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‘It was such a brutal crime:’ Autopsy report shows 82nd Airborne soldier was decapitated

A sign at one of the entrances to Fort Bragg. (Fish Cop./WikiCommons)

A Fort Bragg paratrooper who was murdered in May had been decapitated, according to an autopsy report.

Spc. Enrique Roman-Martinez, 21, was killed in May while he was camping with fellow soldiers on an island at Cape Lookout National Seashore. He was from Chino, California, and was a human resource specialist in the 82nd Airborne Division’s 37th Brigade Engineer Battalion, 2nd Brigade Combat Team.

The autopsy report, which is from the Division of Forensic Pathology at East Carolina University’s Brody School of Medicine, lists the cause of death as “homicide by undetermined means.” It was digitally signed by Dr. Randall K. Falls Jr. on Nov. 4.

The autopsy examined a severed head, as neither the torso nor any extremities were available, according to the report. It showed evidence of multiple chop injuries, a broken jaw, cuts and a fractured cervical spine.

“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,” the report said.

An investigative report says the remains were found near Mile Marker 53 at the national seashore’s Shackleford Banks. The autopsy report says that Roman-Martinez was last known to be alive with his friends.

“Despite multiple conversations with investigating officers, no explanation for the death of this individual or the findings at autopsy has been offered,” it said. “It is therefore my opinion that while a definitive cause of death cannot be determined, the findings in this case are most consistent with death due to homicide.”

Roman-Martinez’s sister, Griselda Martinez, said she and other members of his family first saw the autopsy report Thursday. She said it was difficult to read some of the details, including that her brother’s eyes were missing and his hair had been pulled out.

“It was such a brutal crime,” she said. “Reading it and seeing how horrible it was … .”

Martinez said family members felt like they needed to read the report.

“Everything about this case doesn’t make sense,” she said.

Investigators have updated the family, but haven’t provided many details, Martinez said.

“Me and my family are left wondering,” she said. “The biggest question is, ‘Why?'”

Martinez said she believes someone knows what happened to her brother.

“How can they sleep at night?” she said.

Martinez said members of the family attended a memorial service for Roman-Martinez that the 82nd’s 2nd Brigade Combat Team hosted in August. She said members of his unit and others who knew him talked about how funny, nice and helpful he was.

“How does someone like that end up dismembered?” she said. “How could this happen to him? There has to be more to this story.”

Martinez said she hopes that someone with information about her brother’s murder will come forward. She worries that the family will never know what happened unless someone confesses.

“If they get away with it, that will be the worst thing in the world,” she said. “I wouldn’t want anyone else to go through this.”

Lt. Col. Mike Burns, an 82nd spokesman, said a $25,000 reward remains in place for information leading to the apprehension and conviction of the person or persons responsible for the murder. Anyone with information about the case is asked to call 910-396-8777, submit anonymous information via www.p3tips.com or contact a law enforcement agency.

Burns said he couldn’t comment on details of the case because of the ongoing investigation, but said a task force of agents with the Army Criminal Investigation Command is working on the case. He said he didn’t know the exact number of agents, but it is more than a few.

“It’s a whole team,” he said.

Soldiers from the division also went to the area where Roman-Martinez was last seen to look for evidence, Burns said. The search was the second for paratroopers, who first went there after the soldier was reported missing.

Burns said Army investigators also have been to the area several times to look for clues. Agents have examined forensic and digital evidence in an effort to determine what happened, he said.

“They’re going all-in,” he said.

Maj. Gen. Christopher Donahue, the commander of the 82nd, said on Twitter that Roman-Martinez is never forgotten. The division lost the paratrooper “to senseless violence,” Donahue said in a Nov. 6 tweet.

More: Army increases reward to $25K in death of Fort Bragg paratrooper

The soldier’s family and division officials received an update on the progress of the investigation that week, Donahue said. Officials in the Department of Defense and the Department of Justice continue to leverage every resource to hold those responsible for Roman-Martinez’s death accountable, he said.

“We stand with his family in the pursuit of justice,” Donahue said.

Burns said the FBI is helping Army investigators on the case.

“We remain committed to finding those responsible for the senseless killing of our teammate, Spc. Roman-Martinez,” Burns said. “We also remain in constant contact with his family to keep them informed on progress with the case.”

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