FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. — The father of a Fort Bragg Army nurse who was murdered three years ago by her husband says he's speaking out against domestic violence in an effort to help prevent tragedies, like his daughter's, from happening to anyone else.
The charred remains of Jesse James' daughter, 2nd Lt. Holley Wimunc, were found July 13, 2008, in a shallow grave near Camp Lejeune.
Her husband and another man, both Camp Lejeune Marines at the time, pleaded guilty in 2010 to numerous charges, including first-degree murder.
"Holley's life should not have been lost," James, the dean of admissions at the University of Dubuque in Iowa, said Wednesday afternoon before speaking about domestic violence at a free event at Methodist University in Fayetteville.
Since his daughter's death, he's been traveling across the country speaking to young people about getting out of abusive relationships.
Days before Wimunc's death, James says, she had called him to let her know she was leaving her husband and that she expected it would be difficult.
"It never occurred to me that a nasty break-up would could mean a murder, a loss of her life," he said. "That's part of the message that I give to young people today: Let that thought occur to you. If you're in that relationship, have that thought."
Investigators say Wimunc was shot and dismembered before her remains were burned and wrapped in an air mattress.
Wimunc, he says, was not the type of person who was going to let someone control her life.
"Because she chose not to do that, that person decided to murder her. At the core of it, it's a needless loss."
After his daughter's death, he says, he called a domestic violence prevention center in Dubuque asking how he could help.
"There was a part of me that was hoping they would ask for a donation, and I could write them a check and move on with my work and my life and feel like I'd done something good," he said.
Instead, they asked him to share his daughter's story.
After vowing never to return to Fayetteville, that's what brought him back Wednesday.
"Quite frankly, it affected me physically," James said.
Wimunc, 24, was a maternity-ward nurse at Fort Bragg's Womack Army Medical Center. The hospital recently dedicated a plaque in her memory. Its domestic violence awareness campaign is also named in her honor.