Thursday, December 27, 2012

Gold Star mother feels betrayed, not ready for the truth, so she waits

AKRON, Ohio — Peggy Buryj might be a phone call away from answering the great mystery of her life.

But she hesitates.

Buryj thinks she knows the name of an American soldier who killed her son, Jesse, in a friendly-fire incident in Iraq on May 5, 2004.

According to a soldier who was there, the bullet came from the gun of a man who is still in the U.S. Army and living in Italy.

But knowing that has not brought her comfort. Instead, the Canton woman has concluded there’s nothing she can do about it.

So the agony and the grieving continue after eight long years. She often feels lonely, even among other Gold Star mothers, because her circumstances and pain are unusual. She doesn’t even celebrate military holidays like other survivors.

Read the entire story here.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

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

Saturday, December 22, 2012

What the Danny Chen Case Has Accomplished Through the OCA

Nineteen year old Army Private Danny Chen died on October 3, 2011.  He was found shot to death and it has been assumed that the gunshot was self-inflicted.  I do not know how thorough the forensic examinations were.  The Army is typically reluctant to reveal detail on their investigations.  There is always the possibility, without proof to the contrary, that he was murdered.  We will probably never know for sure.  That is the result of the unreasonable secrecy which the US Military holds to in cases of non-combat deaths.  I hope that someday they will reexamine this policy.
Because of the extraordinary aid of the OCA, the Organization of Chinese Americans, this case received extensive media coverage and excellent legal representation.  The soldiers involved in the racial and physical harassment of Private Chen were prosecuted.  As of December 2012, all the trials were completed. 

The Chen family has recently stated that they feel no sense of closure and Elizabeth OuYang, the spokesperson for the OCA has expressed similar disappointment that justice was not done in the case.
I understand their sentiments and agree with them to an extent. 

To the Chen family, I want to say that from my experience they will never feel a sense of closure.  I’m sorry, but that’s the way I see it.  They have lost a loved son to injustice.  They will mourn for the rest of their lives.  They will long for the son they have lost.  But they will learn to live with it.  I send them my sympathy, and, more importantly, my empathy, as I have similarly lost a soldier son to injustice. Unfortunately, there are thousands of families in the US who have had this experience. 
Here is what I want to say on the positive outcome of the Chen case.  Yes, I think there was a positive outcome and I think that the OCA is to be congratulated and praised for their proactive role in this outcome.

It is just slightly more than one year since Danny’s death.  The Army has publicly acknowledged that egregious  injustice was done which caused Danny to commit suicide.  The resolution of this case is much more unusual than you might expect.  Most of the families of non-combat death victims have never received any acknowledgement of wrongdoing by any of the Military Services, either of individual servicemembers or by command.  The OCA will continue to work to eliminate hazing and harassment of Military members.  The public has been made aware.  This is a big accomplishment with a positive result.
Eight soldiers were tried and found guilty of various offenses in just over a year.  The Chen family and OCA should know that this is extraordinarily rare!  True, the charge of negligent homicide was dropped in each case, but they had to know that this serious charge was a long shot to prove.  Each defendant got some sort of punishment.  This is also exceedingly uncommon, and further acknowledgement of wrongdoing within the ranks.

It is a start.  Some justice was done. 
Typically, families are on their own in seeking justice for their children and spouses.  They spend inordinate amounts of money on lawyers and bring cases which drag on for years and yield little justice.  This is common even in the case of provable homicide.  They receive little cooperation from the Military and/or civilian police when it comes to investigation.  The perpetrators are rarely prosecuted.  Within our group of families, there are many who are still trying to obtain information about their loved ones deaths after decades without much success.  They can find no ombudsmen or affordable legal counsel.  They cannot break through the barrier of secrecy and bureaucracy which protects the Military.  We need more groups like the OCA in America. 

Donna Janeczko

Recent articles on the Chen case:

Comments from some of our members:
Well said. I know how disappointed they must be. I know they expected more, we can all relate to that. A friend of mine told me that Liz Ou Yang was on the news last week expressing her disappointment in the outcome. I don't think that they realize what they actually were able to accomplish.
Bonnie Palecco

 I agree, well said. I have nothing but respect and admiration for this family, unfortunately the loss of a child can overshadow any positive actions they have accomplished. Just getting the military to even acknowledge anything is a miracle, as most of us already know! In a very short time, This family has created great change for the future of others!! We know how crippling grief can be, The mourning process involves a great deal of anger and pain, which is very difficult to see past at times! I pray given time, the family will be able to see more clearly the good they have done for this world, and the hope they have given to others to keep going in our own battle for justice!!! And yes , as we all know they will mourn, always!!
Lora Bailey

Well said! Thanks for posting it. After 21 years we have less.
Congratulations to the family for making this much progress.
Kirk would have been 45 on the 28th!
Lois Vanderbur


Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Last of accused in Pvt. Danny Chen's death to be removed from Army

Pvt. Danny Chen's platoon leader will be booted from the Army after being punished outside of a court-martial.

First Lt. Daniel L. Schwartz was the last of eight soldiers from Fort Wainwright, Alaska, to be punished in Chen's death.

Chen, 19, was a Chinese-American soldier from New York who committed suicide in Afghanistan in October 2011.

Read the entire story here.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Carson sgt. convicted in murder of spc.

FORT CARSON, Colo. — A soldier was found guilty of unpremeditated murder in the killing of a fellow Fort Carson colleague on Thursday.

A military panel reached the verdict against Sgt. Vincinte Jackson after several hours of deliberation. The panel of eight Army officers and enlisted soldiers — the equivalent of a jury in a civilian trial — also found Jackson not guilty of premeditated murder. A conviction on that charge could have carried a sentence of up to life in prison without parole.

The sentencing phase began soon after the verdict was read.

During Jackson’s court-martial, his lawyers conceded he killed 28-year-old Spc. Brandy Fonteneaux of Houston but argued that the slaying was so brutal and random that it couldn’t have been premeditated.

Read the entire story here.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Army Releases November Suicide Data


The Army released suicide data today for the month of November. During November, among active-duty soldiers, there were 12 potential suicides: one has been confirmed as a suicide and 11 remain under investigation. For October, the Army reported 20 potential suicides among active-duty soldiers; since the release of that report, one case has been removed for a total of 19 cases: nine have been confirmed as suicides and 10 remain under investigation. For 2012, there have been 177 potential active-duty suicides: 113 have been confirmed as suicides and 64 remain under investigation. Active-duty suicide number for 2011: 165 confirmed as suicides and no cases under investigation.

During November, among reserve component soldiers who were not on active duty, there were 15 potential suicides (12 Army National Guard and three Army Reserve): two have been confirmed as suicide and 13 remain under investigation. For October, among that same group, the Army reported 13 potential suicides; since the release of that report, one case has been removed for a total of 12 cases (eight Army National Guard and four Army Reserve); six have been confirmed as suicides and six remain under investigation. For 2012, there have been 126 potential not on active-duty suicides (84 Army National Guard and 42 Army Reserve): 97 have been confirmed as suicides and 29 remain under investigation. Not on active-duty suicide numbers for 2011: 118 (82 Army National Guard and 36 Army Reserve) confirmed as suicides and no cases under investigation.

"As part of the Army's team-based and holistic approach to suicide prevention and stigma reduction, Army chaplains remain committed to fostering a resilient and ready force by enhancing strength, reducing stigma and encouraging help-seeking behaviors," said the Army's Maj. Gen. Donald L. Rutherford, Chief of Chaplains. "Our soldiers, families and civilians are our most precious resource, and the chaplaincy embodies the best of our Army values when it proclaims hope, embraces community, and stands with those who feel they stand 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: and 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:  DOD Announcement, verbatim

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Let military question GIs about private guns

When we lost a servicemember, for whatever reason, it was a heart-wrenching experience. But it was worse in the case of those who took their own lives. Suicides have been a challenge for the U.S. military for a long time — and the problem is getting more severe. Suicides began rising in the middle of the 2000s, leveled off briefly in 2010 and 2011 and resumed climbing again this year, reaching a record high.

In fact, suicides have become an epidemic. This year, more soldiers, seamen, airmen and Marines died by their own hand than died in battle. Suicide was the No. 1 cause of death for U.S. troops. More than two-thirds of suicides involved firearms, and nearly three-quarters of those cases involved personal weapons, not military weapons.

Read the entire story here.

Sunday, December 09, 2012

Soldier's slaying in US is bitter irony for family

DENVER -- Army Spc. Brandy Fonteneaux's death came not on a battlefield in Afghanistan but on an infantry post in Colorado - allegedly at the hand of a fellow soldier - and that makes the pain even worse for her family.

The 28-year-old from Houston had been stabbed 74 times when she was found in her room in a Fort Carson barracks on Jan. 8, Army investigators said. Officials said she had also been choked.

"We could have taken this much better if Brandy had been killed in war," said Fonteneaux's aunt, Bevenley Thomas, who raised her from infancy. "But to be murdered here in the U.S. in your barracks in your sleep is just not right."

Read the entire story here.

Monday, December 03, 2012

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.