Local News

Police: Pregnant soldier's death a homicide

Posted June 30, 2008 9:23 a.m. EDT
Updated June 30, 2008 4:27 p.m. EDT

— Police said Monday they are treating the death of a pregnant Fort Bragg soldier as a homicide, and they are working with Army investigators to solve the case.

The Army began investigating the case over the weekend, and Spc. Megan Lynn Touma's body was sent to the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology in Washington, D.C., for a second autopsy.

There was no word Monday on when the results of the autopsy conducted by the State Medical Examiner's Office would be released.

Touma, 23, was found dead June 21 in a room at the Fairfield Inn near Cross Creek Mall. She was seven months pregnant, police said.

Fayetteville police had previously called her death "suspicious." Few details of the investigation have been released.

A military official said a soldier at Fort Bragg is a person of interest in Touma's death. Authorities haven't released the person's name.

"U.S. Army CID (Criminal Investigation Command) joined the investigation at the request of the Fayetteville Police Department and were already conducting a collateral investigation into the death upon the initial notification. The Fayetteville Police Department was and still is the lead investigative agency, because the death occurred in our jurisdiction," police said in a statement released Monday.

"CID Agents overseas are better able to conduct interviews of personnel at Megan Touma’s last command and pass along vital information to the case as both agencies proceed," the statement continued.

The Army is focusing its efforts on a military base in Bamberg, Germany, where Touma was stationed before moving being assigned to Fort Bragg three weeks ago. Several soldiers at Fort Bragg have also been interviewed in the case, authorities said.

Neither police nor Army officials would comment on whether on soldier considered a person of interest had been stationed at Bamberg with Touma.

Lt. Col. John Clearwater, a spokesman for the U.S. Army Special Operations Command, said 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.

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 the lead agency in 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 said 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.

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.

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 Bamberg and at Fort Drum, N.Y., officials said.

She attended two required formations that day but wasn't seen on base after that. The Army is investigating to determine why Touma wasn't declared absent without leave and whether anyone tried to check on her.

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.