Army officials have increased the reward in the case of a Fort Bragg paratrooper whose partial remains were found along an Outer Banks seashore last year.
The Army Criminal Investigation Command increased the award in the homicide case of Spc. Enrique Roman-Martinez to $50,000, according to a news release issued this week.
“We are increasing the reward in the hopes of developing new credible leads to determine exactly what happened to our soldier,” CID special agent Steve Chancellor said in the news release. “We do not want to leave any stone unturned.”
Roman-Martinez, 21, of Chino, California, was reported missing May 23, 2020, at Cape Lookout National Seashore in Carteret County. His severed head washed ashore six days later.
At the time of his death, Roman-Martinez was a human resource specialist assigned to Headquarters Company, 37th Brigade Engineer Battalion, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division.
He joined the Army in September of 2016 and was assigned as a paratrooper to Fort Bragg in March 2017.
Roman-Martinez was last seen alive May 22, 2020, when he was camping with seven other soldiers, the Army CID’s news release states.
The release states that “agents have investigated suspected illegal drug use on the evening of May 22, 2020,” but does not indicate if any evidence was found to support that suspicion.
“Roman-Martinez’s friends reported him missing” the following evening, the news release states.
In an interview with The Fayetteville Observer in May, Roman-Martinez’s older sister, Griselda Martinez, said investigators have told the family there doesn’t seem to be a motive for the other soldiers her brother was camping with to harm him.
“If they were friends, why did they wait 19 hours to call,” she asked. “The excuse was he’s a grown (expletive) man and could have taken care of himself. You still don’t do that — especially in the Army. From what’s been explained to me, everyone sticks together and watches out for each other.”
According to the 911 call, the man who reported Roman-Martinez missing on May 23, 2020, told the dispatcher that the group went to bed about midnight.
The caller said he woke up at 8:30 a.m., and that the group searched for Roman-Martinez all day.
“We might be afraid that he hurt himself,” the man is heard saying in the recorded call. “We’re really not sure.”
When asked by the dispatcher whether Roman-Martinez had any known medical or mental health conditions, the caller said, “He wasn’t diagnosed, but he did have suicidal tendencies.”
Roman-Martinez’s sister has disputed that claim, which further upset the family when they reviewed the autopsy report last year.
The report notes that pathologist examined only a severed head, as neither the torso nor extremities were available.
“I wish we could have had a funeral that had the option of the open casket so we could say our goodbye,” Martinez said in May. “There was no last goodbye.”
According to the autopsy report, Roman-Martinez’s head was found with a “somewhat crescent-shaped, incised vs. chop wound” that was about 3/4 of an inch deep, and part up the cervical spine up to the seventh cervical vertebrae.
“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 autopsy report states.
The report notes that those camping with Roman Martinez provided no explanation of his death.
“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,” the medical examiner wrote.
Special Agent Chancellor said the death is being investigated as a homicide because of the trauma to the partial remains.
“That means that the death could have been intentional or it could have been unintentional — for example, in this case, someone running over someone with a boat while the person was in the water, etc,” he said.
The CID news release states that since Roman-Martinez was reported missing, Army CID Special Agents have conducted a significant amount of investigative work in coordination with numerous other agencies, including the FBI, the National Park Rangers, the U.S. Coast Guard Marine Patrol, the Mocksville Police Department, the Carteret County Sheriff’s Office, the Wayne County Sheriff’s Office, the North Carolina National Guard, the Armed Forces Medical Examiner and the 82nd Airborne Division.
According to the news release, a specialized task force comprised of CID agents, FBI employees and the FBI’s Behavioral Analysis Unit has executed more than 100 warrants and subpoenas, conducted more than 400 interviews and returned to the island seven times to conduct air, land and sea searches for additional evidence.
The FBI’s Evidence Recovery and Dive Teams went to the seashore in December to assist in a search for more remains, according to a Dec. 10 news release from the 82nd Airborne Division.
Investigators have traveled to Michigan, Texas, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Colorado, and California for interviews and to follow up on all investigative leads.
Chancellor said the Task Force has not recovered a single piece of physical, forensic, or testimonial evidence linking anyone to the death of Roman-Martinez.
There have been searches of evidence from cellphones and vehicles along with more than 130 items analyzed at the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Laboratory in Atlanta, Georgia.
None of the items revealed any trace of blood, DNA, or other forensic evidence, the CID news release states.
Chancellor, who’s worked hundreds of death investigations for more than 40 years, said “the tragic death is a real mystery.”
“All logical theories or suspicions that were developed to date have been investigated and either discounted or disproven,” he said. “We have and are still looking at all possibilities, but need the public’s help.”
Chancellor said there’s been support from Fort Bragg’s leadership by providing air support and troops for land searches.
He is asking that anyone who was operating a boat near the Cape Lookout National Seashore, Shackleford Banks and South Core Banks area between May 22 and May 23, 2020, and who they might have hit something to contact investigators.
All other information “regardless of how trivial it might seem,” is also being sought, he said.
Anyone with information is encouraged to contact Army CID Special Agents at 910-396-8777 or the Fort Bragg Military Police Desk at 910-396-1179. Information can be reported anonymously online at https://www.cid.army.mil/report-a-crime.html.
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