Saturday, December 08, 2007

Marine's mother disputes suicide as cause of death

BY JENNY SHEARER, Californian staff writer
e-mail: Friday, Dec 7 2007 10:20 PM
Last Updated: Friday, Dec 7 2007 10:44 PM

The grieving mother of a Marine found dead in his barracks in August at Twentynine Palms doesn't believe her son committed suicide.

Rachel Hernandez with a photo of her son, Marine Lance Cpl. Ramiro Hernandez III, who was found dead in his barracks at Twentynine Palms in August.

But a military investigation concluded that Lance Cpl. Ramiro Hernandez III, 24, died in his barracks by hanging himself with a belt.

His roommate found him early on Aug. 20. No suicide note was found, and he had no history of depression, according to a suicide incident report from the Navy.

But Rachel Hernandez said her son wasn't the type of person to commit suicide.

"Anybody that knows Ramiro knows he's not a suicidal person," she said.

She believes foul play was involved in her son's death and thinks the Marines are trying to protect their image by concluding he killed himself.

Strange relationship

Both Rachel Hernandez and the military agree there was a woman in Ramiro's life who caused him to be troubled. But Ramiro Hernandez never met this woman in person; they communicated over the Internet through MySpace, text messages and phone calls.

Still, she contacted Ramiro Hernandez's relatives and he said he wanted his family to get to know her.

Ramiro Hernandez wore a wedding ring and told fellow Marines that he had married the woman in Las Vegas. But the military's investigation shows there's no evidence the two ever married.

The military's report states his parents did not approve of his relationship with the woman.

His mother said the woman drove a wedge between her son and his family, friends in the military and friends in Bakersfield.

The Navy's suicide incident report noted 55 statements of fact based on interviews with Marines who knew Ramiro Hernandez.

Opinions drawn from these facts include "the suicide was the result of repeated issues that LCpl Hernandez had with this proclaimed wife over the span of a few months and the habitual lying to his peers, command and family. Further, the disruption in his family ties only furthered the problem."

Ramiro Hernandez had surgery to fix a hernia several weeks before his death and was taking prescribed vicodin and naproxen for pain.

The report states Ramiro Hernandez fell into a depression the week "leading up to his death, which caused him to mix a combination of prescription drugs and alcohol, which only furthered his depression."

Rachel Hernandez has no evidence to refute the report, but she believes her son wasn't depressed, and she maintains he didn't do drugs.

After his death, the woman spoke with a sergeant at Twentynine Palms, according to the report. She was worried about getting in trouble, and told the sergeant she and Ramiro Hernandez were not married.

The Naval Criminal Investigative Service is looking into his death. The inquiry is "open and ongoing, pending lab work and additional interviews," said Paul O'Donnell, deputy communications director, in an e-mail message sent Friday afternoon. "It is our policy not to comment on open investigations."

The service investigates all non-combat, medically unattended deaths within the Navy.

"It is standard procedure for NCIS to investigate all aspects of every death," O'Donnell wrote.

Deaths go through two reviews.

"This process, along with the associated lab analysis, can take an extended period of time to complete, and is not necessarily indicative of foul play," O'Donnell said.

Ramiro Hernandez was viewed as a highly motivated Marine and a future leader in his platoon. His apparent suicide shocked his fellow Marines.

His mother fears the military will try to cover up what really happened to her son. Yet she's determined to find the truth.

"I have to be strong because I know I have a long fight," she said.

--submitted by Jane Tier

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