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Army: Policies broken in slain soldier's disappearance

Posted September 11, 2008

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— Three non-commissioned officers have been reprimanded for not following policies and procedures to keep tabs on a new Fort Bragg soldier who later was found dead, the Army said Thursday.

The body of Spc. Megan Touma, 23, was found June 21 in a room at the Fairfield Inn near Cross Creek Mall. She had been assigned to Fort Bragg nine days earlier.

Sgt. Edgar Patino, 27, of 374 Lairgate Lane in Hope Mills, has been charged with murder in Touma's death. He is a student at the John F. Kennedy Special Warfare School at Fort Bragg, part of Army Special Operations.

Police said Touma was pregnant at the time of her death and that Patino was the father.

Army officials said Touma wasn't seen at Fort Bragg after her first day on post, and the investigation into why she wasn't declared absent without leave resulted in the three general letters of reprimand.

Investigators also blamed Touma for not telling her superiors where she would be staying and how to get in touch with her.

"Every soldier is inherently responsible for keeping their chain of command informed of their whereabouts," the Army said in a statement.

Fort Bragg officials said Touma requested an assignment to the post in February and arrived on June 12. Investigators said she checked in with the 19th Replacement Company, a unit that helps new soldiers transition to their units, between 2 and 2:20 a.m. that day and made her initial formation four hours later.

The non-commissioned officer, or NCO, in charge of keeping track of Touma wrote her onto the unit roster at the formation. Later that day, her name was added to the unit's official computer-generated accountability roster, which officials said is standard practice.

Army investigators said Touma didn't provide her official personnel file, which contains emergency contact information, to the NCO. She also failed to leave a contact phone number when she signed out at the end of the day, investigators said.

Touma's unit was turned over to a second NCO on June 16, when the first one went on scheduled leave, investigators said. The acting NCO in charge failed to obtain the computer-generated roster, so he didn't know who was assigned to unit, investigators said.

Later, he removed Touma's name from the roster after being told she had moved to her assigned unit at Fort Bragg, investigators said. He didn't double-check a separate roster that verifies who has left the 19th Replacement Company for their permanent units, investigators said.

The acting NCO in charge of the unit later lied to investigators during the probe of Touma's AWOL status. He, the regular NCO in charge and another NCO in the unit were reprimanded for not ensuring Touma was accounted for.

Police said they believe Touma was killed late on June 13 or early on June 14 because no key card was used to access the room after that until a motel manager went into the room a week later and found her body.

Army investigators said that timeline means the NCOs' actions in failing to account for her whereabouts played no role in her death.

"The sequence of events and subsequent errors on the side of 19th Replacement could not have prevented her death, but it would have been alerted to her issue much sooner. (The company) is continuing to improve operations in order to prevent these errors in the future," the Army said in a statement.


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  • Rolling Along Sep 11, 2008

    IIRC in the original story the Do Not Disturb was on the door. When that is the case housekeeping is usually directed to not clean the room, or bother the guest. I spend many, many nights in hotels, quite often I will instruct the front desk to not have my room service unless I ask for it.

  • lizard Sep 11, 2008

    If the maids would've cleaned the room the next day she would've been found earlier.

  • pwilliamson53 Sep 11, 2008

    This sounds like lack of communication among the ranks and of Miss. Touma. AWOL use to be 24 hours. Someone failed to do their jobs and should lose their ranks. As a new member someone should have gotten information from her of her where abouts and how to contact her. Not knowing the area, she should have been formally shown around and required by someone to have her living address. Failure to comply with regulations, communciation and lack of responsbility, this young woman was basically left to her own defense. Heads should roll and more than a repremand should be giving. Hind site is always to blame for lack of communication. Maybe a lesson is learned the hard way, but doesn't help this lady now.

  • RonnieR Sep 11, 2008

    I never signed in to a unit, when I was an EM, and got an instant pass. Somehow, according to the article, this WAC got one. The CQ should have signed her in at 0200 and put her in the WAC shack and then she could have started in-processing later that day. She then would have never been in an off post
    motel to be murdered. That was the basis of my comment, jeep1.

  • seankelly15 Sep 11, 2008

    Deb1003 - No one is forgetting who caused her death. This article details an investigation completed by the military to find out why she wasn't marked as AWOL. They found that records had been falsified, policies were not followed and one NCO lied to an investigator. It has nothing to due with Touma's death and whether the knowledge of where she was would have kept her alive.

  • jeep1 Sep 11, 2008

    Rev RB I guess I should have been more explicit. I was responding to the first poster(wa4mjf) when he stated that, "It is a shame that the Speedy 4 had to pay with her life for her leader's mistakes." Sorry about any misunderstandings.

  • Deb1003 Sep 11, 2008

    Let's not forget that the man that murdered this woman is the one at fault. If the chain of command would've been followed, it might have resulted in her body being found earlier. If she would've listed her place of residence, her body would have been found earlier. But, unfortunately, it wouldn't have resulted in a different outcome.

  • Adelinthe Sep 11, 2008

    Eduardo - "Sounds like everyone is guilty except the perp."

    That's not what the article says the NCOs are guilty of; read the article again.

    God bless.

    Rev. RB

  • Adelinthe Sep 11, 2008

    JEEP - "I don't think her leaders had anything to do with the malicious actions of the perpetrator."

    That's not what the article says they were charged with. They falsified records showing they did not follow code regarding listing her whereabouts.

    God bless.

    Rev. RB

  • Scubagirl Sep 11, 2008

    "Investigators also blamed Touma for not telling her superiors where she would be staying and how to get in touch with her.

    "Every soldier is inherently responsible for keeping their chain of command informed of their whereabouts," the Army said in a statement."

    MAYBE, just maybe, she got dead before she could let them know.