The suspicious casualty of LaVena Johnson stays listed as a suicide, even though all the information points to killing.
On the evening of July 18, 2005, an excited LaVena Johnson said to her parents that she would be home from Iraq for Christmas.
LaVena was fresh out of high school when she chose to join the military despite her parents’ displeasure. Thinking of the financial burdens her parents would confront putting both of them. And her sister through college at the same time, LaVena discontinued college and joined the military.
St. Louis, Missouri native never made it to college.
She never made it home for Christmas, either.
LaVena never made it home alive.
LaVena Johnson’s parents picked their precious daughter up from the airport–in a coffin, wrapped with an American flag.
In May of 2005, just one year after finishing high school, 19-year-old LaVena was deployed with the 129 Corp Support Battalion to Balad, Iraq.
Eight weeks after reaching Iraq and eight days shy of her 20th birthday, LaVena Johnson perished under uncertain situations.
LaVena came to be the first woman soldier to perish while serving in Iraq or Afghanistan.
The military notified her parents, Dr. John, and Linda Johnson, that LaVena perished from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Her casualty was ruled a suicide.
Dr. Johnson, a military vet himself, instantly became cautious, as was his wife, whose sudden reaction was “No, not my baby. She wouldn’t do this to herself.”
The more Dr. Johnson was told about his daughter’s demise, the more Dr. Johnson felt that LaVena’s “suicide” wasn’t a suicide at all. He and his wife became confident that their lovely little girl was killed.
Dr. Johnson was told that LaVena shot herself in the mouth with her military-granted service weapon. LaVena’s service weapon was a 40 inch M-16. His daughter, only 5’1″ and less than 100 lbs would have had an enormous problem maneuvering an M-16 into her mouth and then firing.
The Johnson family was told that LaVena was depressed because her brand new boyfriend of two months had broken up with her via email. The military contends that LaVena printed the emails out, stuffed them in her pocket, slung her M-16 service weapon over her shoulder, and went to buy M&Ms and a six-pack of soda at a military shop with an anonymous male friend. The military alleges the two came back to the barracks, but then LaVena left again, lonely this time. She made her way to a tent belonging to Kellogg Brown and Root (KBR), a military contractor.
Once LaVena was in the KBR tent, the military tells she discovered a can of aerosol and lit the breakup emails on fire–and then the whole tent. According to the military, the agitated LaVena, only 61″ tall herself, then put the 40″ M-16 into her mouth and fired. The Army’s investigative departments concluded their investigation–LaVena Johnson murdered herself. Shortly after, the Armed Services Committee in the Senate signed off on LaVena’s casualty. The case was shut.
Nonetheless, once Johnson’s received LaVena’s corpse, the anxieties of a grieving mum and dad no longer looked like suspicions, but certainties. They were sure their daughter had been killed in Iraq.
LaVena’s corpse would tell the story that LaVena herself could no longer tell.
The US Military’s autopsy indicated that LaVena sustained a busted lip, shattered teeth, scratch marks on her neck, but no severe injuries.
Dr. Johnson himself saw his daughter’s face was damaged. He later discovered that plastic surgery had been accomplished on LaVena’s face to hide a broken nose.
He saw that the bullet wound in his daughter’s head looked too tiny to be from an M-16 and that it was on the left side. LaVena was right-handed. The military reacted that it was an exit wound from an M-16. Yet two ballistics specialists, Donald Marion and Cyril Wecht, state that LaVena’s alleged M-16 exit wound is more compatible with a bullet wound from a 9 MM pistol.
The bullet that murdered LaVena was never discovered and the military’s residue tests imply that she may not have even dealt with the weapon that supposedly murdered her.
Even more worrisome, her white dress gloves had been glued to her hands, hiding third-degree burns.
Dr. Johnson was deeply worried and distressed by the discrepancies in what the Army’s inquiry discovered versus what he was noticing.
Over the next few years, through the Freedom of Information Act, the Johnsons slowly started to collect evidence about what had occurred to LaVena.
LaVena Johnson Once the military was compelled to hand over color images of the crime spectacle and the autopsy, more data came to light.
The images indicated that his daughter had scrapes and scratches on the upper part of her body; there were even teeth marks. She seemed to have been bitterly beaten. Something that Dr. Johnson thought to be lye or another caustic substance had been poured on her vaginal area, most probably to eradicate any DNA indication from rape. There was a trail of blood leading outside of the tent, indicating that LaVena had been pulled into the tent after the assault, and then the tent was set on fire.
Dr. Johnson and his family attempted to recruit the assistance of the mainstream media; CBS paid for a second autopsy. The second autopsy discovered that LaVena’s neck was broken. Parts of her vagina, tongue, and anus had been removed.
The military’s autopsy remarks none of this; nor were the Johnsons notified parts of their daughter’s corpse had been removed.