St. Louis native LaVena Johnson of was a bubbly, intelligent young woman who had high hopes of making an impact while serving her country. As a member of the military, Johnson served overseas in Iraq, just shortly after the U.S. embarked on the Iraq war.
Her tragic dreams were cut short when she was found dead in July of 2005, and while the United States Army ruled the death a suicide, Johnson’s family is demanding an investigation.
[John] Johnson maintains that his daughter was raped and killed, and that her death scene was staged to make it appear as if she shot herself. He accuses the Army of covering up for a killer or killers to conceal a soldier-on-soldier slaying, explaining that military personnel would have had unrestricted access to the area where his daughter died and therefore would not have attracted undue attention.
If LaVena’s death were investigated as a homicide, Johnson added, it would raise questions about base security and discourage women from enlisting.
There was no suicide note, no recovered bullet and no significant gunshot residue at the scene or on Johnson’s hands.
This isn’t the first time the military has been charged with conducting a botched investigation into the death of female personnel. 16 of 115 female service member deaths in Iraq & Afghanistan have been ruled suicides. Many of the families are left with no clear answers to details surrounding their loved one’s death, and distrust the service.
Officials say Johnson shot herself in the head with an M-16 automatic rifle, but her father points out that her 5′ 1″ frame does not support arms long enough to hold the weapon at such an angle. After studying the photos for several hours, Johnson’s father believes that his daughter was not only killed, but raped, beaten and tortured with chemicals.
“I’m not giving up,” he told the LA Times, “until somebody tells me the truth about what happened to my baby girl.”
Thoughts on the death and investigation of LaVena Johnson?
Until recently, very little is known about the LaVena Johnson case. Do you believe the United States Army is actively covering up the death?
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