In the summer of "98" Stephen, at just 18yrs. of age, decided on his own to turn his life around and join the United States Navy. I, his mother, at his request, bought him a book to help him study for the ASVAB test as he was bound and determined to make it. He worked out every day, started to jog and studied hard every night. He took the test and passed with flying colors telling me that an instructor at the testing site told him that he did better than most of the seniors that graduated from high school. Stephen only had a GED and was thrilled that he had done so well. He graduated bootcamp and then went on to San Antonio, Tx. for his Aschool where he would be studying for Mess Specialist.
Stephen had big plans of opening up his own "Sports Bar/Restaurant" when he got out of the service. Stephen did well in Aschool and graduated at the top of his class and that is why he got first pick at where he wanted stationed. He chose Nas Oceana, Va. as it was closest to home and would make it easier to travel back and forth when he was on leave. He was home for 2 weeks before heading off to Virginia and he told everyone all of his stories about bootcamp and San Antonio and how happy he was that he joined the Navy.
On April 17th 1999 his father and I drove him to the airport where he would be headed for his first duty station at Nas Oceana, Va. This would be the last time we saw our son alive!!
Stephen called once a week at first but then started making friends and stretched it out to calling every 2 weeks. He was getting along fine, excited about going on his first cruise and had just bought himself a tv and got his cable hooked up, a Sony Playstation with a couple video games, a clock radio and a telephone so family wouldn't have to pay long distant phone bills. Stephen lived on base and had no problems of any kind that we his family were aware of. Then on May 30, 1999 I received the horrible and shocking news that Stephen was found hanging in a hotel room in Las Vegas, NV.
The LVMPD never conducted any type of investigation and the Navy stated that because his death occurred off base, while he was off duty, and had nothing to do with the Navy (I wonder how they knew this?) that the NCIS would not be conducting any type of investigation as well. Only after my constant nagging did his base command conduct a "tiny" investigation which didn't amount to anything and only went along with the reports from the LVMPD. No matter how many letters I sent, phone calls I made and numerous attempts at getting different people to help no investigation ever got done and his death remains a complete shock and mystery to our whole entire family and everyone who knew Stephen.
Two of Stephen's friends from the base came to Pa. and attended his funeral. At the cemetery, we were told by the one young man that he knew that Stephen wasn't traveling by himself or taking money out of the ATM machines by himself!! I pressured his base command to have this boy questioned after telling them what we were told at the cemetery, and a year later I get a report, or should I say an email conversation on legal paper, and the only question they asked him was, "How well did you know Stephen Killian and what was his attitude towards the Navy?"?!! They totally disregarded my concerns that this young man knew something about what happened to my son!!! I just don't understand how such a happy young man who could get along in any type of situation can suddenly just become suicidal!! Of course, It may be able to happen given certain circumstances but the point is nothing was ever proven that pointed to depression or suicidal thoughts of any kind!! It seems that my son just vanished off base without anyone knowing and took a greyhound bus from Virginia Beach to Las Vegas and ended up hanging in a hotel room.
When I received his belongings from Las Vegas the only things we got were a pair of what appearred to be neatly ironed "baggy levi's", a neatly ironed cotton button up shirt, a clean t-shirt, his wallet with no money and his Nike shoes which also looked spotless. These clothes seemed a bit "too neat and clean" for a person who was traveling by bus for 2 days plus 19hrs. The Administrator's office in Las Vegas assurred me that they do not launder the clothes before they are returned home. Also, in his jean's pocket was a phone number written on the hotel stationery without an area code so our family assumed it was either a Vegas number or a Virginia Beach number. The police assured us (yeah right) that this number didn't check out and when we called it ourselves with a Virginia Beach area code it was a cell phone number that had just been disconnected?! I called his base to ask if there was any way they could check out this number as it may be someone on base or someone who lived off base but I was told that they have no means of checking out a phone number!!! Wow.... since when can't the military, government, etc. not be able to check out a simple phone number????
I also believe that if my son was actually taking off, going AWOL whatever, that he would have definitely packed a bag and called one of his friends at home here, but he had nothing with him except the clothes on his back!!
Additionally, the funeral the funeral director told Stephen's grandfather that the ligature mark didn't course up behind his ears, as the autopsy report stated, but went horizontal around his neck. He also stated that he noted bruises to the torso of the body, another important fact left out of the autopsy report?!
I just get so frustrated that I trusted the military with my only son and thought he would be safe!! It seems that the military's only concern is keeping "their own" from getting into any trouble as they surely wouldn't want their command to look bad?! I thought that because my son was a member of the United States Navy that everything in their power would be done to investigate and prove that he either committed suicide or was murdered and that we our family would get a thorough report of the events leading up to his untimely death and a report that would tell us why and how our only son died!! But instead we got nothing, we got a report that was to say the least, inadequet and could fit into a large white letter envelope!! It is very difficult to go on when you lose a child but when you honestly don't know what happened it is just maddening!!!
I still keep in touch with the young man from the base who talked to our family at the cemetary, and although he never addresses my questions or comments I continue to write him in hopes that one day he will tell me what happened to my son..... Until then I continue to pray that God will let me find out the truth someday so my son can have the justice and dignity that he deserves and our family can have the peace of mind and closure that we deserve.
Proud Mother of Mssr Stephen J Killian, Jr. USN
7-14-80 to 5-30-99
Who Died Under Questionable Circumstances and Was Denied A Proper
and Thorough Investigation
Painfully Loved and Missed By Family and His Many Many Friends