FORT BRAGG, N.C. — The deaths last week of two Fort Bragg soldiers found in a remote training area of the North Carolina base have called attention to the unsolved summer killing of a Fort Bragg paratrooper who was decapitated after going missing at Cape Lookout National Seashore.
The deaths of Master Sgt. William J. Lavigne II, 37, and Army veteran Timothy Dumas, 44, of Pinehurst, have also stirred up talk of a fatal shooting in March 2018 in which Lavigne shot and killed a Green Beret and longtime friend. Lavigne avoided charges after civilian authorities determined he acted in self-defense, according to the Army Times.
A disappearance and grisly death
Army Spc. Enrique Roman-Martinez, 21, of Chino, Calif., was last seen May 22 during a Memorial Day weekend trip to the national park. According to ABC News, his friends reported him missing the following evening, about 19 hours after he’d been seen last.
He was camping with seven fellow soldiers, the network reported.
“We all went to bed at 12:03 (a.m.),” the caller said, according to KABC in Los Angeles. “That’s when we all decided to go to bed, and that is the last time we saw him.”
Fort Bragg officials said Roman-Martinez’s cellphone and wallet were left behind at their campsite near Mile Marker 46 on South Core Banks, one of the islands that make up the park. According to his sister, Griselda Martinez, he also vanished without his glasses.
“My brother can’t see without his glasses, so for him to walk out in the middle of the night without his glasses, it’s not likely,” Martinez told KABC. “He can’t see, where would he go?”
The partial remains of the 82nd Airborne Division paratrooper washed up May 29 on Shackleford Banks Island, according to officials with the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command, or Army CID.
An autopsy report obtained by the News & Observer in Raleigh shows that only Roman-Martinez’s head was found. His jaw was broken in two places and there was “evidence of multiple chop injuries of the head,” the report says.
“While decapitation is, in and of itself, universally fatal, the remainder of the body in this case was not available for examination, and therefore potential causes of death involving the torso and extremities cannot be excluded,” states the report from the Division of Forensic Pathology at East Carolina University’s Brody School of Medicine. “A definitive cause of death cannot be determined, (but) the findings in this case are most consistent with death due to homicide.”
A 10-day search for Roman-Martinez took place in the park, with multiple local and federal agencies taking part in ground and aerial searches that covered South Core Banks, Shackleford Banks and the immediate ocean and sound areas surrounding Roman-Martinez’s camp.
“Very few clues have been discovered during the search efforts,” National Park Service officials said at the time. “Depending on the search area and day, team members encountered rainy, windy, and rough sea conditions.”
Roman-Martinez’s remains were identified through dental records, Fort Bragg officials said.
A toxicology report conducted on his tissues found no evidence of drug use, the News & Observer reported.
Roman-Martinez, who enlisted in the Army in September 2016, had been at Fort Bragg since March 2017. He worked as a human resources specialist.
His sister said Roman-Martinez, the youngest sibling in the family, joined the Army at 17, hoping it would help him grow up.
“He felt like it was going to make him a better man. He knew he lagged, and he wanted to go, so he could learn discipline, responsibility,” Martinez told KABC.
The slain soldier’s family told the Army Times that inconsistencies in the story of what happened when Roman-Martinez vanished has them seeking answers. The 911 caller told a dispatcher that the soldiers had been looking for help to find their missing friend.
“When we woke up, he was not here and we’ve been looking for him all day,” the caller said, according to a recording obtained by the newspaper. “We were trying to find a Park Ranger or their offices, or anything, and so we went all the way to the ferry and found that we needed to dial 911.”
A Cape Lookout National Seashore spokesperson told the paper, however, that Park Rangers had encountered the group the afternoon of May 23 and asked them to move their vehicles, which were parked too close to sand dunes.
“The Rangers moved on after hearing the group would comply ... (the soldiers) did not make mention to the Rangers at this point that anyone was missing from their group,” spokesman B.G. Horvat wrote in an email. “You would have to ask members of the group why they didn’t report a missing person then.”
The 911 caller also told the dispatcher they were worried that Roman-Martinez might hurt himself because he had “suicidal tendencies,” the recording showed. Martinez told the Army Times that was not true.
“If you believe your friend has suicidal tendencies, why would you let them walk off in the middle of the night with no belongings?” Martinez said. “Why wouldn’t you, first thing in the morning, wake up and freak out ... On top of that, why would you wait all day, until 7:30 p.m. to report him missing?”
Roman-Martinez’s commander, Major Gen. Christopher Donahue, has issued several statement’s mourning the soldier, who he said was “lost to a senseless act of violence.”
A $25,000 reward is being offered for information related to his death.
2 more mysterious deaths
Roman-Martinez’s family is not the only one seeking answers.
The bodies of Lavigne and Dumas were found Wednesday in a training area of Fort Bragg. Their causes of death have not been made public, but ABC 11 in Raleigh reported Friday afternoon that a defense official told the station that foul play is suspected.
Lavigne, who enlisted in 2001, graduated from the Special Forces Qualification Course and was assigned to the 1st Special Forces Group, Airborne, according to Army officials. He was later assigned to the Special Operations Command, through which he was deployed overseas several times.
Lavigne was awarded two Bronze Stars, Army Times reported.
Dumas, a chief warrant officer who worked as a property accounting technician from November 1996 to March 2016, was also awarded a Bronze Star, the newspaper reported. Like Lavigne, Dumas was based at Fort Bragg and deployed to Afghanistan multiple times.
Lavigne, who was praised last week by his commander for having “dedicated himself to the Army for 19 years and (been) deployed multiple times in the defense of our nation,” has a troubled past. He was investigated in the spring of 2018 after he shot and killed a Green Beret during a fight at Lavigne’s home.
Sgt. 1st Class Mark Daniel Leshikar, 33, of Pocatello, Idaho, was killed March 21, 2018, in Fayetteville, according to Army Times. Leshikar, who was also stationed at Fort Bragg, was a weapons sergeant with the 19th Special Forces Group, Airborne.
Leshikar’s sister, Nicole Rick, told the newspaper that her brother and Lavigne had been close friends since about 2012. They had daughters who were best friends.
The two families had just returned from a trip to Florida to celebrate Leshikar’s daughter’s birthday when the two men got into a fight.
“William shot and killed my brother in front of my niece,” Rick said. “William had called me a month after my brother died to tell me his story, and he said my brother came at him with a screwdriver but there was not one found near my brother’s body or in the house.”
Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office officials ultimately ruled Leshikar’s death a result of justifiable homicide. His family disputes that ruling.
“I keep imagining all these things that could have happened,” his mother, Tammy Mabey, of Lake Stevens, Washington, told the Idaho State Journal in 2018. “But I know that Mark loved (Lavigne). He invited him to go on vacation with his family, and he was my granddaughter’s godfather. None of it makes any sense.”
Now, Army CID investigators are trying to make sense of the deaths of Lavigne and Dumas. Fort Bragg officials have said that neither man died as a result of training.
A defense official told The Washington Post that the preliminary evidence indicates the men may have been involved in criminal activity before they died. One of the men was found dead in a vehicle.
No additional details have been released.
Cox Media Group