Home / Assassination / ‘The Suicide Files: Death in the Military’ 4-Part Series runs in the Philadelphia Inquirer with Dozens of Military Personnel Suicided after Stumbling on Military Corruption

‘The Suicide Files: Death in the Military’ 4-Part Series runs in the Philadelphia Inquirer with Dozens of Military Personnel Suicided after Stumbling on Military Corruption

From December 19-22, 1993 The Philadelphia Inquirer ran a four part series titled ‘The Suicide Files: Death in the Military‘ by staff writer David Zucchino who detailed 14 families with stories of suspicious deaths ruled suicides. The 14 families accused the military of lying to them, covering up evidence, losing blood samples or other critical pieces of evidence, failing to interview key witnesses or perform basic forensic tests, and providing contradictory reports of precisely how and when their sons died. They also say that the Navy has denied them access to crucial investigative reports. All but three of the cases involve sailors and Marines whose deaths were investigated by the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, the civilian-run agency known as the NIS. The NIS has been found by outside agencies to have bungled investigations into the Tailhook sex scandal, the 1989 explosion aboard the USS Iowa, allegations of spying by U.S. Marines in Moscow, and the beating death of a gay sailor in Japan. Private investigators discovered cover up of murder in most of the suicide instances where the suicided military personnel had stumbled on to drug or gun smuggling.

The Suicide Files: Death in the Military

GRIEF AND SHOCK: THAT’S WHAT 40 FAMILIES FELT WHEN THEY WERE TOLD THEIR RELATIVES IN THE MILITARY DIED OF SELF-INFLICTED WOUNDS. THEIR PAIN DEEPENED, THOUGH, WHEN THEIR SEARCH FOR ANSWERS HIT A WALL OF SECRECY. THE FACTS CONTRADICT DEATH RULINGS —ON A LATE WINTER EVENING IN MARCH OF 1992, MILITARY POLICEMAN CHAD LANGFORD RADIOED THE SECURITY CENTER AT A SPRAWLING ARMY ARSENAL IN ALABAMA THAT HE WAS STOPPING TO ASSIST A STRANDED MOTORIST. SECONDS LATER, THE RADIO WENT DEAD.

AN MP DISPATCHED TO INVESTIGATE FOUND LANGFORD’S PATROL CAR, ITS HAZARD LIGHTS FLASHING AND ITS ENGINE RUNNING, ON A REMOTE GRAVEL ROAD OUTLINED IN PALE MOONLIGHT. NEXT TO THE CAR, THE MP SAID LATER, HE SAW ” A LOT OF BLOOD.”

ON THE ROAD BENEATH THE CAR’S OPEN FRONT DOOR LAY SPEC. 4 CHAD LANGFORD, DYING IN THE DARK OF A GUN SHOT TO HIS RIGHT TEMPLE.

LANGFORD’S BLOOD-STAINED MP CAP WAS STUFFED IN HIS MOUTH. HIS HANDCUFFS DANGLED FROM HIS LEFT WRIST. THE LANYARD CORD FROM HIS HOLSTER WAS WRAPPED AROUND HIS ANKLES, AND HIS CAR RADIO CABLE WAS KNOTTED AROUND HIS NECK. —AND LANGFORD’S .45-CALIBER SERVICE PISTOL, WHICH HAD BEEN FIRED TWICE, LAY UNDER HIS LEFT SHOULDER.TWO DAYS LATER-DESPITE THE BIZARRE DEATH SCENE AND BEFORE THE COMPLETION OF LAB TESTS-A MILITARY PATHOLOGIST ISSUED A RULING: —TWENTY YEAR OLD CHAD LANGFORD HAD COMMITTED SUICIDE IN TINY ELK CREEK, CALIF., LANGFORD’S FATHER WAS STUNNED BY THE NEWS. JUST 10 DAYS EARLIER, JIM LANGFORD SAID, CHAD HAD TOLD HIM HIS LIFE HAD BEEN THREATENED WHILE HE WAS ON AN UNDERCOVER DRUG INVESTIGATION. MONTHS LATER, LANGFORD’S GRIEF AND SHOCK TURNED TO OUTRAGE. AN ARMY REPORT SAID CHAD STAGED HIS OWN DEATH TO MAKE IT APPEAR THAT HE HAD
BEEN MURDERED.

BUT THE REPORT ALSO SAID SOMETHING ELSE: THE ARMY COULD NOT DETERMINE WHETHER CHAD’S FINGERPRINTS WERE ON THE GUN, OR WHETHER HE HAD FIRED A GUN AT ALL. AND UNIDENTIFIED FINGERPRINTS WERE FOUND ON HIS RADIO, MP ARMBAND AND HANDCUFFS.

“I THINK THEY GOT THIS BOY WRAPPED UP IN A DRUG INVESTIGATION THAT GOT HIM KILLED, AND NOW THEY DON’T WANT TO TAKE RESPONSIBILITY FOR IT,” LANGFORD SAID LAST MONTH, “I THINK THEY’RE COVERING UP SOMETHING BIG TIME.

ACROSS THE NATION, DOZENS OF GRIEVING FAMILIES HAVE ENDURED SIMILAR ORDEALS. LIKE JIM LANGFORD THEY SAY THE MILITARY HAS ERECTED A WALL OF SECRECY AND DECEPTION AROUND THE DEATHS OF SERVICEMEN ON BASES AND SHIPS HERE AND OVERSEAS.

FORTY FAMILIES HAVE TOLD THE INQUIRER THAT THEY WERE MISLED BY THE MILITARY AND GIVEN FALSE OR CONTRADICTORY INFORMATION ABOUT THE REPORTED SUICIDES OR ACCIDENTAL, SELF-INFLICTED DEATHS OF THEIR SONS, HUSBANDS OR BROTHERS.

IN MAY, THE INQUIRER REPORTED ON THE ACCOUNTS OF 14 FAMILIES WHO DISPUTED MILITARY RULINGS OF SUICIDE OR ACCIDENTAL, SELF-INFLICTING DEATHS.

SINCE THEN, 26 MORE FAMILIES HAVE TOLD SIMILAR STORIES TO THE NEWSPAPER. A SEVEN MONTH INQUIRER REVIEW OF DOCUMENTS IN THE 40 CASES, OBTAINED SINCE MAY THROUGH FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ACT REQUESTS, HAS FOUND A PATTERN OF PERFUNCTORY AND INCOMPLETE INVESTIGATIONS.

LAST MONTH, CONGRESS MANDATED A PENTAGON REVIEW OF THE MILITARY’S PROCEDURES FOR INVESTIGATION SELF-INFLICTED DEATHS. DESPITE THAT, MANY OF THE FAMILIES FEAR THEY WILL NEVER KNOW HOW THEIR SONS DIED. THEY HAVE DEMANDED INDEPENDENT INVESTIGATIONS.

SPOKESMEN FOR ALL THREE MILITARY INVESTIGATIVE SERVICES DEFEND THEIR WORK AS THOROUGH AND PROFESSIONAL AND DISPUTE COMPLAINTS THAT THEY ARE PRONE TO DECIDE PREMATURELY ON SUICIDE. THEY SAID DISTRAUGHT FAMILIES ARE RELUCTANT TO ACCEPT SUICIDE RULINGS.

THE ENQUIRER REVIEW FOUND THAT INVESTIGATORS LOST OR DESTROYED IMPORTANT EVIDENCE, MISHANDLED DEATH WEAPONS, FAILED TO PERFORM ROUTINE FORENSIC TESTS OR TO FOLLOW UP LEADS, MISQUOTED WITNESSES, AND FILED MISLEADING REPORTS.

IN SOME CASES, THE REVIEW FOUND EVIDENCE TO SUPPORT THE CONTENTIONS OF SOME FAMILIES THAT THEIR LOVED ONES WERE MURDERED. FOUR RETIRED MILITARY INVESTIGATORS WHO REVIEWED 19 OF THE CASES FOR THE INQUIRER SAID EVIDENCE DID NOT FULLY SUPPORT RULINGS OF SELF-INFLICTED DEATHS. THEY SAID MILITARY COMMANDERS, EAGER TO AVOID WHAT ONE EXPERT CALLED “BLACK MARKS ON THEIR RECORD,” OFTEN PRESS FOR QUICK RESOLUTION OF
CASES INVOLVING VIOLENT DEATH.

” I’M STUNNED,” JAMES W. KEEFE, AN ARMY CRIMINAL INVESTIGATOR AND SUPERVISOR FOR 20 YEARS, SAID AFTER REVIEWING FILES IN THREE OF THE CASES. “IF MY AGENTS HAD HANDED ME THESE KINDS OF INVESTIGATIONS, THEY’D HAVE ANOTHER SUICIDE – MINE”.

GENE WHEATON, WHO SPENT 17 YEARS SUPERVISING ARMY AND AIR FORCE CRIMINAL INVESTIGATIONS, SAID THE FOUR INVESTIGATIONS HE REVIEWED WERE SUPERFICIAL AND CONTAINED FAULTY ASSUMPTIONS.

“I WAS ABSOLUTELY ASTONISHED, ” SAID WHEATON, WHO ALSO INVESTIGATED THE DEATH OF A MARINE FOR THE MARINES FAMILY. “IF I HADN’T READ THESE CASES MYSELF, I WOULDN’T HAVE BELIEVED IT”.

WHEATON ADDED: ” I CAN’T UNDERSTAND HOW THESE REPORTS GOT THROUGH THE CHAIN OF COMMAND.”

FREDERICK R. McDANIEL A FORMER ARMY CRIMINAL INVESTIGATOR AND RETIRED KANSAS CITY POLICE CAPTAIN WHO REVIEWED THREE CASES FOR THE INQUIRER AND THREE OTHERS FOR FAMILY MEMBERS, SAID INVESTIGATORS SEEMED TO GIVE UNDUE EMPHASIS TO EVIDENCE THAT SUPPORTED THEIR ASSUMPTIONS OF SUICIDE. HE SAID HE DETECTED NO CONSPIRACY TO COVER UP MURDERS – ONLY POOR INVESTIGATIVE PRACTICES.

” I SEE UTTER INCOMPETENCE COMBINED WITH LAZINESS AND LACK OF EXPERIENCE,” HE SAID. “NOBODY GOES TO ANY TROUBLE TO DO A PROPER INVESTIGATION”.

RONALD F. DECKER, OF LEDERACH, PA., PRIVATE INVESTIGATOR WHO SPENT 12 YEARS AS AN AIR FORCE CRIMINAL INVESTIGATOR, REVIEWED NINE OF THE CASES.

THESE PEOPLE MAKE UP THEIR MINDS ON SUICIDE LONG BEFORE THEY SHOULD, ” DECKER SAID. “THEN THEY WORK LIKE HECK TO PROVE A SUICIDE AND TOTALLY DISREGARD ANY OTHER LEADS POINTING TO ACCIDENT OR HOMICIDE.”

TED L. GUNDERSON, THE FORMER HEAD OF THE FBI OFFICE IN LOS ANGELES WHO WAS HIRED BY A CALIFORNIA FAMILY TO INVESTIGATE THE PURPORTED SUICIDE OF THEIR MARINE SON, SAID: “IT’S CALLED COVER-UP. THEY COVER THEIR BUTTS.”

THE INQUIRER REVIEW FOUND THAT IN MOST CASES. INVESTIGATORS ASSUMED SUICIDE ALMOST FROM THE MOMENT THE VICTIMS WERE FOUND DEAD. THE INVESTIGATIVE FILES SUGGEST IN SOME CASES THAT AGENTS TAILORED REPORTS TO SUPPORT A RULING OF SUICIDE AND DOWN PLAYED EVIDENCE TO THE CONTRARY.

THOSE RULINGS WERE PASSED ALONG TO THE FAMILIES, WHO LATER DISCOVERED WHAT THEY REGARDED AS EVIDENCE SUGGESTING HOMICIDE OR ACCIDENTAL SHOOTINGS. THEY SAY THEIR QUESTIONS WERE MET BY SILENCE OR DENIALS.

IN CASE AFTER CASE, FAMILIES DESCRIBED HOW THEIR MOURNING WAS FOLLOWED FIRST BY SKEPTICISM, THEN BY DISBELIEF, AND FINALLY BY BITTERNESS AND A PROFOUND SENSE OF BETRAYAL:

THE NAVAL CRIMINAL INVESTIGATIVE SERVICE (NCIS) TRIED TO CONVINCE JOHN DAVID SABOW THAT HIS BROTHER, COL. JAMES SABOW, SHOT HIMSELF TO DEATH IN HIS BACK YARD IN CALIFORNIA IN 1991. CIVILIAN FORENSICS EXPERTS HIRED BY JOHN SABOW, A NEUROSURGEON, CONCLUDED THE COLONEL HAD BEEN MURDERED AND HIS BODY ARRANGED TO SIMULATE A SUICIDE. SABOW HAS FILED
A SUIT ACCUSING THE MILITARY OF COVERING UP THE DEATH, WHICH HE SAYS IS RELATED TO ALLEGED DRUG TRAFFICKING AT HIS BROTHER’S BASE. 

THE ARMY’S CRIMINAL INVESTIGATION COMMAND (CID) TRIED TO CONVINCE SIDNEY AND CARLOS WRIGHT THAT THEIR SON, ARMY SPEC 4 TERRY WRIGHT, SHOT HIMSELF IN THE HEAD WITH A RIFLE IN OCTOBER 1991. WRIGHT WORE GLOVES TOO THICK TO FIT THROUGH THE RIFLES TRIGGER HOUSING. AGENTS THREW AWAY EVIDENCE, AND NO FINGERPRINTS WERE TAKEN FROM WRIGHT’S GUN
OR CAR. AND THE AGENT WHO SUPERVISED THE INVESTIGATION NOW SAYS HE HAD SERIOUS DOUBTS ABOUT THE SUICIDE RULING.

THE AIR FORCE OFFICE OF SPECIAL INVESTIGATIONS (OSI) TRIED TO CONVINCE ROYAL AND LINDA SHULTS THAT THEIR SON, AIRMAN ALLEN SHULTS, HANGED HIMSELF WITH A SHEET STRUNG FROM A HYDRAULIC DOOR OPENER IN JULY 1992, EVEN THOUGH SHULTS WAS TALLER THAN THE LEVEL OF THE OPENER. INVESTIGATORS DID NOT PURSUE EVIDENCE SUGGESTING THAT OTHER PEOPLE WERE IN SHULTS’ ROOM THE NIGHT OF HIS DEATH. AND AUTOPSY PHOTOS SHOWED MARKS ON SHULTS’ NECK THAT A MEDICAL EXAMINER SAYS WERE NOT CAUSED BY THE SHEET.

THE NCIS TRIED TO CONVINCE BILL AND DONNA DIGMAN THAT THEIR SON, MARINE CAPT. JEFFREY DIGMAN , SHOT HIMSELF IN THE HEAD IN JANUARY 1989, EVEN THOUGH HE WOULD HAVE HAD TO CONTORT HIMSELF UP-SIDE DOWN TO PRODUCE THE BULLET TRAJECTORY.

THE FAMILY’S FORENSICS EXPERTS FOUND INJURIES ON DIGMANS CHEEK, ELBOW AND FINGER CONSISTENT WITH A STRUGGLE .

THE BULLET ENTERED INTO THE RIGHT SIDE OF THE HEAD OF THE LEFT HANDED CAPTAIN.

AND THE FORENSIC EXPERT SAID SOMEONE PROBABLY SHOT DIGMAN AND REARRANGED HIS BODY.

THE NCIS TRIED TO CONVINCE MARY GALLAGHER THAT HER SON, SEAMAN APPRENTICE TODD GALLAGHER, FELL TO HIS DEATH FROM A PHILADELPHIA ROOFTOP IN JUNE 1992. TWO CIVILIAN DOCTORS AND TWO MILITARY EMERGENCY MEDICAL TECHNICIANS SAID THEY THOUGHT GALLAGHER’S SEVERE HEAD INJURIES WERE CAUSED BY A BEATING, NOT A FALL. GALLAGHER’S SHIPMATES TOLD THE NCIS THAT HE HAD A DRUNKEN ARGUMENT WITH SAILORS FROM A RIVAL SHIP HOURS BEFORE HE DIED.

THE NCIS TRIED TO CONVINCE CATHERINE JAKOVIC, THAT HER SON, MARINE CPL. SCOTT JAKOVIC, ACCIDENTALLY SHOT HIMSELF IN THE HEAD WHILE ON GUARD DUTY IN OCTOBER 1991. LATER, THE NAVY CHARGED A FELLOW MARINE IN CONNECTION WITH THE SHOOTING. WHEN THAT MARINE WAS ACQUITTED IN MILITARY COURT, THE NAVY REVERTED TO ITS ORIGINAL RULING THAT JAKOVIC
HAD SHOT HIMSELF – BUT WHILE PLAYING RUSSIAN ROULETTE. 

THE NCIS TRIED TO CONVINCE LINDA HALLIGAN THAT HER SON, SGT. MARC REPETTI, A TEETOTALER MARINE WITH NO HISTORY OF MENTAL ILLNESS, SUDDENLY SHOT HIMSELF IN THE HEAD IN FEBRUARY 1992 AFTER WATCHING TV, SHARING A PIZZA, AND JOKING WITH HIS MEN WHILE ON SECURITY DUTY. THE NCIS RULED THE DEATH A SUICIDE, DESPITE FINDING NO FINGERPRINTS ON THE GUN THAT KILLED REPETTI AND ” NO APPARENT MOTIVE FOR SUICIDE.”

THE INQUIRER’S REVIEW OF THESE AND OTHER CASES INCLUDED AN EXAMINATION OF THOUSANDS OF PAGES OF MILITARY INVESTIGATIVE , FORENSIC AND AUTOPSY REPORTS OBTAINED UNDER THE FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ACT. IT AL SO INCLUDED MORE THAN 100 INTERVIEWS WITH FAMILY MEMBERS AND FRIENDS, PEOPLE WHO FOUND THE DEAD MEN’S BODIES, AND WITH EXPERTS IN MILITARY INVESTIGATIONS, SUICIDES AND FORENSICS.

THE FORMER MILITARY INVESTIGATORS SAID A SUICIDE RULING AVOIDS THE NEED TO GATHER EVIDENCE AGAINST A SUSPECT AND PROVE A MURDER CASE IN COURT. A SUICIDE RULING CLEARS A CASE QUICKLY, THEY SAID.

CIVILIAN MEDICAL EXAMINERS AND POLICE ARE DIRECTLY ACCOUNTABLE TO ELECTED OFFICIALS, AND THEIR SUICIDES NORMALLY ARE NOT RELEASED FOR MONTHS AND ARE HEAVILY CENSORED.

THE FORMER MILITARY INVESTIGATORS SAID SOME COMMANDERS MAY BE RELUCTANT TO ACKNOWLEDGE MURDERS ON THEIR SHIPS OR BASES, OR ALLEGATIONS OF DRUG OR WEAPONS TRAFFICKING. LOCAL COMMANDERS ARE THE FIRST SUPERVISORS TO APPROVE INVESTIGATIVE REPORTS AND HAVE THE MOST DIRECT SAY OVER THEIR CONTENT.

“THEY DON’T WANT ANY BLACK MARKS ON THEIR RECORD, ESPECIALLY A POSSIBLE HOMICIDE BY A MEMBER OF THE ARMED FORCES,” SAID DECKER, THE FORMER AIR FORCE INVESTIGATOR.

ATTEMPTS AT IMAGE CONTROL BY MILITARY INVESTIGATORS HAVE LED TO RECENT PUBLIC RELATIONS DISASTERS FOR THE PENTAGON – THE TAILHOOK SEX SCANDAL, THE BUNGLED USS IOWA  INVESTIGATION, AND TAINTED PROSECUTIONS OF U.S. MARINES ACCUSED OF SPYING IN MOSCOW.

A TAILHOOK REPORT BY THE PENTAGON’S INSPECTOR GENERAL SAID NAVY COMMANDERS “ERRED WHEN THEY ALLOWED THEIR CONCERN FOR THE NAVY AS AN INSTITUTION TO OBSCURE THE NEED TO DETERMINE ACCOUNTABILITY FOR THE MISCONDUCT.”

WITH COMMANDERS UNDER PRESSURE TO CLEAR CASES, THERE IS LITTLE INCENTIVE TO LET DEATHS REMAIN IN THE “UNDETERMINED” CATEGORY, THE FORMER INVESTIGATORS SAID.

” THEY WANT THESE CASES CLOSED,” DECKER SAID. “AN UNSOLVED HOMICIDE IS A TERRIBLE THING TO HAVE ON THE BOOKS. SO THEY CLOSE THEM OUT AS SUICIDE. WHO’S GOING TO COMPLAIN ABOUT AN EXTRA SUICIDE OR TWO – EXCEPT MAYBE THE FAMILIES.”

HE ADDED: “YOU’VE GOT CASES OF A SUPERVISOR TELLING AN AGENT TO CLOSE OUT A CASE BEFORE THE LAB TESTS ARE EVEN IN.”

THE FORMER MILITARY INVESTIGATORS SAID THE MILITARY VIOLATED ITS OWN INVESTIGATIVE PROCEDURES BY PURSUING SUICIDE THEORIES WITHOUT FIRST RULING OUT MURDER OR ACCIDENTAL DEATH. THEY SAID AGENTS IN MANY OF THE CASES THEY REVIEWED SEEMED INEXPERIENCED.

FOR INSTANCE, IN SEVERAL CASES AGENTS DID NOT INTERROGATE SERVICEMEN WHO REPORTED FINDING PURPORTED GUNSHOT SUICIDE VICTIMS TO DETERMINE WHETHER THEY HAD A ROLE IN THE DEATHS. AN ARMY INVESTIGATIVE MANUAL SAYS OF ACCIDENTAL SHOOTINGS: “THE REPORT IS OFTEN MADE BY THE PERSON WHO FIRED THE GUN.”

THE EX-INVESTIGATORS ALSO SAID MILITARY AGENTS ARE NOT SUBJECTED TO THE SAME STANDARDS OF SCRUTINY AS CIVILIAN HOMICIDE DETECTIVES, WHOSE CONCLUSIONS ARE ROUTINELY CHALLENGED BY PROSECUTORS, JUDGES, DEFENSE LAWYERS AND CITIZENS’ GROUPS.

“THEY’RE RESPONSIBLE TO NOBODY BUT THEMSELVES,” MCDANIEL SAID. “THEY OPERATE IN A CLOSED WORLD.”

THERE IS LITTLE ADVERSARIAL OR FACE-TO-FACE QUESTIONING OF INVESTIGATORS IN MILITARY DEATHS THAT ARE RULED SELF-INFLICTED, THE EX-INVESTIGATORS SAID. CASE REPORTS ARE REVIEWED ON PAPER BY COMMANDERS, OTHER INVESTIGATORS AND FORENSIC EXPERTS AT VARIOUS LEVELS WITHIN THE MILITARY, OFFICIALS SAID.

IN SOME CASES, WHEATON SAID, “IF THEY DON’T HAVE A CLEAR-CUT CASE OF MURDER AND A SUSPECT, THEY JUST WRITE IT OFF AS A SUICIDE. THEN THEY HAVE TO TWIST THE FACTS LATER, AFTER THE FAMILIES START ASKING QUESTIONS.”

NADINE GILMORE, WHO DISPUTES A NAVY RULING OF SUICIDE IN THE HANGING DEATH OF HER SON IN JANUARY, SAID: “IT’S EASIER FOR THEM TO SWEEP IT UNDER THE RUG BY CALLING IT SUICIDE THAN TO DO A PROFESSIONAL INVESTIGATION.” 

SINCE 1979, THE MILITARY HAS RULED THAT 1,460 DEATHS WERE HOMICIDES. MORE THAN TWICE AS MANY DEATHS – 3,375 – WERE RULED SELF-INFLICTED, ACCORDING TO PENTAGON STATISTICS. BETWEEN OCTOBER 1992 AND JUNE , THE NUMBER OF DEATHS RULED SELF-INFLICTED WAS MORE THAN TRIPLE THE NUMBER RULED HOMICIDES – 194 TO 62.
  
PENTAGON FIGURES SHOW THAT SELF-INFLICTED DEATHS ARE THE THIRD-LEADING CAUSE OF DEATH IN THE PEACETIME MILITARY, AFTER ACCIDENTS AND ILLNESS.

SINCE 1979, THE AIR FORCE HAS REPORTED 886 SELF-INFLICTED DEATHS AND 204 HOMICIDES. THE RESPECTIVE NUMBERS FOR THE NAVY WERE 849 SELF-INFLICTED DEATHS AND 400 HOMICIDES: FOR THE ARMY 1,265 AND 657: AND FOR THE MARINE CORPS 375 AND 199.

IN THE UNITED STATES AS A WHOLE, THERE ARE ROUGHLY EIGHT HOMICIDES FOR EVERY 10 SUICIDES IN A TYPICAL YEAR. 

THE FAMILIES CONTEND THAT A SUICIDE RULING IS A CONVENIENT CATCH-ALL USED TO EXPLAIN DEATHS IN WHICH THE PHYSICAL EVIDENCE IS INCONCLUSIVE OR CONTRADICTORY.

“BLAME THE DEAD – THEY CAN’T COMPLAIN,” SAID THE MOTHER OF ONE SERVICEMAN WHOSE DEATH WAS RULED SUICIDE.

OFFICIALS FOR THE THREE MILITARY INVESTIGATIVE AGENCIES DEFENDED THEIR INVESTIGATIONS AS THOROUGH AND PROFESSIONAL. THEY SAID THE HAVE ANSWERED FAMILIES QUESTIONS IN DETAIL, HAVE REVIEWED CONTESTED CASES, AND HAVE PROVIDED ALL INFORMATION ALLOWED BY LAW.

“THE FAMILY MEMBERS WHO HAVE EXPRESSED THEIR CONCERNS AND THIS ORGANIZATION HAVE MORE IN COMMON THAN NOT,” ROBERT J. FINAN 3D, ASSISTANT DIRECTOR TO THE NCIS, SAID IN A WRITTEN REPLY TO QUESTIONS FROM THE INQUIRER.

” WE ARE UNITED IN OUR DESIRE TO RESOLVE THESE CASES TOTALLY, FACTUALLY AND EXPEDITIOUSLY.”

FINAN ADDED: “WE UNDERSTAND THEIR CONCERN AND WELCOME PROFESSIONAL EXAMINATION.”

AN NCIS SPOKESMAN, CMDR. KEVIN MUKRI, DENIED ALLEGATIONS THAT MILITARY AGENTS TAILOR EVIDENCE TO FIT A SUICIDE RULING TO CLEAR CASES.

“WE DO NOT TAKE SHORTCUTS JUST TO GET A CASE OVER WITH,” MUKRI SAID. “MISTAKES ARE ONE THING, BUT RUSHING THROUGH A CASE JUST TO GET IT CLOSED IS ANOTHER. I CHALLENGE ANYONE TO PROVE THAT…..THERE IS NO CAREER BENEFIT FOR AN AGENT TO GO EASY ON A CASE.”
  
MILITARY AUTHORITIES POINT OUT THAT THE OFFICIAL MANNER OF DEATH IS DETERMINED BY A MEDICAL EXAMINER OR PATHOLOGIST, WORKING WITH EVIDENCE PRESENTED BY INVESTIGATORS.

KENNETH A MILLER , A SPOKESMAN FOR THE ARMY’S CID COMMAND , SAID THE AGENCY HAD REVIEWED FAMILIES COMPLAINTS IN MANY CASES, BUT FOUND NO EVIDENCE TO WARRANT CHANGING FINDINGS OF SUICIDE OR SELF-INFLICTED DEATH.

“WE RECOGNIZE THAT THE GRIEF OF A DECEASED SOLDIER”S FAMILY MAY BE COMPOUNDED BY A FINDING OF SUICIDE,” MILLER SAID IN A WRITTEN REPLY TO QUESTIONS FROM THE INQUIRER. “HOWEVER, WE ARE PROFESSIONALLY OBLIGATED TO REPORT THE CONCLUSION SUPPORTED BY EVIDENCE.”

MILLER ADDED: “REINVESTIGATION MUST BE BASED ON MORE THAN SIMPLE, UNSUPPORTED SPECULATION, SUCH AS A CLAIM THAT ‘SOMETHING MUST HAVE BEEN OVERLOOKED’, OR MERE DENIAL OF THE CASE’S FACTS.”

MAJ. JAMES G. PASIERB, DIRECTOR OF PUBLIC AFFAIRS FOR AIR FORCE OSE, SAID HIS AGENCY’S INVESTIGATIONS ARE AS PROFESSIONAL AND THOROUGH AS THE FBI’S OR ANY BIG CITY POLICE DEPARTMENT’S.

“AS A DADDY, MY HEART GOES OUT TO THESE PEOPLE.” PASIERB SAID OF THE 40 FAMILIES. “IT’S VERY DIFFICULT TO BELIEVE A SON WOULD DO SOMETHING SO DRASTIC AS SUICIDE……BUT WE HAVE ANSWERED ALL INQUIRIES INTO THESE CASES AND SUPPLIED A GREAT DEAL OF INFORMATION” THAT SUPPORTS FINDINGS OF SELF-INFLICTED DEATHS.

OFFICIALS AT ALL THREE AGENCIES SAID FAMILIES WERE SO DISTRAUGHT THAT THEY REFUSED TO CONSIDER THE POSSIBILITY OF SUICIDE OR AN ACCIDENTAL, SELF-INFLICTED DEATH.

EXPERTS WHO STUDY SUICIDES SAY FAMILIES OF VICTIMS WHOSE DEATHS ARE RULED SELF-INFLICTED OFTEN DENY THAT THEIR RELATIVES HAD TAKEN THEIR OWN LIVES.

“A SUICIDE IS A VERY STIGMATIZED DEATH. THERE IS A NATURAL RELUCTANCE TO ACCEPT IT”, SAID RONALD W. MARIS, A UNIVERSITY OF SOUTH CAROLINA PSYCHOLOGIST AND AUTHOR OF ASSESSMENT AND PREDICTION OF SUICIDE.

“IN ANY SUICIDE, FAMILY MEMBERS ARE BIASED,” MARIS SAID. “THEY FEEL GUILT, THEY DON’T WANT TO BLAME THEIR CHILD. IT’S EASIER TO BLAME THE MILITARY.”

CMDR. MUKRI, THE NCIS SPOKESMAN, SAID “THESE FAMILIES ARE SINCERE, BUT IT MAY BE IMPOSSIBLE TO SATISFY THEM.”

IN THE HOURS BEFORE HE DIED, CHAD LANGFORD SEEMED A MAN ROUTINELY GOING ABOUT HIS ‘DUTIES’ AND JOB.

TWO WOMEN TOLD INVESTIGATORS THAT LANGFORD CALLED THEM DURING THE LATE AFTERNOON AND EARLY EVENING OF MARCH 12, 1992, AND CHATTED AMIABLY. ONE WOMAN SAID SHE SPOKE WITH LANGFORD JUST BEFORE 8 P.M.— OR MINUTES BEFORE THE TIME INVESTIGATORS SAID LANGFORD SHOT HIMSELF.

THE WOMAN SAID “SHE DID NOT DETECT FEAR IN SPC LANGFORD’S VOICE AND THAT HE SEEMED TO BE TALKING NORMALLY,” SAID A REPORT BY THE ARMY’S CID.

ACCORDING TO THE REPORT, THE WOMAN SAID SHE AND LANGFORD ARRANGED TO MEET AT 1 P.M., WHEN HIS SHIFT WAS TO END.

ANOTHER WOMAN, A COLLEGE STUDENT, TOLD INVESTIGATORS THAT LANGFORD HAD CALLED THAT AFTERNOON AND ASKED HER TO DROP BY THE MP STATION TO VISIT HIM THAT NIGHT. SHE SAID SHE CALLED LANGFORD LATER AND SAID SHE WOULDN’T BE ABLE TO DO SO.

AN MP WHO RODE ON PATROL WITH LANGFORD UNTIL 6 P.M. THAT DAY TOLD INVESTIGATORS THAT LANGFORD “SEEMED TO BE IN A GOOD MOOD AND EVEN SEEMED TO JOKE AROUND.”

ANOTHER SOLDIER TOLD INVESTIGATORS LANGFORD CALLED HIM AN HOUR BEFORE HE DIED TO CHAT BRIEFLY AND ASK HOW HE WAS DOING.

EVEN SO, THE CID CONCLUDED THAT LANGFORD HAD STAGED HIS DEATH. IT BASED THAT CONCLUSION IN PART ON A POST-MORTEM EVALUATION OF LANGFORD’S MENTAL HEALTH BY AN ARMY  PSYCHOLOGIST WHO INTERVIEWED HIS FRIENDS, CO-WORKERS, AND FAMILY MEMBERS.

THE PSYCHOLOGIST SPECULATED THAT LANGFORD KILLED HIMSELF BECAUSE OF GIRL FRIEND PROBLEMS AND “EMOTIONAL INSTABILITY.” A CID REPORT QUOTED A FELLOW SOLDIER AS SAYING THAT DAYS BEFORE HIS DEATH, LANGFORD HAD LAUGHED AND TOLD HIM:”I AM GOING TO DIE.”

THE PSYCHOLOGIST CONCLUDED: “IT SEEMS THAT SPC LANGFORD WAS DETERMINED TO KILL HIMSELF IN A FASHION THAT WOULD SUGGEST HE HAD BEEN MURDERED IN THE LINE OF DUTY.”

AN INQUIRER REVIEW OF THE CID REPORT INVESTIGATIVE FILES FOUND EVIDENCE THAT RAISED QUESTIONS ABOUT THE SUICIDE RULING:

  • RESIDUE TESTS OF LANGFORD’S HANDS WERE INCONCLUSIVE AS TO WHETHER HE HAD FIRED A GUN.
  • NO BLOOD OR BRAIN TISSUE WAS FOUND ON THE PISTOL — EVEN THOUGH SUICIDE EXPERTS SAY SUCH “BLOWBACK” IS NORMALLY FOUND ON GUNS USED BY PEOPLE WHO SHOOT THEMSELVES IN THE HEAD.
  • WHILE INVESTIGATORS DETERMINED THAT THE SHELL CASINGS FOUND NEAR LANGFORD’S BODY WERE FIRED FROM THE PISTOL, THEY DID NOT TRY TO DETERMINE WHETHER THAT GUN FIRED THE BULLET THAT KILLED HIM.
  • THE PISTOL WAS FOUND BENEATH THE LEFT SHOULDER OF LANGFORD, WHO WAS A RIGHT HANDED SHOOTER.
  • THE CIVILIAN DEATH CERTIFICATE, INSTEAD OF LISTING LANGFORD’S DEATH AS A SUICIDE, PUT IT IN THE CATEGORY OF “UNDETERMINED CAUSE.”

IN ADDITION, BUTTONS TORN FROM LANGFORD’S SHIRT WERE FOUND ON THE FRONT SEAT OF HIS PATROL CAR. THE CID REPORT SPECULATED THAT THEY WERE RIPPED OFF BY EMERGENCY PERSONNEL. WITNESSES TOLD CID THAT LANGFORD WAS TREATED ON THE ROAD, NOT INSIDE THE CAR.

LANGFORD’S RADIO, ARMBAND AND MP BADGE WERE FOUND IN THE MIDDLE OF THE ROAD A SHORT DISTANCE FROM HIS BODY. THE CID REPORT SPECULATED THAT LANGFORD PUT THEM THERE AND THEN DROVE TO THE DEATH SCENE , WHERE HE SAT DOWN NEXT TO HIS CAR AND SHOT HIMSELF. IT NOTED THAT THE ARMBAND HAD BEEN CAREFULLY UNPINNED , RATHER THAN RIPPED , FROM LANGFORD’S UNIFORM.

AS FOR THE TWO BULLETS FIRED FROM THE GUN, THE REPORT SPECULATED THAT LANGFORD FIRED THE FIRST SHOT TO MAKE IT APPEAR THAT SOMEONE HAD FIRED AT HIM AND MISSED.

KEEFE, THE FORMER CID INVESTIGATOR WHO REVIEWED THE REPORT FOR THE INQUIRER, SAID THE EVIDENCE DOES NOT SUPPORT A SUICIDE RULING.

” IT SMELLS BAD, ” KEEFE SAID OF THE REPORT.

KEEFE, A PRIVATE INVESTIGATOR IN NEW YORK, SAID THE REPORT INDICATED THAT INVESTIGATORS QUICKLY ASSUMED THAT LANGFORD HAD KILLED HIMSELF, THEN SOUGHT EVIDENCE TO SUPPORT THAT THEORY.

“IT APPEARS THAT THE CAUSE OF DEATH AND THE MANNER OF DEATH WERE A FOREGONE CONCLUSION,” KEEFE SAID, “THIS IS HIGHLY IRREGULAR.”

THE CID REPORT GIVES LITTLE INDICATION THAT INVESTIGATORS ATTEMPTED TO IDENTIFY OR PURSUE A SUSPECT, ALTHOUGH GATES AT REDSTONE ARSENAL WERE ORDERED CLOSED JUST AFTER THE SHOOTING.

AN MP SENT TO LOOK FOR LANGFORD TOLD THE CID THAT JUST AFTER THE SHOOTING, HE HAD STOPPED A CIVILIAN IN A WHITE CAR LEAVING THE AREA WHERE LANGFORD WAS FOUND, BUT THE MP SAID HE LET THE MAN GO WITHOUT GETTING HIS NAME OR LICENSE NUMBER.

LAB TESTS LATER CONCLUDED THAT WHITE PAINT FLECKS FOUND ON LANGFORD’S PISTOL DID NOT MATCH THE WHITE PAINT FROM HIS CHEVROLET LUMINA PATROL CAR.

About histor90_wp

Leave a Reply

x

Check Also

victor-thorn

Author of Clinton Trilogy, Victor Thorn, Found Dead

“Victor Thorn, who wrote four books exposing the Clinton’s, reportedly killed himself with a gun on his 54th birthday, August 1, while on top of a mountain near his Pennsylvania ...