Did 26-year-old N.M. Army Guard sergeant commit suicide at WSMR in July?
Army National Guard Sgt. Benjamin Griego, a 26-year-old Clovis native, was found dead in his quarters July 13 at White Sands Missile Range where he had been working as an instructor in a combat preparation course, and his family is still looking for answers, the Clovis News Journal reported.
Family members told the News Journal that Army officials told them that Griego hanged himself in the early morning hours while his roommate slept in a nearby room.
The death remains under investigation by the Army's Criminal Investigation Division and neither a death certificate nor cause and manner of death has been released, the News Journal said.
"There is no criminal component that's being investigated," New Mexico National Guard spokesman Maj. Ken Nava told the paper. "He was a fine soldier and it's a very unfortunate situation."
But family members aren't convinced the death was a suicide and they want to know what the Army is looking into, the News Journal said.
Griego wasn't depressed, but was happy and looking forward to the future, according to his family.
He had plans to buy a new house for his family, was financially stable, was making plans to go fishing with his father after the weekend he died, even ordered a pay-per-view boxing match for the night after he died, his parents told the News Journal.
"I spoke to this child six to eight times a day, we had such a tight bond with each other," his mother Judy Griego told the paper. "There was absolutely no depression there."
But there had been some trouble, his parents told the News Journal.
He told his mother he had been attacked by members in his unit three times in the weeks before his death, and he had a black eye the day before he died, the paper reported.
He was frustrated, tired of the assaults and was resisting the urge to fight back, his father Jeronimo Griego told the News Journal.
A DVD recording of a speech Griego gave about a month before his death on integrity was given to the family and records members of his unit calling him derogatory names in Spanish — evidence, his wife Monica Griego says, of her husband's being hazed and targeted by fellow troops, the News Journal said.
But Chris Grey, public affairs chief of the Army's Criminal Investigation Command, wouldn't comment to the News Journal on whether the Army was reviewing the DVD or whether he had ever reported conflicts with fellow soldiers to superiors.
"U.S. Army CID investigates all not-combat deaths of soldiers to determine exactly what transpired," Grey told the News Journal. "We investigate all deaths and felony-level crime. That is not to say that a crime has necessarily been committed."
But Griego's mother says she wants the Army to investigate what the family has uncovered.
"We want them to clear his name. He did not commit suicide, we know that. We want to clear his name. Not only is that important to his name and to us, it's important to his daughter," Judy Griego told the News Journal. "We don't want her growing up thinking that he did this to himself."