Army investigates deaths of Green Beret and veteran at Fort Bragg

By Michael Levenson, John Ismay and Kwame Opam

The Army said it was investigating the deaths last week of a Green Beret and an Army veteran whose bodies were found in a training area at Fort Bragg in North Carolina.

The men’s bodies were discovered on Wednesday, the Army said. Officials have not said how they died, but they said the deaths were not related to official unit training activities.

Fort Bragg identified the Army veteran as Timothy Dumas, 44, of Pinehurst, North Carolina.

U.S. Army Special Operations Command identified the Green Beret as Master Sgt. William J. Lavigne II, 37, who had been assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Company.

“I can confirm that we are investigating this as a homicide investigation,” Chris Grey, a spokesman for the Army Criminal Investigation Command, or CID, said in a statement. “I will release more at the appropriate time.”

The investigation was unfolding after the death of a 21-year-old Fort Bragg soldier whose severed head washed ashore on North Carolina’s Outer Banks in May was ruled a homicide last month.

Fort Bragg, the home of Airborne and Special Operations forces, is the largest U.S. Army base, with approximately 57,000 military personnel, 11,000 civilian employees and 23,000 family members. While a series of suicides, homicides and fatal accidents has rattled Fort Hood in Texas this year, Fort Bragg, which is larger, has been relatively calm, with just one homicide this year before the latest investigations began.

Lt. Col. Justin Duvall, the commander of Headquarters and Headquarters Company for Army Special Operations Command, praised Lavigne for his service.

“The loss of a soldier is always tragic,” Duvall said in a statement on Friday. “Master Sgt. Lavigne dedicated himself to the Army for 19 years and deployed multiple times in the defense of our nation. Our condolences go out to his family during this difficult time.”

After enlisting in the Army in 2001, Lavigne graduated from the Special Forces Qualification Course in 2007 and was assigned to the 1st Special Forces Group (Airborne) and to Special Operations Command.

He deployed multiple times to Afghanistan and Iraq and was awarded two Bronze Stars, one with the “V” device for valor; the Meritorious Service Medal; and the Joint Service Commendation Medal, among other awards and decorations.

In March 2018, Lavigne was investigated in connection with the death of Mark D. Leshikar, 33, a soldier from Fort Bragg, who was fatally shot at a home off the base, according to the Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office.

“He was involved, it was determined to be justified and the case was closed,” Lt. Sean Swain, a spokesman for the sheriff’s office, said.

The Army CID conducted its own investigation and reached the same conclusion as the sheriff’s office: that the shooting was an act of justifiable self-defense, according to Special Operations Command. Lavigne was never charged.

Dumas, a chief warrant officer, served in the Army as a property accounting technician from November 1996 to March 2016, an Army spokesman said. He deployed to Afghanistan four times, officials said.

The deaths of Lavigne and Dumas were not thought to be related to that of Spc. Enrique Roman-Martinez, 21, an 82nd Airborne Division soldier also based at Fort Bragg, who disappeared on a camping trip at the Cape Lookout National Seashore, on the Outer Banks of North Carolina, on May 22.

The death was ruled a homicide, according to an autopsy report issued last month, a copy of which The New York Times obtained.

Roman-Martinez’s severed head washed ashore at Cape Lookout on May 29, but the rest of his body has not been found. The autopsy found “multiple chop injuries.” It was not clear if those injuries were inflicted before or after he died.

Griselda Martinez, Roman-Martinez’s sister, expressed frustration with the CID, saying she felt unheard during its investigation.

“To not show up and just go missing should have been a big red flag,” she said, adding that her brother had a strong work ethic. “Why would someone like him go AWOL?”

A spokesman for the 82nd Airborne Division said officials had been in regular contact with Roman-Martinez’s family in the months since he disappeared.

“The senseless killing of Enrique has been felt across our organization and we stand with his family in the pursuit of justice,” said the spokesman, Lt. Col. Michael Burns. “We’re doing everything humanly possible to find those responsible for his death.”

Seven special agents of the Army’s CID are working full time on Roman-Martinez’s death as part of a task force involving the FBI and other law enforcement agencies, Burns said. This week agents were searching Cape Lookout for a third time since Roman-Martinez disappeared, and there was a $25,000 reward for information leading to an arrest, Burns said.

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