Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Man Guilty of Murder of Marine

SANTA ANA – A court-martialed Marine was found guilty Tuesday of first-degree murder in the killing of a fellow Camp Pendleton Marine in a secluded area of San Clemente in a dispute over stolen drug money.

An Orange County jury of six men and six women deliberated a day and a half before convicting Christian William Carney, 25, of Manorville, N.Y., of murder, criminal threats and attempting to dissuade a witness.

Carney faces a possible 28 year and eight months to life in prison at his sentencing Jan. 20 by Superior Court Judge William Froeberg.

Jurors found a sentencing enhancement that Carney personally used a gun not to be true, a charge that would have added another 25 years to Carney's prison term.

Deputy District Attorney Ebrahim Baytieh portrayed Carney as a liar during his closing arguments, asking jurors not to be fooled by the defendant's "crying on cue" and "acting" during his testimony, calling him a "vicious, cold-blooded killer."

The prosecutor said we should thank Carney for his military service, including a tour of duty in Iraq, but asked jurors not to give him a pass for the fatal shooting of Stephen Serrano, 20, on May 13, 2008.
Serrano's parents kissed after the verdicts were read. His wife wept. In another section of the courtroom gallery, Carney's mother, also in tears, called out to her son as he was taken away in handcuffs: "I love you Chris, and I know you didn't do this."

Serrano's relatives said afterward they were pleased with the outcome.

"It's a tragedy that ... their family also had to suffer with the loss of their son," said Serrano's mom Christl McKenney, who in her hand held her son's Marine boot camp graduation photo facing the jurors as the verdicts were read.

Baytieh zeroed in on the many lies he said the defendant told when he took the witness stand.
Carney was caught in the biggest one of them all, the prosecutor said, when he testified Serrano was fatally shot by another fellow Marine, earlier than the time he actually was killed.

The defendant testified he had no idea Alvin Reed Lovely, 24, of Dallas, then also a Pendleton Marine, would shoot Serrano, when the two confronted Serrano about stealing Carney's drug money.

"When you are a liar and a murderer, justice will catch up to you," said Baytieh after the verdicts were announced.

Most of the jurors left the courtroom without comment.

One juror, who did not identify himself, said the key factor pointing toward guilt was evidence that Carney knew Lovely had a gun when they walked Serrano up the isolated San Clemente hillside. The juror said it made sense that Carney knew something volatile could happen.

Defense attorney Jennifer Keller told jurors her client made a lot of bad choices but is hardly a killer.
The bottomline, she argued, was that Lovely, and not Carney, shot Serrano.

Keller expressed disappointment with the verdicts.

"We thought his testimony rang very true," she said of her client. "This was really a case of somebody picking the wrong companion, and he's going to suffer for the rest of his life for it."

Lovely will be tried later on charges of murder, criminal threats, plus using a gun. He faces 38 years to life if convicted.

"Hopefully, we get the same justice with Lovely," said Serrano's wife Sophia.

Carney has been tried and court-martialed for drug dealing at Camp Pendleton and is serving six years, according to testimony.

Baytieh ended his arguments with a photo of Serrano in a white suit and the numbers 2 and 1,310 displayed in bold yellow letters respectively to the left and right of the picture for the jury to see.
Two represented the number of days before Serrano was discovered face down and on his knees in a San Clemente drainage ditch, while 1,310, the prosecutor said, was the number of days that had passed since the victim died.

Read the entire story here.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

First-ever audit of Arlington headstones finds errors

(Reuters) - More than 64,000 headstones at Arlington National Cemetery outside Washington, D.C. may contain typos or other errors, according to a new government report.

The errors, which mar 25 percent of the 260,000 grave markers in what is arguably the nation's best-known military burial ground, include misspelled names and incorrect ranks, birth dates and death dates.

The report -- the first of its kind in Arlington's 147-year history -- was prompted by two studies from the Army's Inspector General that found "serious mismanagement and process failures" at the cemetery. It was published on Thursday.

The audit team spent a year counting gravesites in the cemetery, photographing the grave markers and then comparing the information on them with all available paper and electronic records.
Read the entire story here.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Army: Recruiters not at fault in Vermilion man’s death

VERMILION — A U.S. Army Recruiting Command investigation found that recruiters were not at fault in the death of 20-year-old Army recruit Glenni “Glenn” Wilsey V, who died of a heart attack while dieting to enlist in the Army, but one recruiter admitted giving Wilsey a waist band against Army policy.

Wilsey’s mother, Lora Bailey, declined to discuss the report, saying she did not want to jeopardize other investigations into her son’s March 3 death.

However, in an email this week, Bailey indicated that she plans to meet in the “near future” with U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur, D-Toledo, and Maj. Gen. David L. Mann, who ordered the investigation.

“I do believe the investigation was done with integrity and no bias on the part of Major General Mann and his staff,” Bailey wrote in the email. “The investigation has brought up several issues which need to be addressed before I am able to release anything.”

Read the entire story here.

submitted by Lora Bailey

Death Memorial

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

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Linked by trauma, officer seeks recognition for soldier he never knew

WASHINGTON — Spc. Jacob Andrews and Maj. Andrew DeKever served in the same brigade in Afghanistan in 2009. Separated by rank, role and age, they never met, but both men returned from war with psychological wounds.

One sought help and recovered. The other was abandoned by the Army and hanged himself.

Read the entire story here.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Army Charges 8 in Death of Fellow Soldier

Eight U.S. troops are facing charges including involuntary manslaughter and negligent homicide in the death of Pvt. Danny Chen, 19, who was found dead of “an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound” in a guard tower in Afghanistan in October, the U.S. military said Wednesday.

Chen’s case became a major news story in New York after family members alleged he had been hazed before his death because of his Chinese ethnicity. An Army official told the family that Chen had been beaten by superiors and subjected to racially motivated taunts, according to an October story in The New York Times.

“After two months of agonizing over the loss, it is of some comfort and relief that the Army is taking this seriously,” Chen’s mother, Su Zhen, said through an interpreter at a news conference Wednesday in New York, according to an MSNBC report.

Last week, hundreds of supporters took to the streets of Lower Manhattan to demand that the Army take action, and news of the military charges quickly led the stories on the websites of most major New York City news organizations.

Of the eight soldiers charged, five face charges including negligent homicide and manslaughter, while three others face charges including making false statements or dereliction of duty.

ISAF spokesman Sgt. 1st Class Alan Davis said via email from Afghanistan that “the charges relate to conduct that occurred in the time leading up to [Chen’s] death.”

All eight soldiers charged served in the same unit as Chen: Company C, 3rd Battalion, 21st Infantry Regiment, 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, based out of Fort Wainwright, Alaska. They were assigned to Combat Outpost Palace in southern Afghanistan.

Read the entire updated story here.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

'Quick Draw' Being Blamed For Soldier's Death

Army Sgt. Matthew Gallagher's Death Ruled Homicide

A game of "quick-draw" is being blamed for the homicide of a North Falmouth soldier.

According to the Cape Cod Times, an investigative hearing was held Saturday in Fort Hood, Texas, regarding the death of Army Sgt. Matthew R. Gallagher.

An Army Criminal Investigation Division special agent who testified at the hearing said Gallagher’s roommate, Army Sgt. Brent McBride, admitted to accidentally shooting Gallagher in the head by accident hours after the incident in the Wasit province of Iraq.

Cheryl Ruggiero, Gallagher’s mother, was first told by the Pentagon that her son died in combat on June 26, a week before his 23rd birthday.

Initially, the Department of Defense called his death non-combat related. But Ruggiero said she was informed in August that her son's death was a homicide.

Read more:

Read the entire article here.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Army Releases November Suicide Data

The Army released suicide data today for the month of November. Among active-duty soldiers, there were seven potential suicides: none have been confirmed as suicide and seven remain under investigation. For October 2011, the Army reported 17 potential suicides among active-duty soldiers. Since the release of that report, four cases have been confirmed as suicide and 13 cases remain under investigation.

During November 2011, among Reserve Component soldiers who were not on active duty, there were eight potential suicides (eight Army National Guard and no Army Reserve): two have been confirmed as suicide and six remain under investigation. For October 2011, the Army reported 12 potential suicides among not-on-active-duty soldiers. Since the release of that report, one case has been added for a total of 13 cases (five Army National Guard and eight Army Reserve). Four cases have been confirmed as suicide and nine cases remain under investigation.

As of Nov. 30, 2011, the Army has identified 260 potential soldier suicides for CY 2011. Of that total, 154 were active duty suicides: 100 have been confirmed as suicide and 54 remain under investigation; 106 were Reserve Component not on active duty suicides (73 Army National Guard and 33 Army Reserve): 84 have been confirmed as suicide and 22 remain under investigation. Compared to previous years, the Army had 305 in CY 2010 (159 active-duty and 146 not-on-active-duty) and 242 in CY 2009 (162 active-duty and 80 not-on-active-duty).

"Suicide continues to be a challenge for our Army Family," said Sgt. Maj. of the Army Raymond F. Chandler III. "It is a devastating loss when one of our own, whether soldier, civilian or family member, dies by suicide."Chandler also said that overcoming this challenge will take the Army's collective efforts, dedication, support and understanding. "To that end, I am calling on all of our leaders, but especially the noncommissioned officers, the backbone of our great Army, to make a difference. We must cultivate a climate that encourages help-seeking behaviors and supports those who ask for help," said Chandler. "By standing shoulder to shoulder, we can ensure that no one stands alone!"

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 (8255) or by visiting their website at .

Army leaders can access current health promotion guidance in newly revised Army Regulation 600-63 (Health Promotion) at: Army Pamphlet 600-24 (Health Promotion, Risk Reduction and Suicide Prevention) at .

The Army's comprehensive list of Suicide Prevention Program information is located at
Suicide prevention training resources for Army families can be accessed at (requires Army Knowledge Online access to download materials).

Information about Military OneSource is located at or by dialing the toll-free number 1-800-342-9647 for those residing in the continental United States. Overseas personnel should refer to the Military OneSource website for dialing instructions for their specific location.

Information about the Army's Comprehensive Soldier Fitness Program is located at .
The Defense Center for Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury (DCoE) Outreach Center can be contacted at 1-866-966-1020, via electronic mail at and at .
The website for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention is , and the Suicide Prevention Resource Council site is found at .

Source:  Official DOD Announcement

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

March & Vigil for Fallen Private Danny Chen on Thursday

The New York chapter of the Organization of Chinese Americans (OCA-NY), a nonprofit civil rights organization for justice, is mobilizing later this week on behalf of Private Danny Chen. A nineteen-year-old son of Chinatown, Private Chen died from non-combat related injuries at an American Army base in Afghanistan in early October. The circumstances surrounding his death are somewhat suspicious, and many fear a cover-up reminiscent of Pat Tillman just a few years earlier.

Read the entire story here.

Chinatown Soldier's Death Prompts Meeting With Pentagon Officials

Read more:

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Mother of Marine killed after rape claim leads training sessions on sexual assault cases

MARY McCARTY  Dayton Daily News
First Posted: December 03, 2011 - 12:36 pm
Last Updated: December 03, 2011 - 3:09 pm

DAYTON, Ohio — Mary Lauterbach of Vandalia remains a powerful voice for her daughter, Lance Cpl. Maria Lauterbach, nearly four years after she was murdered by fellow Marine Cesar Laurean.
On Nov. 16, Mary Lauterbach and her attorney, Merle Wilberding, attended the North Carolina Court of Appeals hearing in Raleigh, N.C., and listened as Laurean's attorneys argued that his first-degree murder conviction should be overturned because the judge did not allow jurors to consider a lesser charge of second-degree murder.

"We wanted to make our presence visible, and to remind them that Maria was a real person," Lauterbach said.

"We wanted to be a witness to justice," added Wilberding. "We're glad we went."

Laurean's state-appointed attorney, Ann Peterson, acknowledged that her client killed Lauterbach, but argued that the crime might not have been premeditated. Attorneys for the state countered that the fact that Laurean burned the body and buried Lauterbach in his backyard was proof of premeditation.
Lauterbach, 20, was eight months' pregnant at the time of her murder. Laurean is currently serving a life sentence without parole at the Pasquotank Correctional Institution, a high-security adult male prison in Elizabeth City, N.C.

"The trial court got it right," Wilberding said.

It was the second time in less than a month that Lauterbach, who now leads training sessions for the military, had been called upon to bear witness for her daughter.

On Oct. 28, three Department of Defense staffers flew to Dayton to brief Lauterbach on the Inspector General's report on the investigation of her daughter's sexual assault case. The scathing 46-page report concluded that the Naval Criminal Investigative Service criminal investigation was both "substantively and procedurally deficient" and that NCIS agents did not conduct the investigation "diligently, timely or completely, and logical investigative steps were not completed."

The report also noted that Camp Lejeune's Sexual Assault and Prevention Response Program officials violated policy in its response to Lauterbach's rape complaint. Consequently, the report concluded, Camp Lejeune's Sexual Assault Case Management Group, which is responsible for reviewing rape cases, was unable to "assure her safety, well-being and recovery after the sexual assault, principally because it did not know about it."

Lauterbach said the Inspector General's report is an important step toward accountability. The yearlong investigation revealed much she hadn't previously known about her daughter's sexual assault case. On May 11, 2007, Lauterbach reported she was raped by then-Cpl. Laurean, one of her supervisors. Laurean claimed he had consensual sex with her.

"The details of the investigation were even worse than we knew," Mary Lauterbach said. "Only three of the eight witnesses were interviewed before Maria died, and they weren't interviewed thoroughly. They didn't investigate the crime scene or check Laurean's alibis, or they would have found out that he was working on the day of the assault, as he claimed to be."

Read the entire story here.
--submitted by Bonnie Palecco

Monday, December 05, 2011

Semper Fi Screenings

The Camp Lejeune Documentary, Semper Fi: Always Faithful will screened in NY and California this month. If you are in the area, please take to the time to attend. Each screening will be followed by a brief question and answer session immediately after the film. Here are the dates and times for the next three screenings.


Rachel & Jerry will be at this screening

7:30 PM
Embarcadero Cinema
One Embarcadero Center, Promenade Level
San Francisco, CA 94111
(415) 267-4893

Tony will be at this screening

7:30 PM

Jerry and Tony will be at this screening.

The film continues to generate a lot of attention, especially on Capitol Hill. Last week we learned that S-277, the Caring for Camp Lejeune Veterans Act of 2011 is not dead yet and there is talk about moving the bill forward. We will keep everyone informed as new developments arise. If anyone has any questions, please post them on the bulletin board for our website, Unfortunately, we can not answer each email individually.

Have a blessed holiday season and Merry Christmas.

Mike Partain


Saturday, December 03, 2011

The Shameful Way the Military Handles Non-Combat Deaths

Little or no information is given to families

What drove 1st Lieutenant Debra Banaszak of the Missouri National Guard over the edge?
It is a question her family tried to answer for a year after she committed suicide in Kuwait in 2005. Her family simply could not believe this loving mother and police officer who also had served 17 years with the Army National Guard would take her own life.

The family tried to pry more information out of the military, but what they were getting in return did not give them closure.

To this day, the Missouri National Guard still offers a press release dated October 31, 2005 — which is just three days after Banaszak was found dead — as the only information they can provide regarding her death. The release simply states that Banaszak “died of a non-combat related injury” on Oct. 28 in Kuwait.

“I’ve given you all the information I can on this,” said Major Tamara Spicer, public affairs officer for the Missouri National Guard, just recently to this reporter.
When pressed for anything more concrete than the 2005 press release, she continues to repeat herself and says nothing more: “I’ve given you all the information I can on this.”
Because of the military’s lax response, the Banaszak family told this reporter they have had to put the death of Debra behind them, or continue to suffer.

Read the entire story here.

Death Anniversary


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.

Thursday, December 01, 2011

A final request from Iraq vet who took own life

By Chris Bieri

Grand Forks, N.D.,--Sean Alexander Dacus, a veteran of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, wrote out a final request Tuesday morning before fatally shooting himself in the chest outside the emergency room at Altru Health System.

According to police, the 31-year-old Grand Forks resident walked into the Altru Clinic just before 11:30 a.m. and borrowed a marker at the coffee shop.

He wrote on his arm "Do not resuscitate" and below that, "Donate organs please," a police source said. To the right of those lines, he wrote "A-," which police believe was his blood type.

Read the entire story here.