can do for yourself, your family and any future person who is to ever join the military. I will try to keep this short, but must explain some things first so you know this is not a farce.

My name is Renee Thurlow. My husband is in the military and in October 2001 our son joined the USMC. Our son never finished. He died a horrible death in boot camp on December 23, 2001. We are NOT placing blame on the institution. We need a strong military. We need one with honorable people in it. That is why we are trying to make it a safer place. Through these last two years we have found that many military people and people in general are under the misconception of being able to sue the government and not being able to sue the government.

I am going to pass on what we have learned. There are thousands of others out there like us who have lost children going to serve this country and the government gives us no help. They fill everything full of lies and cover-ups. We are not taking this sitting down. I am not some freaked out mother who cannot deal with the loss of her son. I am a PROUD mother and wife of two of my guys who serve/served this country like you do.

This could happen to you or one day if your child or grandchild goes off into the military it could happen to them.  Those in our government will NOT help you. THIS IS ABOUT THE Feres doctrine.  IT IS A DOCTRINE THAT PREVENTS ANY MILITARY MEMBER FROM SUING THE GOVERNMENT not for simple negligence but for intentional, deliberate or grossly negligent acts.

If you go to a military hospital and they cut off the wrong foot, oh well! Tough is what you will be told basically. Many of us have been busting our humps trying to change this. We KNOW if there were an ACCOUNTABILITY factor there would be almost no deaths due to pure grossly negligent or criminal negligence.  Unfortunately, the only way to hold someone accountable for their individual wrongful acts if the government will not is through petitioning the federal court for redress of wrong.  All of us who have lost a child would rather have our children back, but that is not going to happen.  Many people out there have their children living with them because they were not taken care of medically (in a proper manner) in the military hospitals and these children cannot function on their own.  This could one day be you or someone you know. We have the greatest chance coming up to change this forever.

WE CANNOT do it without the entire United States joining us!

NO Senator as of this date has stepped forth to stop the abuses under the Feres doctrine!  This is unsatisfactory and they have their cushy jobs because of men and women who serve this country and they will not lift a finger to help protect you!

We want them to recognize that fact and care enough to make things safer for those serving this country. It is only right!  It could happen to your child.

Justin's story has been featured in People magazine December 15, 2003, issue and NBC Dateline is on the agenda.  The problem of Americans dying due to the gross negligence and or wrongful acts and omissions of federal employees in our military is alarming!  Since Justin died I know of at least 6 other deaths in boot camp alone and this does NOT include the ones who died at Camp Pendleton from Meningitis.

This is obscene that these kids are dying needlessly!

This is not just for those of us who have lost kids. It concerns the VA and the people who have served and have been thrown to the side. This is NOT a joke.

Just a FEW minutes of your time can help prevent the possibility of you or someone you love dying needlessly. Your voice can aid in changing the fact that abuses that are happening right here in our own country to our own men and women go unanswered and without any accountability to those who inflicted the injustice.

Our prayers and thanks go out to ALL of the military men and women who serve this country and to the families who know the deepest meaning of sacrifice and support.
Our prayers and thanks go to those who have been lost on the battlefield and to their families who know the truest meaning of loss.

Our prayers and hearts go to those especially who have been robbed of their family member through the abuses caused by an institution that promotes honor as one of their first attributes.
This is for you son - every tear and every heartbeat.  I love you with all of my heart. "Until we meet at HIS feet."


Renee Thurlow

Contact Renee Thurlow through this website.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Marine's Family Sues Greek Entities for Lost Heart

The parents of a Marine whose body came back from Greece missing his heart amended their federal lawsuit Wednesday to add the Greek government and an Athens hospital as defendants.

Craig and Beverly LaLoup, of Coatesville, are also suing the U.S. Department of Defense over the remains of 21-year-old Sgt. Brian LaLoup.

Read the entire story here.

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Death Memorial


By Charolette Traylor

On December 6th, a week after Thanksgiving 1998, AOC Thomas Richard Traylor, USN, age 36, was found dead, in rural Inyokern, CA, from a gunshot wound to the chest. The cause of death was listed as suicide. He had been missing for two days. Traylor was a Navy Aviation Ordinance Chief on active duty stationed at the Weapons Testing Squadron, Naval Station, China Lake, CA.
On that morning of Dec 6th, Traylor’s neighbors, Larry Seymour & Joanie Hanson, found Traylor. They became alarmed when Traylor’s vehicle set on a dirt road for two days, only a quarter of a mile from Traylor’s home. They drove to the scene and found Traylor dead sitting behind the steering wheel of his vehicle. They immediately returned home and called the authorities.

The Inyokern County Fire Department was the first to arrive on the scene. Next was the County Reserve Deputy Roger Clark and Reserve County Coroner Ron Lunsford. The Liberty Ambulance Service arrived but did not transport. The remains went to the Kern County Morgue, Bakersfield, CA.

Mrs. Traylor had been in San Francisco for a couple of months making arrangements to place an elderly aunt into a rest home. She last spoke to Traylor on Thursday evening, Dec 03, 1998, around 6:00 P.M. from (SF). At that time Traylor was on his way out to a squadron get-together and promised to call her the following morning – which would be then Friday, Dec 04, 1998. When Mrs. Traylor did not receive the promised phone call from her husband the following morning she immediately contacted Traylor’s Gunner, CWO2 Vince Howell, at the Weapons Testing Squadron and was told Traylor had not been heard from or seen since the previous day which had been Thursday.

Mrs. Traylor continued to try and contact Traylor by phone through Saturday. Alarmed because this was not Traylor’s pattern of behavior by not calling his work, Mrs. Traylor drove home to Inyokern. When she left SF on Sunday, Dec 06, at 9:30 A.M. she gave specific instructions to contact her by cell phone immediately if her husband was located. After seven hours of driving she arrived home at 4:30 P.M. Mrs. Traylor’s neighbor, Joanie Hanson then went to the Traylor home and informed Mrs. Traylor she was a “widow.”

Around 5:30 P.M. Deputy N. Dancy and Deputy J. Dancy arrived at the Traylor home – they had had a shift change at the Sheriff’s Dept and had no details on Traylor’s death. In shock, Mrs. Traylor called the Coroner’s Office, Bakersfield, CA and spoke to the Homicide Officer Glenn Johnson, who informed Mrs. Traylor her husband had committed suicide. Mrs. Traylor protested and told Homicide Officer Johnson her husband had never been suicidal and that Traylor detested anyone who considered such a cowardly act!

The China Lake Weapons Testing Squadron personnel arrived after Mrs. Traylor’s son-in-law, CAPT T. Glick, USMC, Cherry Point, NC called the China Lake Command – they were LCDR Severson, CDR J. L. Budnick, MMCM(SS)B. Stone, and The Gunner, CWO2 V. Howell. They had no further information on the death.

China Lake is located in a remote area, 150 miles northeast of Los Angeles, CA, between the Sierra Nevada Mountains and Death Valley, away from the public eye. Traylor was attached to VX-31, Hanger-3, at China Lake. Traylor supervised the Avionics/Armament Division of the Naval Weapons Testing Squadron and overlooking the Explosive Safety Inspections. He was instrumental in the squadron’s preparedness for the rigorous maintenance, and loading/downloading of conventional weapons on FA-18s. Traylor’s technical knowledge of missile and bomb launching well qualified him in the training of weapons personnel and he often made trips to Point Mugu, CA and Puerto Rico, Cuba. He was extremely conscientious in the sensitive information surrounding his work. The China Lake Bombing Range covers 20,000 square miles of restricted air space where the famous Sidewinder and Tomahawk missiles were developed.

Traylor was written-up by his command for been absent from work that Friday, Dec 04, 1998.
Traylor was buried on December 10, 1998, Mrs. Traylor spent the remainder of December 98 with her parents in Missoula, MT.

In January 1999, when Mrs. Traylor returned to Inyokern she went to the Sheriff’s Branch Office, Ridgecrest, CA, and learned her husband’s case had been closed. Not accepting her husband’s death as a suicide she started her own investigation as follows.

When Mrs. Traylor took her case to Traylor’s Squadron Commanding Officer, Commander R. Rutherford he stated “Well, you and your husband were having marital problems, you were separated and he killed himself”. This was a shock to Mrs. Traylor she expected the Commanding Officer to support her in a further investigation.

Prior to Mrs. Traylor going to SF she had been counseling with a Mr. Richard Rohrlick, the China Lake Base counselor, concerning her husband’s increased drinking; she also spoke to her husband’s Gunner concerning this same matter.

Mrs. Traylor last visited her husband at Inyokern on Nov 19,1998, two weeks earlier, to celebrate their wedding anniversary. At that time Traylor seemed jumpy and paranoid in public (which was not like him) and then cried when she left to return to SF.

She spoke to her husband weekly and it was during one of the last conversations he told her “he didn’t think he was going to live long,” when the remark alarmed her he changed the subject.
Below is a list of things Mrs. Traylor noted at her home on her arrival on that fatal Sunday, Dec 06, 1998:

  • Traylor’s uniform for work was folded and lying on the bed in preparation to wear Friday, Dec 04, 1998.
  • On the couch was clean unfolded laundry.
  • Traylor had his stair-master in front of the TV for exercising in preparation of his annual physical.
  • The master bathroom window was open, the screen lying on the lawn, and a towel lain over the windowsill. Someone had broken into the house by crawled through the window.
  • Traylor had just purchased a $350.00 pipe corral for his horses and was assembling it in the yard.
  • All the small animals at the Traylor home were locked in the house the two days Traylor was missing: three cats, two dogs, and outside were three horses, starving. Traylor would never have left his beloved animals without first making arrangements for their care and feeding.
  • Back tracking Traylor’s days leading up to his death:
  • Dec 02-Wed: Neighbor, Joanie Hanson noticed Traylor was outdoors cleaning the horse corral and later with his friend, The Gunner outside working on Traylor’s motorcycle.
  • Dec 03-Thur: At 3:00 P.M. Traylor left his work on base to kept his appointment with Richard Rohrlick, the base counselor, to discuss rehabilitation for himself.
  • At 9:00 P.M. Traylor was seen by a female bartender, Mickey at Tommy T’s, a local sports bar in Ridgecrest. Later it was verified there had been a military get-together on that evening Dec 03, 98, the last night Traylor spoke to his wife and was seen alive.
  • TRAYLOR’S Planned Schedule for 4,5,6 Dec 1998:
  • DEC04-Fri: Traylor had a Squadron promotion ceremony to conduct.
  • DEC05-Sat: Traylor was to attend a farewell party for his First Class John Barfield, Traylor never missed a party but he was a no show.
  • DEC06-Sun: Traylor had committed himself to drive to San Diego, CA to move shipmate, Todd Roger and wife who were transferring to China Lake, a 3-1/2 hour drive one-way.
  • Traylor’s Military Identification card had been on him when he was found and the Officer-of-the-Day, at Weapons Test Squadron, LT Neviou and AO2 Hall were notified, but Mrs. Traylor was never called.

A resident of Inyokern saw Traylor’s truck sitting on the dirt road near the Traylor home on Friday and Saturday, Dec 04, 05, 1998.

A neighbor told Mrs. Traylor how her husband had been parking his vehicle in the desert in the evenings for a couple of weeks before his death. From where Traylor parked he had a clear view of his home without being seen himself.

Traylor’s AO1 “Shorty” Wellington and AME3 Gerry Sims claimed to have driven to the Traylor home on Saturday, Dec 05, 1998, searching for Traylor but did not see Traylor’s vehicle sitting near the Traylor home.

AO2 Phil Kamp’s wife, Brenda stated that Traylor started to act strange, no longer would he let anyone drive him home after he had had to much to drink; instead Traylor would leave the social gatherings when no one was aware, this was just prior to his death.

During Mrs. Traylor’s investigating she was told her husband often expressed his love for her and looked forward to her return from SF at Christmas permanently; and how he expected a visit then from their first grandchild.

Mrs. Traylor had to harass the Naval Crime Investigator Service’s (NCIS) for their results, it was a duplicate of the Sheriff’s Report. NCIS reasoning behind the lack of a JAG investigation was because Traylor was found off the base and it was Kern County’s responsibility to investigate. The Navy was tossing the case back to the County.

After six-months of waiting Mrs. Traylor received Coroner D. Brown’s report. The report was vague and assumptions were made about the Traylor’s separation supporting suicide. No internal autopsy had been performed to validate the gun and shells found in Traylor vehicle with him were the weapons that killed him. There were no X-rays. No tape recording of the external autopsy or diagram. No resin testing of the hands – proving Traylor held the gun. Last, no time of death was established through eye testing or did the report state if rigor had set-in yet, how long had Traylor been dead? A Toxicology Test was done showing an alcohol level of 0.28 but no urine test to back it.

In June 1999, Mrs. Traylor met with Kern County Coroner M. Kaiser at Bakersfield, in protest of the suicide theory and present the true facts. Coroner Kaiser agreed there was not enough evidence to justify a suicide. She changed the death certificate to “undetermined” and amended the Coroner’s Report – still the case was not reopened by the county.

Mrs. Traylor was not able to obtain an appointment with the China Lake Base Commanding Officer CAPT C. H. Johnston, to present the new death certificate and to again request a reinvestigation. Nor would the California Congressman William Thomas pursue the case. The FBI stated they saw no crime committed.

Traylor’s best friend, “The Gunner” avoided Mrs. Traylor for a year after the death. When she was finally able to corner him he told her “All you want to do is talk about Traylor, I want to believe it was a suicide,” and avoided Mrs. Traylor from then on.

The Summer of 1999, Mrs. Traylor drove her husband’s vehicle to the base gas station and while inside paying she noticed CDR Budnick, the Squadron Test Pilot, standing frozen in shock staring at Traylor’s vehicle like he’d just seen a ghost until he saw Mrs. Traylor and regained his composure.
In November 1999, Mrs. Traylor obtained the photographs of the scene of death from the County Technical Laboratory. The photos revealed the following:

  • Traylor is shown sitting behind the steering wheel of his vehicle with his cap on his head and his glasses in his right hand.
  • A shotgun is pointing at Traylor from the floorboard of the passenger’s side of the vehicle with the barrel propped against the side of the console, a card, and a “Bud Light” beer can.
  • Blood is shown running straight down Traylor’s right-thigh verifying he died where he was found.
  • Mrs. Traylor can verify the blood location and pattern in the vehicle, because on Monday, Dec 07, 1998, the day after Traylor was found Mrs. Traylor reclaimed her husband’s vehicle. The vehicle has not been impounded in a police lot but towed to a business garage in Inyokern on Dec 06.
  • Blood was found on the front of the console and the cup-holders in that area – the console divided the bucket-seats. Blood was found near the gas peddle and the seat part of the driver’s buck-seat and blood dripped to the floorboard. But, the largest splattering of blood is on the drive-shaft.
  • A box of shells (birdshot) was on the passenger seat with opened mail.
  • When Mrs. Traylor presented these photos to Kern County Homicide Officer Johnson for answers and a reinvestigation he became angry and escorted her out of his office.
  • After AO1 Wellington viewed the photos he stated “the Squadron never thought Traylor committed suicide”. Unfortunately, the Squadron couldn’t help – they had been given a “Gag Order” not to speak to Mrs. Traylor; they feared for their own lives if they talked.

The investigation was shut down because the Navy had Kern County close the case immediately without an investigation through their “Good Old Boys Connect”, call the death a suicide and lay blame on the wife.

So, it wasn’t necessary to notify or even contact Mrs. Traylor for questioning as a suspect of murder. That is why Homicide Officer Johnson so bluntly informed Mrs. Traylor her husband had committed suicide, nine hours after Traylor had been found.

To strengthen their suicide theory, there was a letter found in the vehicle addressed to Traylor asking him to sign a waiver. This was assumed to be leading towards divorce papers in the first Coroner’s Report. The letter actually concerned Mr. Traylor’s release from Mrs. Traylor retirement money. Mrs. Traylor of course, was never questioned about the letter.

Traylor, himself was an extremely private individual and more so about his personal life. The only two people that had information on the Traylor’s marriage were The Gunner, (CWO2 V. Howell), and Mr. Richard Rohrlick, the base counselor. One of these two people gave the background for the theory of suicide.

The vehicle was moved and never sealed-off because again there wasn’t going to be an investigation. The Coroner’s Report lacked vital information, as stated previously. The Sheriff’s Report excluded fingerprints, footprints, or tire prints from the scene. Photos: show Traylor’s hands and arms had no blood or blow-back from skin on them. Traylor didn’t drink Bud Light beer as the photos show from inside the vehicle; and he didn’t take his glasses off and hold them after he shot himself. The photos were staged.

When Traylor made the statement to his wife “he didn’t think he was going to live long” that was a tip-off his life was in danger. He tried to avoid his death by hiding in the desert. But Traylor was ordered to the Thursday night military get-together; here he was gotten drunk, followed, stopped just short of his home, and killed. Traylor’s shotgun was obtained from his home by gaining entrance through the bathroom window – so identification was not necessary. The squadron get-together may have occurred at the Sierra Club, Inyokern, CA a mile from the Traylor home.

The China Lake Base is a highly secured installation due to warfare weapons developed there. Traylor was military property for fifteen years, there should have been a JAG investigation by the Navy.

In 2000, Mrs. Traylor again tried to re-open the case by contacting Kern County and she received a reply from Sheriff Sparks threatening to reverse the cause of death “Undetermined back to suicide” if she continued to pursue the matter.

In Aug 2003, Prof. J. Starrs, Dr. J. Frost, and team from George Washington University, Washington, D.C., performed the internal autopsy on Traylor. It was found that the angle of the shot was from the upper right side of the chest to the lower left side of the media. The angle of the shot was not possible inside the confinement of the cab of the vehicle.


The shot came from outside of the passenger’s side of the vehicle when Traylor leaned over and opened the passenger’s door. The impact forced Traylor’s body back into the area of the console and the drive-shaft of the vehicle where the majority of the blood was located. There was no blood on the dashboard, steering wheel, windshield, driver’s door, or the roof of the vehicle. According to the autopsy Traylor’s heart stopped immediately. Traylor’s body was set back into the seat, glasses placed in his hand and cap put on his head. Some item was removed from Traylor’s right thigh that left a square pattern clear of blood. There was no blood on the beer can or the card that supported the gun pointing at Traylor. Again Mrs. Traylor can verify the location of the blood splatter. Last, Traylor’s wristwatch was not on any of the photos from the scene but returned to Mrs. Traylor with the personal effects.

The whole concept of suicide is an insult to Thomas R. Traylor’s integrity.


Why wasn’t Mrs Traylor notified that Sunday? It wasn’t necessary. Her name and SF phone number were written on an envelope next to the Traylor’s kitchen phone.

Why was it not necessary to identify the shotgun as being owned by Traylor? (The gun had never been registered nor had a hunting license been bought. Traylor had not used any of his number of guns in years nor in the thirteen months he had been at China Lake and his only acquaintances were military. Traylor also owned a handgun – which would have been easier to use in the vehicle).
Traylor grew-up outside of El Paso, TX, enlisted in the U.S. Navy in 1983, a Navy career-man retiring in five years. He was a kind-hearted, soft-spoken man with no enemies.

If you have information about this case, or would like to contact Mrs. Traylor, email us  and we’ll forward your message to her.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Death Memorial

Our son TJ was on the promotions list to get his Sgts promotion.  On the day of his death he was threatened that he was being removed from the promotions list.  He was pronounced dead at 7:19AM Iraq time and at 2:30PM was posthumously awarded his Sgt. stripes.  What they withheld from him in life, they gave to him in death.
His death was deemed a suicide by his commander before the CID investigation was completed and before the autopsy was completed.  In their circular thinking, we have been told that the suicide determination was made based on the CID report, but CID says it was based on the autopsy.
On the day of our son’s death, as I said, he was pronounced dead at 7:19AM Iraq time, CID was not notified until 10:00AM of his death and CID did not arrive until 2:00PM.  Before they arrived,  someone in the chain of command ordered the area to be cleaned.  As a result there was nothing for CID to look at when they did arrive.
A ballistics expert, who looked at the CID report and autopsy for us, says that the wound described in the autopsy could not have been made by the weapon our son was carrying, less than 12-18 inches from his head.
As he told us, “Your son’s arms were not long enough to have held the weapon that far from his head and pulled the trigger.”  He shared that without a doubt, “Your son did not take his own life.”
The investigation done by CID was ordered reopened by the Army Office of the Inspector General.  Their findings were that there had been procedural errors made in the investigation, but they did not comment on the outcome.
My husband, who is a Viet Nam vet says we will never know what really happened that morning.
Liz Sweet
If you have any information on this case, contact Liz Sweet through this website

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Death Memorial

Spc. James Pizzo, Jr.

I lost my brother SPC James Pizzo Jr on Nov. 20, 2011. He was found dead in his barracks at Ft. Riley, Kansas in the warrior transition battalion. He joined the army in February 2008. He survived boot camp and graduated in May of 2008, and by September 2008, He was boarding a plane to Iraq.

He spent about 14 months in war before he came back to US soil. While overseas, he hit an IED with his Hum V that flipped causing him to have a neck injury resulting in two separate disk surgeries. He was ready and willing to sign up for his 2nd deployment but his neck injury prohibited his return and he continued working on base. My brother also suffered from PTSD. My brother suffered physically and mentally with pain from his neck, and many nights of panic attacks, and flashbacks. He was supposed to be medically discharged April 2012.

The Last my mother spoke with him was Thursday November 17, 2011. He sounded good, was excited to come home for the holidays and spend time with his children. His autopsy was ruled “Acute Bronchial Pneumonia”. My brother smoked, had sometimes a smoker’s cough, but being a 31 year old otherwise healthy man just does not make sense that he would die from Acute Bronchial Pneumonia overnight. There are so many questions that need to be answered. We were told when he was found that his door was already kicked in, the man who found him was released from the army two days after my brother’s death. Several weeks later, he confirmed that my brother’s door was already kicked in, and then told me to “stop digging, you may not like what you find and you are only going to make things worse.” How can things be any worse?

My brother is already dead..He has not responded to me since then. We were told that his room was ransacked and the evidence was compromised, but the army did not think it was foul play. His heart was kept for further testing which we had to then bury separately three months after his body, but yet, he died of Pneumonia. Why wouldn’t they keep his lungs for testing? The autopsy report makes note of bruising on his abdomen, back and chest, and yet, the medical examiner says “The bruising is not his cause of death.” We have now found out that my brother was on numerous anti psychotics (11 out of 12 prescriptions to be exact) to treat for his PTSD, insomnia, and depression. We are still fighting for records, information, and seem to not be getting far..but i am hopeful that finding this amazing group, and reading all of the accomplishments thus far, i feel I am in the right place to find some justice. Thank you for giving me a chance to tell some of my brother’s story.

If you have information about this case, contact Melanie Pizzo through this website.