Bragg soldier questioned in death of pregnant servicewoman
Posted June 28, 2008 7:05 p.m. EDT
Updated June 29, 2008 6:35 a.m. EDT
Fayetteville, N.C. — A military official said a soldier at Fort Bragg is a person of interest in the death of a pregnant servicewoman found dead June 21 in a Fayetteville motel room.
Lt. Col. John Clearwater, a spokesman for the U.S. Army Special Operations Command, told WRAL on Saturday the male soldier is a training student at the John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School located at Fort Bragg. The center falls under the command of special operations.
Spc. Megan Lynn Touma, 23, was found June 21 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 person of interest is training at a school where special operations ranging from raids to reconstruction projects are taught, Clearwater said. The soldier is studying psychological operations.
Clearwater said the soldier has not been charged. He declined to say more, citing the Fayetteville Police Department as handling the investigation.
The Fayetteville Observer has also released a letter, dated June 17, from a person purporting to be the killer of Touma. The letter carries a symbol used by the Zodiac killer, a serial killer from the 1960s who was never caught.
The newspaper says an anonymous source told its reporters that police found an identical sign in lipstick on the bathroom mirror of Touma's room.
Fayetteville police told the paper that although the letter is valuable evidence, they believe it was written to mislead investigators and the public.
Dr. Michael Teague, a forensic psychologist who worked for the Raleigh Police Department as a criminal profiler, said there is a variety of reasons why someone would have used the reference to the Zodiac Killer.
“I’m thinking probably it's more a chance of somebody wanting publicity or having a very strange kind of sense of humor or maybe even the actual perpetrator trying to confuse police,” Teague said.
Search warrants released Friday evening showed blood might have been detected in the hotel room where a Touma was found dead, and a local newspaper reported getting a letter from a person claiming to be her killer.
Investigators seized two section of drywall containing a red substance suspected to be blood from Touma's room, according to the search warrants. Swabbings of DNA and other items were also taken from the hotel room and a rented Chevrolet Trailblazer parked outside.
Fayetteville police have called Touma's death suspicious but 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 Saturday evening.
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, the document did not indicate that there was evidence of a struggle.
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.