Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Widow says Army denies capt. was murdered

Sues for trial record after accused was acquitted in ’08
By Joe Gould - Staff writer

Posted : Monday Mar 28, 2011 5:01:29 EDT
The widow of a West Point graduate killed in Iraq says the Army is adding to her anguish by denying her husband was murdered.

Siobhan Esposito says the Army, after it lost the capitol murder trial against her husband’s accused killer, is denying her husband’s death was by murder to deny her a record of the proceeding.

Capt. Phillip Esposito, a company commander in Tikrit, died there in 2005. Then-Staff Sgt. Alberto B. Martinez, a subordinate of Esposito’s, was charged in his death and acquitted in a 2008 court-martial at Fort Bragg, N.C.

“To be frank, I find the Army’s denial ridiculous and offensive,” Siobhan Esposito, of Suffern, N.Y., said in an email to Army Times. “I went to court with the Army to obtain documents relating to my husband’s murder, and I am now compelled to argue that he was the victim of murder.”

Siobhan Esposito’s mission to obtain court records in her husband’s death will proceed after U.S. District Judge John D. Bates denied the Army’s request earlier this month to dismiss her freedom-of-information lawsuit.

She asserted in her lawsuit against the Army that her husband was murdered in 2005 when a Claymore mine was placed in the window of his office. The Army, in its response, conceded only that he “died while in his office and on active military duty in Tikrit, Iraq.”

Esposito, in a blog she maintains, called the denial “absurd on its face, offensive to Phillip’s memory, and disrespectful to my grief and the grief of Phillip’s family.”

“Phillip did not merely die in his office as if from a cold, a slip, or a spoiled MRE,” she wrote.
Jurors heard from witnesses at the court-martial who said Martinez threatened to kill Phillip Esposito.
Operations officer 1st Lt. Louis E. Allen, of Milford, Pa., was also killed. All three men were part of the 42nd Infantry Division of the New York National Guard, based in Troy, N.Y.

During the trial, witnesses testified that Martinez said he felt violent urges toward his commander, who had dressed him down over his handling of the unit’s supply room, but there were no eyewitnesses directly linking Martinez to the two men’s deaths.

Martinez said after the trial that he was “very, very innocent.”

In an attempt to expose flaws in the criminal investigation and court-martial, Siobhan Esposito requested from the Army a complete transcript and audio recordings of the trial. She filed her lawsuit Jan. 19 in a Washington, D.C., federal court after the Army denied her request.

“I will not be deterred in my pursuit of justice on behalf of our daughter, my husband’s memory and myself,” she said. “My husband’s murder demands transparency and accountability, and I shall not rest until I have it.”

The Army’s reply to the lawsuit argued that Esposito is not legally entitled to the records she requested. It notes that it already released 1,700 pages of edited transcripts, and that to review and release the 408 hours of audio recordings would take months.

Claire Whitaker, the assistant U.S. attorney arguing the case on behalf of the Army, through a spokesman declined to comment.

Bates ordered both parties to submit a briefing schedule to the court by March 25.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Army Slow to Act as Crime-lab Worker Falsified, Botched Tests

WASHINGTON — For nearly three years, the military held the key to Roger House's exoneration and didn't tell him: A forensics examiner had botched a crucial lab test used in the Navy lieutenant's court-martial

Read the entire story by clicking here.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Report shows death of local airman the result of bomb experts not following protocol

Report shows death of local airman the result of bomb experts not following protocol

Read the entire story here.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Army Released February Suicide Data

            The Army released suicide data today for the month of February.  Among active-duty soldiers, there were eight potential suicides:  none have been confirmed as suicide, and eight remain under investigation.  For January 2011, the Army reported 15 potential suicides among active-duty soldiers.  Since the release of that report, five cases have been confirmed as suicide, and 10 cases remain under investigation.
            During February 2011, among reserve component soldiers who were not on active duty, there were eight potential suicides: one has been confirmed as a suicide, and seven remain under investigation.  For January 2011, among that same group, there were eight total suicides.  Of those, two were confirmed as suicides and six are pending determination of the manner of death.
            "Efforts to mitigate risk and improve the health of the force demand decisive engagement at every echelon.  The complexity of suicide demands the need for a coordinated effort by every member across the Army to reduce the negative outcomes of high-risk behavior, risk-related deaths and suicides," said Col. Chris Philbrick, deputy director, Army Health Promotion, Risk Reduction Task Force.
           Soldiers and families in need of crisis assistance can contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.  Trained consultants are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year and can be contacted by dialing 1-800-273-TALK begin_of_the_skype_highlighting              1-800-273-TALK      end_of_the_skype_highlighting (8255) or by visiting their website at http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/ .
            The Army's comprehensive list of Suicide Prevention Program information is located at http://www.preventsuicide.army.mil/ .
            Army leaders can access current health promotion guidance in newly revised Army Regulation 600-63 (Health Promotion) at: http://www.army.mil/usapa/epubs/pdf/r600_63.pdf and Army Pamphlet 600-24 (Health Promotion, Risk Reduction and Suicide Prevention) at http://www.army.mil/usapa/epubs/pdf/p600_24.pdf .
            Suicide prevention training resources for Army families can be accessed at http://www.armyg1.army.mil/hr/suicide/training_sub.asp?sub_cat=20 (requires Army Knowledge Online access to download materials).
            Information about Military OneSource is located at http://www.militaryonesource.com/ or by dialing the toll-free number 1-800-342-9647 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting              1-800-342-9647      end_of_the_skype_highlighting for those residing in the continental U.S.  Overseas personnel should refer to the Military OneSource Web site for dialing instructions for their specific location.
            Information about the Army's Comprehensive Soldier Fitness Program is located at http://www.army.mil/csf/ .
            The Defense Center for Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury (DCoE) Outreach Center can be contacted at 1-866-966-1020 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting              1-866-966-1020      end_of_the_skype_highlighting, via electronic mail at Resources@DCoEOutreach.org and at www.dcoe.health.mil .
            The website for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention is http://www.afsp.org/ , and the Suicide Prevention Resource Council site is found at http://www.sprc.org/index.asp .

Suicide rate triples for female soldiers at war

But Army data show male counterparts’ risk is higher
By Gregg Zoroya - USA Today
Posted : Thursday Mar 17, 2011 23:09:45 EDT
The suicide rate for female soldiers triples when they go to war, according to the first round of preliminary data from an Army study.

Read the entire story by clicking here.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Annual DoD Reports on Sexual Assault in the Military

You will find the 2010 Annual Report on Sexual Assault in the Military, as well as earlier annual reports by clicking here.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Civilian Police and Non-combat Death Investigations, Part Two

What Would Dr. Quincy Do?
The first TV series about the use of forensics to solve crimes by scientific methods was Quincy, M.E, which aired from 1976 – 1983.  It was a huge hit.  Jack Klugman played the crusading forensic pathologist, who had a tendency to perseverate (and make idealistic speeches) when working on finding cause of death.  The police were usually a few ticks behind in the investigations.  They tended to jump to false conclusions.  It was Quincy’s job to use the available technology to prove or disprove the theories of the police as to cause of death.  The public was persuaded that this was the proper and prevalent practice in the United States whenever someone died of suspicious or unknown causes.  Dr. Quincy was the symbol of integrity and justice.
Currently, the general popularity of the new TV series like CSI, NCIS, Crossing Jordan, Body of Proof, etc. brings gory pseudo realistic forensics into the homes of the American Public.  Again, these are very big television programs which lead us all to believe that whiz bang technology can pinpoint cause of death as well as circumstances and place of death.  We all believe, from watching these series, that each and every suspicious death that occurs in the US is thoroughly investigated with the very newest technology.
We are SO wrong about that.  In most of the cases I’ll talk about here nothing as basic as fingerprints were taken from the crime scenes, let alone other types of forensic evidence.  The recent PBS Frontline program, Postmortem showed that most elected rural coroners in the US are not forensic pathologists or doctors of any kind and that facilities for the examination and storage of bodies is often non-existent.
Our current fascination with forensics in the US is ironic in that large political factions of our country have expressed a distrust and a rejection of science.  I can only wonder if this is the basis for the dichotomy between our entertainment choices and the reality of crime detection in the US.
Stephen Killian
MSSR Stephen Killian was in the Navy.  His 1999 death occurred, ironically, in the home of the original CSI series:  Las Vegas, Nevada.  He was in the Navy, so you’d think that NCIS, the Naval Criminal Investigation Service, would also be involved in his death investigation.  That proved not to be true.
NCIS is the primary law enforcement and counter-intelligence arm of the US Department of the Navy.  “Types of crimes investigated by NCIS include rape, child physical and sexual abuse, burglary and robbery, theft of government and personal property, and homicide. NCIS also has responsibility for investigating any non-combat death involving a naval service member where the cause of death cannot be medically attributable to disease or natural causes. “ 
Furthermore, according to their website:  “NCIS special agents, intelligence analysts and security specialists routinely work with local, state, federal and foreign law enforcement to address criminal incidents, identify and mitigate threats to U.S. and forces and assets, and pursue joint proactive operations.”

 If you’ve ever watched the TV series, you may believe that NCIS has access to advanced technology comparable to that showcased in the CSI series.  Yet, in reality, neither the Las Vegas police nor NCIS did much in the way of investigation.

In fact, in the three cases I’ll profile in this part of my discussion of Civilian Police and Non-combat Death Investigations, you will see that NCIS plays a decidedly secondary role in the death investigations of two members of the US Navy and one member of the US Marine Corps.  They each died outside of their assigned military bases, and were, therefore considered the responsibility of civilian police where investigation was concerned.
In Stephen’s case, according to his mother, Sonya, the civilian police did a cursory investigation of his death by hanging, immediately labeling it a suicide, despite some very suspicious circumstances.   There was no spectacular CSI investigation and no “Dr. Quincy” to insist on proper assessment of the body to make sure that Stephen wasn’t murdered.

Sonya was denied copies of the crime scene photos by the Las Vegas police.   They said that they destroyed investigation files, including the evidence, in July 1999, two months after Stephen died, as they considered the case closed.
Thomas Traylor

AOC Thomas Traylor was a Navy Aviation Ordinance Chief on active duty stationed at the Weapons Testing Squadron, Naval Station, China Lake, CA.   On December 6th 1998, he was found dead, in rural Inyokern, CA, from a gunshot wound to the chest. The cause of death was listed as suicide.
Thomas Traylor was a kind-hearted, soft-spoken career Navy man who joined up in 1983.  He was scheduled to retire in five years.
The Navy pretty much left Traylor’s death investigation to the Kern County, California, police.  The immediate conclusion was suicide.  Motivation was assigned to various rumors concerning his marriage.  This is usually the tack taken by NCIS in any investigations of non-combat deaths:  find a motive to shore up the initial “cause of death” and that’s the end of it.  
Charolette Traylor, who had been away tending to an elderly relative, was not immediately informed of Traylor’s death.  Her pleas for information were ignored for long periods of time.  Like many military family members, she eventually started her own investigation, employing investigators and having a second autopsy done.
If you click on the link to AOC Traylor above and read her account, you will see that private forensics investigators concluded that Traylor could not have shot himself in his vehicle.  There are many intriguing clues which were left at the scene.  The crime scene photos, which are usually difficult for the family to obtain, were key in making forensics findings.
It is truly unfortunate that “Dr. Quincy” wasn’t in Kern County, California to use the forensic clues left behind to do a thorough investigation.  It is also sad that the Navy had so little regard for one of their own.
Kirk Vanderbur
If any case would give cause to skepticism about “official” cause of death, it would be that of Kirk Vanderbur.

2nd Lt. Kirk Charles Vanderbur was found dead February 17, 1992 at a private gun range in Hubert, NC, near Camp Lejeune.  The Sheriff of Onslow County, NC, Ed Brown was the civilian police authority responsible for investigating Kirk’s death.  He is the current Sheriff of Onslow County, North Carolina.

Onslow County has been the setting for other less than straight forward non-combat deaths of Marines, including LCpl. Maria Lauterbach, and LCpl. Jonathan M. Outz, among others.

Kirk had gone to the shooting range on the afternoon of February 16th.  Marines and soldiers who are serious about maintaining their shooting skills practice periodically, so this was not an unusual situation.  It is believed that there were actually two more individuals at the range that afternoon.  The manager was also on duty, but said that she did not see Kirk’s car in the parking lot when she left that evening.  His body wasn’t found until the next day.

Kirk’s parents, Lois and Gene Vanderbur, were told that Kirk accidentally blasted himself in the chest with birdshot, and then crawled 8 ½ to 10 feet to shoot himself in the head right between the eyes with a semiautomatic rifle.  The rifle was in contact with his hand when his body was found, although Lois stated that this weapon had quite a “kick” when fired and would likely have been thrust away from the body if events happened the way the police theorized.  Furthermore, the range provided waist-high tables on which weapons were placed, so she asks how the rifle got on the ground.  Where is Dr. Quincy when you need him?  Surely not in Onslow County, NC.

As the responders loaded Kirk’s body into the ambulance they noticed the abdominal wound and pulled up his sweatshirt, which pulled his internal organs out. Two days later, without even testing Vanderbur’s hands for gunshot residue, Sheriff Ed Brown decided the death was a suicide and the NCIS agreed.

Lois Vanderbur said “I think the sheriff botched the investigation, didn’t do a homicide investigation and I don’t think the Marine Corps cared”.

Gene Vanderbur wrote: “my son was murdered. I concluded this after a long search for information dealing with a conspiracy of combinations of silence, endless and continuous obfuscation by people in authority, denial of access to evidence, data and photographs, obvious lying, neglect in performance of minimum reasonable investigation, misdirection, shameless displays of arrogance, ignorance and/or more malfeasant actions.”

Kirk’s family has requested copies of the crime scene photos taken by NCIS, which were never delivered.

On February 14, 2011, I spoke on the phone with Major Frank Terwilliger of the Onslow Co., NC Sheriff's Department.  He said that they do not share investigation material because "they are not public records."   He said that a private investigator and NCIS investigators "came to the same conclusion" about Kirk's death being a suicide.  He did not want to say any more.

Lois says that the extent of NCIS’ investigation was to question people as to possible motivations for committing suicide.  No one was theorizing that being shot with two separate guns ten feet apart could have been homicide. 

Dr. Quincy would, at least, have used some science to rule out murder before suggesting suicide.

Donna Janeczko

Monday, March 07, 2011

For first time in decades, Arlington National Cemetery must bury multiple 'unknowns'

 By Christian Davenport
Washington Post Staff Writer

Monday, March 7, 2011; 12:43 AM

When the remains of a Vietnam War soldier buried in the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery were identified in 1998 using DNA, Pentagon officials proudly said that the days of interring service members as "Unknown" could well be over.

But now, for the first time in decades, the cemetery has multiple "unknowns" to bury - and it has itself to blame.

Read the entire story here.

Sunday, March 06, 2011

Soldier's lawyers seeking money for crime scene expert

Lawyers for a soldier charged in the death of a fellow paratrooper in Iraq last year have asked for an expert to help reconstruct the crime scene.

Lawyers for Spc. Nicholas D. Bailey made the request to a military judge during a hearing Thursday on Fort Bragg.

Read the entire stort here.

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Valley Family Buries Daughter Twice

PEORIA, Ariz. -- Linda Gillam still questions why her daughter died on a military base. She still wonders why no one was arrested in connection with her daughter's death.

But most of the time, she can't understand why the military treated her daughter's body with what she calls "disrespect."

Read the entire story here.