Tag Archives: DNA

Officials Identify Gunshot Victim Found Inside Home While Facebook Comments About Case Appear and Disappear

Two important developments related to the military justice case of Army Maj. Christian “Kit” Martin surfaced during the past 24 hours. Chief among them is that Christian County (Ky.) Sheriff’s Office and Coroner’s Office officials released information about the identity of a shooting victim whose body was found Thursday afternoon inside a home at 443 South Main Street in Pembroke, Ky.

Contrary to what I reported in two earlier articles (here and here) and later corrected, WKDZ Radio reported this morning the Christian County officials said autopsy determined Calvin Lee Phillips, 59, died from several gunshot wounds to his upper body. They also reported they have yet to determine the identities of the victims found inside a burned-out vehicle earlier the same day. CCSO Captain Chris Miller said authorities will rely on DNA testing by the medical examiners office to help them identify those victims, with results expected within the next few weeks.

These bits of news come one day after several other developments took place.

On Tuesday morning, I received word from Fort Campbell Public Affairs Officer LTC Chevelle Thomas that the military judge handling Major Martin’s case had decided to delay the beginning of his military trial, moving it from Dec. 1 to an as-yet-undetermined future date

On Tuesday evening, Nashville’s Fox 17 television interviewed Bill Summers, Major Martin’s lead defense attorney. He told them Major Martin had been released after being held in barracks on the Army post since Friday while his off-post home was searched for clues in connection with the three bodies found in Pembroke Thursday.

DISAPPEARING FACEBOOK COMMENTS

Also Tuesday evening, two comments were posted below an article on the WKDZ Facebook page before later being removed either by someone at WKDZ or by the posters themselves — but not before I was able to obtain screenshots of the comments. Interestingly, the comments appeared beneath two names. FYI: I asked officials at WKDZ who was responsible for the comments being removed (i.e., station staff or Facebook users) and will post an update as soon as I receive an answer to that question yet.

Graphic above shows the two disappearing Facebook comments (redacted).

Graphic above shows the two disappearing Facebook comments (redacted).

One of the comments was made by someone with access to the Facebook account belonging to  Major Martin’s ex-wife, a woman who pleaded guilty in Christian County Court Oct. 14 to one felony count of bigamy (i.e., she admitted in court to having married Major Martin without telling him she was still married to another man) only weeks before the major’s military trial on sexual assault allegations she had made was scheduled to begin at Fort Campbell. Most interesting, she wrote, “One of the main witnesses scheduled to testify against this man in an upcoming court martial on december 1st is now presumed murdered, just a couple weeks before trial. Now this man is telling lies about his victims in an attempt to discredit them before court.” Interesting words coming from a convicted felon whose crime was rooted in deception.

The other comment was made by someone with access to the Facebook account of the oldest child of Major Martin’s bigamist ex-wife/accuser and the biological son of a man in Oregon who is scheduled to testify during Major Martin’s military trial. He’s also the man who expressed surprise when investigators hired by Major Martin tracked him down and told him that the mother of his child had, for almost two decades, been telling people he had been decapitated in a logging accident. For more details, read my Sept. 20 piece, Reportedly Decapitated in Logging Accident Almost 19 Years Ago, Man Ready to Testify on Behalf of Accused Army Officer. Included in his hard-to-read comments was the claim that the major “stole a government laptop and secret classified info” and “He is telling lies about his victims while in custody for a murder investigation! this guy is crazy. He needs to be in prison.”

Though I seriously doubt a teenager was at the keyboard posting the comment, it’s worth noting the claims about theft and spying — reportedly made by his mother and Phillips, the man who was found dead inside his home Thursday — were, as I first reported in an article Sept. 28, proven to be without merit by Army investigators who conducted an extensive, six-month investigation of Major Martin. That investigation included surveillance and wiretapping as well as an extensive search of his Pembroke home and lengthy interrogation sessions. As far as I can tell, the only thing accurate in the comments is that someone is crazy and needs to be in prison, but I don’t think it’s the highly-decorated Army officer.

Also worth noting as a recent event (shown in the video above) is that Major Martin’s lead defense attorney, Bill Summers, confirmed “Calvin Phillips was a witness. He was on our witness list and he was a witness on the governments witness list” during an interview with Sabrina Hall of Nashville’s Fox 17 television.

Do these new details change much in terms of the Army’s case against Major Martin? That’s hard to say, but they certainly confirm a few things in this reporter’s mind.

Stay tuned for more developments as they occur.

UPDATE 12/2/2015 at 9:51 a.m. Central: Because I have them, I decided to insert the graphic that shows the two disappearing Facebook comments.

UPDATE 12/7/2015 at 8:16 a.m. Central: A military judge continued the military trial date for Army Maj. Christian “Kit” Martin to sometime in March 2016, though no specific date has been set.

UPDATE 12/10/2015 at 11:10 a.m. Central: I’ve learned that Major Martin’s military trial date is set for March 14-18, 2016.

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THROWBACK THURSDAY: Former Army Green Beret Offers His Take on Deadly Navy SEALs Mission — Extortion 17

Thirty Americans died in Afghanistan Aug. 6, 2011, according to a DoD news release issued five days later.  All had been aboard a U.S. military helicopter, call sign “Extortion 17.”   Among those on board were 25 Special Operations Forces personnel, including 17 U.S. Navy SEALs.  Though it became the most-deadly incident in the history of Naval Special Warfare, it has received scant public attention.

Click on image to read DoD News Release Aug. 11, 2011.

Click on image to read DoD News Release Aug. 11, 2011.

As a former Air Force public affairs officer, I have virtually no first-hand familiarity with SOF, though I have had many opportunities to speak with SOF members and even wrote a book, Three Days In August, about one of them.

Today, I count as friends many veterans boasting decades of SOF experience under their belts.  In an email message yesterday, one of those friends, a former Army Green Beret, shared his expert observations and raised some serious questions about the extremely-controversial of the Extortion 17 mission.  The text of his sometimes-graphic message appears below:

What makes Special Operations Forces (SOF) great is the attention to detail — every detail.

All SOF missions require isolation prior to missions.  In my community, we isolated all parties involved until wheels up.  Our host-nation military guys never knew where we were going or who was going until we got off the aircraft, vehicle, boat, etc.  No need to tell them, because you train for many different types of missions (i.e., raid, ambush, hostage rescue, etc.).  The person or place doesn’t matter.

On a typical mission, the team conducts mission planning down to infiltration and exfiltration.   We, the team, decide how it will be done.  We, the team, submit our plan to our group commander who, depending on risk assessment and who it is we are going after, contacts the Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force (CJSOTF).   Every theater has one.  The CJSOTF person makes direct contact with the Secretary of Defense.  Once the “green light” is given for the plan, it is the responsibility of CJSOTF to arrange the assets needed to conduct the mission.   Once the team is notified of the green light, “dry runs” are conducted — if, that is, it isn’t a time-sensitive mission.  The dry runs involve everyone on the team.

Half the team conducts infiltration, actions on the objective and exfiltration with host-nation personnel.  At no time are the host-nation personnel told the mission’s five W’s — who, what, where, when and why.   Meanwhile, the other half of the team gets current intelligence reports and works to coordinate needed assets (i.e., air, MEDEVAC, artillery, fast movers, etc.).

Generally, two to three team members go to the aviation unit and conduct an “air brief” with the commander of the aviation unit as well as their intelligence, weather and flight operations personnel.  There, they are briefed on the five W’s and instructed by team members about where and how they will fly, where they will land, the location of pick-up points and about contingencies.  They are given Rules of Engagement for the escort gun ships on “gun runs,” and the communication frequency for all is shared at this time.

Once the air brief is completed, those personnel link back up with the whole team for a mission brief.  After final checks are done, movement to the flight line takes place.  Weapons are placed in “red” status (i.e., has a round in the chamber and the safety is on), communication is checked,  accountability is checked, and away you go.

Now, there is a large distinction between a Green Beret mission and a Navy SEALs mission. Green Berets primarily train and conduct various missions with host-nation soldiers.  SEALs and Delta primarily do not.  Delta uses Ranger Regiment, and SEALs use more of their own — or Green Beret or some host-nation personnel.  In all of my time with SOF, I never saw a SEAL team conduct a mission with host-nation personnel UNLESS the SEALs were assigned to us.

I have worked with, through, and by SEALs, and I’m sure every SEAL has done the same with Green Berets.  My point:  The SEALs were directed by someone to take these host-nation troops with them.  Now, that same person allowed those personnel to change out.  This violates the Mission Decision-Making Process, the Bible for all military operations.

Now I know the family is upset about the age of the aircraft and the fact it was a “D” model versus an “H” model.   The ONLY unit with the MH-47H is the Army’s 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (Airborne), a group known as the Night Stalkers.  While every SOF unit (i.e., Green Beret, SEAL, Delta) team requests them for their missions, there are not enough of those aircraft to meet all of the requests.

When the team says they are doing a air infiltration, they request the air assets required. Prior to the air brief, they will know what platforms are available.  For instance, they will be told, “You asked for 10 helicopters and you only get 3,” or “You asked for fast movers at 0330 hrs, but they can’t get on station until 0415 hrs,” and so on.  By the end of the briefing, team members know who is available to cover their asses all the way down to the drone in the sky.

The MH-47H is a SOF-only aircraft built specifically for night operations.  It emits a small radar signature and carries formidable countermeasures, including — but not limited to — two mini-guns and one .50-caliber machine gun.  All crew members, including the flight crew, are assigned and trained by SOF.

Conversely, crew members aboard the CH-47D come from the ranks of the conventional forces and are not trained in the MH-47H capabilities.  The CH-47D is equipped with basic countermeasures, including two 5.56mm M249 SAW machine guns.  That’s it!

To be in the 160th, everyone — pilots included — must pass the same rigorous selection process as everyone else in SOF.  Pilots, who go through Survival, Escape, Resistance, Evasion (SERE) School, must have been a regular aviation  brigade member for at least four years before applying.  In most cases, and depending upon the risk assessment, non-SOF aircraft would not be allowed to go on missions involving high-value targets in hostile areas.  Long and short, the CJSOTF air commander would be the one coordinating this, responsible to locate and coordinate all air assets to include Quick-Reaction Force (QRF) air frames as well as fast movers, drones, etc.

U.S. Navy SEALs offload an all-terrain vehicle from an MH-47 Chinook helicopter following a village-clearing operation in Shah Wali Kot district, Kandahar province, Afghanistan, June 21, 2011. Operations such as these are conducted in order to promote the Government of Afghanistan, while denying Taliban influence throughout the province. The SEALs are with Special Operations Task Force ? South. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Daniel P. Shook/Released)

U.S. Navy SEALs offload an all-terrain vehicle from an MH-47 Chinook helicopter following a village-clearing operation in Shah Wali Kot district, Kandahar province, Afghanistan, June 21, 2011. Operations such as these are conducted in order to promote the Government of Afghanistan, while denying Taliban influence throughout the province. The SEALs are with Special Operations Task Force ? South. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Daniel P. Shook/Released)

By now, you’re asking, “What does all of this mean?”  The items below explain things in a nutshell while raising important questions:

1) No aircraft goes out without escorts or layers of escorts.

2) The team commander had to be ordered to take host-nation personnel with him and to change out those personnel.  Who gave that order?

3) Someone in the aviation unit would also have to approve the manifest change and would have the name of the person who authorized the change on the manifest.  Who changed the manifest?

4) When, until now, was there ever a funeral with U.S. and host-nation personnel together.  In all of my time in combat, I never saw it happen.  Why did it happen in this case?

5) How many personnel since this war started has the government cremated?  Again, I personally worked a crash with four U.S. personnel and one host-nation soldier that burned.  I personally pulled three torsos out of the wreckage — there were no legs, arms or skull above the jaws — and I placed them into three separate body bags.  I waited for the the forensic doctor who would perform the autopsy to arrive and, for four hours, we sifted through the wreckage for the remaining body parts and personnel effects.  We had a sixth bag that we put the pieces in for DNA testing.  I went to the funeral for the four U.S. personnel.  The host nation held a funeral at a mosque on the installation.  I tell you this to let you know great care is given to the dead, no matter how the person dies or how gruesome it is.  Every Soldier, Sailor, Marine and Airman deserves to rest on American soil, and deserves to come home.

6)  What assets were deployed to recover the personnel and what was the time line for those efforts?

7)  The operations order would have listed a QRF assigned to the mission.  Who were they and from what base/location did they come?

These are but a few of the questions that remain about Extortion 17.

During a May 9 news conference at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., several family members of the fallen warriors raised similar questions and were joined by a number of high-ranking, now-retired SOF members who did the same.  The news conference is captured in its entirety in the 3-hour video below.   Worth every minute of time you spend watching it, I hope you will watch it, share it and demand your elected officials in Washington obtain answers from the Pentagon and the Obama Administration to the questions raised about Extortion 17.

Our men and women in uniform deserve nothing less.

EDITOR’S NOTE: The story above was published for the first time June 4, 2013. I share it again today, because Americans need to remember it and not be satisfied until they get answers.

SEE ALSO: Did Afghan Officials Play Role in ‘Extortion 17′ Deaths?

For links to other articles of interest as well as photos and commentary, join me on Facebook and Twitter.  Please show your support by buying my books and encouraging your friends and loved ones to do the same.  To learn how to order signed copies, click here. Thanks in advance!

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