Husband, 2nd Man Held in Female Soldier’s Stabbing

This is the third female soldier stationed at Fort Bragg to be murdered in four months. This AP story is from the New York Times

Husband, 2nd Man Held in Female Soldier’s Stabbing
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
Published: October 3, 2008
Filed at 6:39 p.m. ET

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — For the third time in four months, a female soldier based at Fort Bragg is dead, and a husband or lover is charged with murder — leading critics to demand the home base of the Army’s elite soldiers exert ”control over their troops” and address domestic violence.

Police on Friday charged Sgt. Richard Smith, 26, and Pfc. Mathew Kvapil, 18, with first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder only days after Smith’s wife was found stabbed to death in a pool of her own blood.

Authorities said Smith hired Kvapil to kill his wife — 29-year-old Sgt. Christina E. Smith — as the couple walked together Tuesday evening in their off-base Fayetteville neighborhood.

”The number of military women being killed in North Carolina in the last eight months is horrific,” said retired Army Col. Ann Wright, a former State Department diplomat who once served at Fort Bragg and is now a peace activist. ”The Marine Corps and the Army needs to very quickly show leadership and control over their troops.”

Smith’s death follows the slayings of Spc. Megan Touma, 23, and 2nd Lt. Holley Wimunc, 24. It also comes less than a year after Marine Corps. Cpl. Maria Lauterbach, stationed at North Carolina’s Camp Lejeune, was found dead.

In all four cases, authorities have charged a fellow soldier or Marine involved in a relationship with the victim with murder.

”For me, I was thinking, ‘No, gosh, not another one,”’ said Fayetteville police spokeswoman Theresa Chance. ”We have domestic violence issues like every other city. Obviously, the military seems to be targeted lately.”

The Army says the rate of domestic violence in the service is no worse than among civilian families, but critics argue there is a lack of comprehensive data.

The Connecticut-based Miles Foundation, which provides domestic-violence assistance to military wives, has said its caseload has more than quadrupled during wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

”How many more deaths is it going to take until they own up that there’s a problem?” said Judy Lowe, who helped found the Fayetteville-based Coalition to End Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault in the Military.

But officials at Fort Bragg said the deaths are unrelated, regardless of any tragic similarities.

Carol Darby, a spokeswoman for the Army’s Special Operations Command, said the Army had no reason to be ”overly concerned for (the) personal safety of female soldiers.”

She pointed to an array of programs and counseling offered by the Army to aimed at assisting soldiers and family members through family, personal, financial and other issues.

”There are no indicators that we are aware of that pinpoints a trend; this is an anomaly,” Darby added. ”Unfortunately, when a tragedy such as this one happens there are often times underlying domestic and personal relationship issues within the home.”

Both Touma and Lauterbach were in the final months of pregnancies when they were found dead — Touma in a motel bathtub in June, Lauterbach in a backyard fire pit in January. Authorities have said both of the men charged with their deaths were the fathers of their unborn child and married to other women.

No reason to be overly concerned? What would constitute such a reason? The armed forces mentality is reason enough to be concerned for the safety of female soldiers. Sexism is endemic in the general culture as well, but it is celebrated in the armed forces. The Tailhook scandal is perhaps the most notorious example of that. Female soldiers are routinely harassed and raped by male comrades. These murders are not an anomaly, but they do represent the only form of terrorizing women the army takes seriously. Harassment and rape go with the territory, despite official policy to the contrary. That policy is rarely enforced. Sometimes perpetrators get a slap on the wrist, but more often the complainant is disbelieved or treated as a whiner. When she ends up dead, then the authorities recognize there was a real problem. Ms. Darby is attempting to whitewash the problem, as if it is a matter of a few bad apples. It goes way deeper than that.

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