Local News

Pregnant soldier honored at memorial service

Posted June 27, 2008 4:33 p.m. EDT
Updated June 27, 2008 6:09 p.m. EDT

— A standing-room-only crowd filled a chapel on Fort Bragg Friday to honor a pregnant soldier who was found dead in a local motel last weekend.

Spc. Megan Lynn Touma, 23, was found Saturday morning in a room at the Fairfield Inn on Morganton Road after guests complained of an odor coming from inside. She was seven months pregnant, police said.

The Fayetteville Police Department has called Touma's death suspicious but has released no details of the investigation.

An autopsy was conducted on her decomposed body to determine the cause of death, but the results hadn't been released by Friday afternoon.

The 19th Replacement Company, to which Touma was assigned at Fort Bragg, held a private memorial service for her Friday morning in Hope Chapel on the base.

A bugler played Taps, and she was honored with a 21-gun salute.

People who served with her in Germany paid tribute by calling her light-hearted, energetic, a good soldier and someone who would have made a great mother.

Bill Heine Jr. wrote a letter that was read during the service, recalling how his daughter planned to follow the family tradition of military service by enlisting in the Army if she wasn't discovered by Hollywood before she graduated high school.

"We are very, very proud of her and her accomplishments. We are profoundly saddened by the fact that we won't ever get to know our first grandchild," Heine wrote in the letter. "There are no words I can think of right now to express our sorrow, but we take comfort in the fact that she is with God and her baby, in peace forever."

Fort Bragg officials said Touma was assigned to the base June 12. A dental specialist from Cold Spring, Ky., who had been in the Army for five years, she previously was assigned to Army dental clinics in Germany and at Fort Drum, N.Y., officials said.

She attended two required formations that day but wasn't seen on base after that. Fort Bragg spokeswoman Maj. Angela Funaro said each unit commander has the discretion to declare a soldier absent without leave after 24 hours. If Touma had been deemed AWOL, military and local police would have been notified.

The Army is investigating to determine why Touma wasn't declared AWOL and whether anyone tried to check on her, Funaro said. The investigation is being led by Fort Bragg's commanding general and was expected to last 14 days, she said.

Touma was staying at the Fayetteville motel while she looked for off-base living quarters, Funaro said.

A maintenance supervisor at the hotel found her body in the bathtub of her room after going inside shortly before she was scheduled to check out, according to the application for a search warrant filed in the case. Hotel workers hadn't entered the room in four days because a "Do Not Disturb" sign had been hanging outside, the document stated.

Although some of the furniture was displaced in the room, there was no indication in the document that there was evidence of a struggle.

The search warrants have been sealed in the case, Fayetteville Police Department spokeswoman Theresa Chance said, so it's unknown what evidence investigators found in the motel room and a rented Chevrolet Trailblazer parked outside.