Victims' group blasts Fort Bragg report

By MARK BENJAMIN and DAN OLMSTED  |  Nov. 12, 2002 at 10:07 AM
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WASHINGTON, Nov. 11 (UPI) -- A group that monitors domestic violence in the military criticized Monday the U.S. Army's report on a cluster of domestic killings at Fort Bragg, N.C., calling it "fundamentally flawed in process, content and conclusion."

"The investigation did not include family members of the victims," the Miles Foundation said in a statement, and "focuses exclusively upon the needs of service members rather than addressing the needs and services required for family members, the primary victims of domestic violence."

Last week, the Army Surgeon General's office released the report by an epidemiology team that was dispatched to the North Carolina base after a series of five killings in 43 days. Soldiers stationed at the base are suspected in four of the deaths; in a fifth, the wife of an Army officer is accused of killing her husband for insurance money. Two of the soldiers also committed suicide.

The team's report said that marital discord, stress from deployments -- three of the soldiers had served in Afghanistan -- and fear of seeking mental health services may have contributed to the cluster.

While the report said that soldiers need better access to confidential counseling, the Miles Foundation statement said "the recommendations did not include changes to current privacy and confidentiality protocols, mandatory reporting (of domestic violence incidents) and command notification."

The foundation also said that while the report made all information available about the case in which the civilian is accused of killing her husband, it blacked out some details in cases in which soldiers were suspects. "The rights of victims and alleged offenders vary as evident by these notations."

The foundation said the report was flawed.

"The EPICON Report is fundamentally flawed in process, content and conclusion," it said, referring to the 41-page epidemiological consultation document.

Army public affairs officer Lt. Col. Ryan Yantis did not respond to a telephone call seeking comment.

Last week, critics who say the Army is covering up problems with the anti-malaria drug Lariam also criticized the report, which said the controversial drug was an "unlikely" factor.

Officials said two of the soldiers had taken Lariam in Afghanistan, and therefore drug side effects cannot explain the cluster of five killings. But they acknowledged they weren't ruling the drug out as a factor in any one incident, and said they had not talked to families or acquaintances of the soldiers out of legal and privacy concerns.

In the cases of soldiers who took Lariam, those who knew them have described strange behavior consistent with Lariam side effects, which include psychosis, paranoia and aggression.

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