Local News

Bragg soldier's death investigated as homicide

Posted January 5, 2011 11:21 a.m. EST
Updated January 5, 2011 8:12 p.m. EST

— A Fort Bragg soldier whose body was found Saturday on a public hiking and biking trail on post may have been accidentally shot by a hunter, but authorities said Wednesday that they are treating the investigation as a homicide.

Capt. Jeremiah D. Sipes, 33, of Belgrade, Mont., died of a single gunshot wound, authorities said. An autopsy was conducted by the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology.

A hunter called authorities after finding Sipes' body on All American Trail, near the intersection of Plank and King roads at the western edge of Fort Bragg.

"Although the investigation is continuing, Army CID (Criminal Investigative Command) is treating this as a homicide investigation and have no evidence or reason to believe at this time that the death was self-inflicted," CID spokesman Chris Grey said in a statement.

"As with all CID death investigations, agents are exploring all possibilities, and one of those possibilities is that Capt. Sipes was shot by a hunter while he was jogging on a running trail at Fort Bragg," Grey said.

The trail is closed to the public during deer hunting season, Oct. 2 through Jan. 1, Army officials said. Fort Bragg spokesman Tom McCollum said the Army posts signs at the trail head that state: "Trail Closed – No Exceptions."

"We have to stress that, when something is closed, we ask that you don't go out there," McCollum said.

Sipes, a graduate of Montana State University, was the squadron intelligence officer for 5th Squadron, 73rd Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team. He is survived by his wife, Heather, and two children, Hallie and Kellan.

Comrades said he hated running but would hit the All American Trail, which is near his house, because he knew it was good for him.

"That was his least favorite activity. He hated to do it, but he did," said Spc. John Schlotter. 

Schlotter said Sipes was determined to be the best soldier and the best father he could be.

"He was a great man, a great soldier, and I know he was a great father," Schlotter said. "I mean, he strived to be the best."

Army officials said there is no evidence linking Sipes' death with the murder of Fayetteville resident Angel Pesante, whose body was found off Plank Road on Fort Bragg Sept. 27. 

"It was determined that Pesante had no official military affiliation and was found in an area on Fort Bragg property that is not gated and, although posted as restricted, can be accessed by the general public," Grey said. "That investigation remains ongoing, and Army CID is working closely with local law enforcement officials on the case."