Charges Filed in Fort Bragg Beheading Case

The US Army has filed prison prices associated to the case of Enrique Roman-Martinez, a 21-year-old soldier in the 82nd Airborne Division whose beheading stays one of the crucial baffling of the various unsolved killings to have taken place at Fort Bragg these days.

Specialist Alex Becerra, who in response to a number of sources deliberate and arranged the tenting journey to the North Carolina seashore that preceded Roman-Martinez’s disappearance and demise, has been charged with conspiracy; dereliction of responsibility; two counts of creating false official statements; three counts of disobeying a superior officer; and wrongful possession, use, or distribution of a managed substance — however not homicide or manslaughter.

Roman-Martinez’s demise occurred over Memorial Day weekend of 2020. The mysterious sequence of occasions, which stay utterly unexplained, started when a bunch of seven troopers, plus Roman-Martinez, defied a pandemic lockdown order to go on a tenting journey to Camp Lookout National Seashore. Friday night time it rained closely. The subsequent day, round 7 p.m., the group of troopers reported Roman-Martinez lacking. Becerra was the one who spoke to a 911 dispatcher. “We lost our friend,” he mentioned. “When we woke up he was not here, and we’ve been looking for him all day. We were trying to find the park ranger or their offices or anything.”

That final half wasn’t true, it later emerged. Earlier in the day, park rangers had approached the group to ask them to maneuver their automobiles, which have been encroaching on protected sand dunes. At no time throughout that interplay did the off-duty troopers point out a lacking particular person, a spokesman for the nationwide park informed Army Times shortly after the recording of the 911 name was made public.

Becerra additionally volunteered, unprompted, that Roman-Martinez might need taken his personal life. “We might be afraid he might have hurt himself,” he informed the dispatcher. “He wasn’t diagnosed, but he did have suicidal tendencies.”

The sufferer’s sister, Griselda Roman-Martinez, says there’s no fact to that, both. “I spoke to him that Wednesday and we talked about him leaving the Army,” she tells Rolling Stone. “There was no way he wanted to end his life. He had too many plans.”

About every week after her brother went lacking, on May 29, 2020, his severed head washed ashore on Shackleford Banks, not removed from the troopers’ campsite. The medical expert at Fort Bragg decided that the reason for demise was seemingly murder. The remainder of his physique has not been discovered.

Nineteen months glided by with no obvious developments in the case. The seven troopers who have been on the tenting journey claimed that Roman-Martinez merely walked away in the nighttime, by no means to be seen once more, and brokers with the Army’s Criminal Investigative Division, or CID,  couldn’t appear to get any extra data out of them.

“CID has told me they’re quite confident it’s murder by one or more of the seven other soldiers,” says Dustin Collier, an legal professional representing the Roman-Martinez household professional bono. “They have told me, while they don’t have enough to charge for homicide, they have ample for lesser offenses, that they could use to leverage people to flip.”

Now the Army has quietly docketed a raft of prices towards Becerra. A spokesman for the 82nd Airborne Division declined to supply the cost sheet — which might spell out the factual foundation for bringing Becerra up on a courtroom martial — however confirmed that the costs are associated to the disappearance and demise of Roman-Martinez.

Reached by telephone, Becerra declined to remark. “I have plenty to say,” he informed Rolling Stone, “but I prefer not to say anything at this time.” He gave no indication of how he intends to plead at his arraignment, scheduled for January twentieth.

Why anybody would have wished Roman-Martinez useless is an entire thriller. There are not any apparent suspects. But some components of the account of his disappearance given by the seven troopers who final noticed him alive don’t add up.

Christian Romero, a highschool good friend of Roman-Martinez who joined the Army across the identical time and in addition had been stationed at Fort Bragg, says he can’t perceive why Becerra deliberate a tenting journey at a time when the climate was so foul. “It was raining nonstop,” he tells Rolling Stone. “The ferry was closed. The tents blew over. Enrique just wanted to go home. That’s why he walked away in the middle of the night.”

This is in response to what Romero says he heard from troopers who have been on the tenting journey. They informed the identical story to authorities, who associated it Griselda. But the group of seven additionally informed investigators that Roman-Martinez had left his pockets, telephone, and glasses behind in the tent, which Griselda says may be very unlikely. Her “baby brother,” whom she “always took care of,” may barely see with out his pair of thick glasses, she says, and by no means would have left them behind voluntarily.

A canine tag to commemorating Army Specialist Enrique Roman-Martinez.

Keith Birmingham/MediaNews Group/Pasadena Star-News/Getty Images

Collier, the legal professional representing the Roman-Martinez household, says that shortly after calling 911, the group of troopers alerted their unit, the thirty seventh Brigade Engineer Battalion of the 82nd Airborne Division, however that their battalion commander, Lt. Col. Scotty Autin, waited until Monday morning to tell the CID, which delayed till the next Friday to safe Roman-Martinez’s barracks as against the law scene. “By that time,” Collier says. “He had been missing for almost a full week.”

According to Collier, who’s had a number of briefings with the CID process drive investigating the case, one of many seven campers entered Roman-Martinez’s room earlier than it was locked down. Griselda says that her brother, a delicate younger man who was into Buddhism and crystals, saved a day by day journal. It has not been discovered.

Attempts to succeed in Autin by telephone have been unsuccessful.

In August 2021, CID elevated the reward for data in the case to $50,000, the most important sum the Army has ever provided. But CID’s press launch included an odd assertion that appeared to backhandedly push the idea that Roman-Martinez had been decapitated by a boat-propellor strike. CID urged members of the general public to come back ahead “if you were operating a boat in the area and recall possibly hitting something in the water.”

Griselda calls it “the stupidest statement I’ve ever read,” as a result of the medical expert, in his post-mortem report, had particularly dominated out the potential for a propellor strike — or shark assault — as the reason for the jagged chop accidents to her brother’s head and neck, which left his jaw damaged in two locations. Also, she says, there’s no manner he would have gone swimming in the useless of night time throughout a thunderstorm, far out to sea the place powered watercraft function. “They are trying to deter this investigation from a homicidal one to an accidental one,” she says, “and in my opinion they look ridiculous and incompetent.”

In November 2021, CID introduced that “after exhausting hundreds of leads and thousands of hours of investigation,” the file had been moved to “cold case status.”

It’s unclear whether or not the costs towards Becerra sign a brand new growth in the case, or whether or not army prosecutors are merely charging him for being untruthful with investigators. Despite his apparently inconsistent statements, neither he nor any of the opposite six troopers who have been on the tenting journey had any recognized motive to hurt their good friend. To date, there’s not even a believable principle of why anybody would have wished to homicide such a completely good man, a lot much less viciously decapitate him.

By all accounts, Roman-Martinez had no disputes with anybody. Though he was airborne certified, he was noncombat help soldier, an HR specialist, who sat in entrance of a computer all day. He was a “hippie,” Griselda says, into nature and spirituality, a powerful believer in girls’s rights, staunchly supportive of his feminine associates. He was only a few months from getting out of the Army, and had plans to purchase a brand new automobile, make a journey to Japan, and go to varsity on the GI Bill. “He would never hurt another person,” she says, wiping tears from her eyes. “Nothing justifies the way they murdered him.”

Last May, Rolling Stone was the primary to report that medicine — particularly, LSD — might need performed some position in no matter went down that Memorial Day weekend. Griselda says that her brother was an enthusiastic proponent of hallucinogenic mushrooms, which he believed held the remedy for psychological sickness. Romero says that Roman-Martinez additionally took LSD, and that Becerra was allegedly recognized across the barracks as a small-time supplier of acid tabs. The drug cost towards Becerra, which could possibly be for easy possession or a extra critical accusation of distribution, reveals that army prosecutors suspect him of some form of narcotics offense.

The element is perhaps a purple herring. Kids in their early twenties go on tenting journeys and get drunk and journey on psychedelics on a regular basis. But Roman-Martinez’s demise came about amid a surge in drug crime on Fort Bragg, with a number of murders with obvious hyperlinks to the use or distribution of narcotics on-post. And there are few different clues in his killing, which was simply one among a large wave of fatalities at Fort Bragg over the previous two years, together with repeated cases of fratricidal soldier-on-soldier violence, and actually dozens of deaths for which there isn’t any rationalization in any respect.

In one case, an elite Delta Force soldier suspected of trafficking medicine was discovered useless on an Army coaching grounds, the sufferer of an apparently skilled hit by expert assassins. In one other, a closely pregnant Army spouse named Sarah Lewis was brutally murdered by her steroid-enraged husband, a medic in the first Special Forces Command, who then died by suicide. Not lengthy after that, a parachute rigger in the seventh Special Forces Group named Tiara Vinson allegedly walked as much as Kelia Horton, her rival for the affections of a 3rd soldier, and shot her in the face. Most lately, a workers sergeant in the 82nd Airborne named Alonzo Dargan allegedly did a high-speed drive-by taking pictures on his extramarital mistress, Akeila Ware, the second pregnant girl to be allegedly murdered by a Fort Bragg soldier in the span of a year.

Sadly, the killings didn’t finish there. In September 2021, a warrant officer named Anthony Rivera was charged with the homicide of two toddlers he’d adopted, each of whom died of blunt drive trauma. In addition, no fewer than 5 Fort Bragg troopers have been charged with or convicted of raping youngsters below the age of 13 over the course of simply six months in 2021.

Meanwhile, Fort Bragg troopers have been turning up “unresponsive” in their barracks on a disturbingly common foundation for the reason that starting of 2020, together with Caleb Smither, Terrance Salazar, Jamie Boger, Joshua Diamond, Matthew Disney, Mikel Rubino, Michael Hamilton, and quite a few others who haven’t been named. Drugs might have been concerned in the instances of Diamond and Disney, who have been found dead on the identical day in June 2021, simply two weeks after an airborne grasp sergeant named Martin Acevedo III was charged with trafficking cocaine. Otherwise, there was completely no rationalization from the Army for a way these apparently wholesome younger males died.

Likewise, in January 2021, an Army captain named Robert Latham died from an “apparent heart attack,” regardless of being 32 years previous and seemingly in glorious bodily situation. In October, a extremely educated Green Beret and intelligence sergeant named Calvin Rockward died from a “sudden, unexpected medical event,” although he was solely 38 and in even higher form, to go by his Instagram images.

In whole, a staggering 83 active-duty troopers stationed at Fort Bragg died in the 18 months ending June 2021, in response to information obtained by Rolling Stone. Only 11 of those deaths have been from “natural causes.” Many, maybe a plurality, have been suicides. But in no fewer than 33 instances, the Army has categorised the reason for demise as “undetermined.”

In different phrases, the Army can’t or received’t say how a complete platoon’s value of troopers died at its largest set up, dwelling of the Special Forces, the Airborne Corps, and the Joint Special Operations Command. Over this identical 18-month interval, simply three Fort Bragg troopers died in abroad fight, which means these elite troops are a dizzying 27 instances extra prone to die stateside than in conflict zones comparable to Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria.

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