Seven United States service members from North Carolina are reportedly set to face court-martials this summer for conspiracy and other charges. The soldiers were reportedly the last ones to see Fort Bragg paratrooper US Army Human Resource Specialist Enrique Roman-Martinez before his decapitated head was found along Cape Lookout National Seashore in May 2020.
Roman-Martinez, 21 years old, was part of a group of soldiers assigned to the 37th Brigade Engineer Battalion, 2nd Brigade Combat Tea, 82nd Airborne Division. The group broke Army COVID-19 protocols to go on an overnight camping trip on the South Core Banks, an island along Cape Lookout National Seashore.
Roman-Martinez went missing overnight amidst a heavy downpour. His severed head was found along the shore almost a week after he was reported missing. However, his body was never found. His death was listed as a homicide, but no one has been charged due to the lack of evidence surrounding the matter.
“While decapitation is, in and of itself, universally fatal, the remainder of the body in this case was not available for examination, and therefore potential causes of death involving the torso and extremities cannot be excluded,” a 2020 autopsy report stated.
According to court records, Specialists Juan Avila, Joshua L. Curry, Benjamin E. Sibley, Alex R. Becerra, Private First Class Samad A. Landrum, Private Annamarie L. Cochell, and Sergeant Samuel O. Moore were the last to see Roman-Martinez alive.
All seven are facing one count of conspiracy and failure to obey a direct order or regulation referring to traveling over 50 miles away from Fort Bragg during a COVID-19 travel ban.
Becerra, Cochell, and Landrum face additional charges for using LSD, a psychoactive drug. Becerra is further charged with three counts of disobeying a superior, while Cochell was charged with two counts, and Curry with one count.
Becerra is also facing three counts of making false statements. Sibley, Landrum, and Curry are charged with two counts, while Avila was charged with one.
“The death of Spc. Enrique Roman-Martinez is a tragedy,” Brian Rodan, Chief of Public Affairs for the 82nd Airborne Division, told Newsweek. “It remains unsolved and is an ongoing investigation.”
“The charges against these seven soldiers are not related to the ongoing investigation into Enrique’s death,” Rodan added. “The charges in this case are merely accusations, and the accused are presumed innocent until proven guilty.”
The homicide case remains open but was recently recategorized as a “cold case” due to the lack of leads. The US Criminal Investigation Division is currently offering a $50,000 reward in exchange for any information that might help the investigation.
Roman-Martinez left behind a family in California who had nothing but praise for the young soldier. According to them, he was someone who ultimately wanted to enjoy his time and make a positive impact.
“All he wanted was to do good in his life, so he joined the military. And this is what happened to him? We only have a part of him, that’s it,” his sister Griselda Martinez said. “This is not right. This should never have happened to my brother.”
The seven soldiers reported that Roman-Martinez was missing through 911 on the evening of May 23, a day after he went missing. However, hours before making the emergency call, the group ran into US Park Rangers, who could’ve helped find the missing paratrooper.
“When we woke up, he was not here, and we’ve been looking for him all day,” the 911 caller said. “We were trying to find a Park Ranger or their offices or anything, and so we went all the way to the ferry and found that we needed to dial 911.”
However, early in the day, Park Rangers encountered the soldiers. The Park Rangers requested they move their vehicles as they were parked too close to the sand dunes, according to Cape Lookout National Seashore spokesperson B.G. Horvat.
“The Rangers moved on after hearing the group would comply … [and] did not make mention to the Rangers at this point that anyone was missing from their group,” Horvat said in an email. “You would have to ask members of the group why they didn’t report a missing person then.”
The 911 caller, who is yet to be identified, also mentioned that they were “afraid [Roman-Martinez] might’ve hurt himself.” They claimed he had “suicidal tendencies,” which his sister Griselda disputed.
“If you believe your friend has suicidal tendencies, why would you let them walk off in the middle of the night with no belongings?” said Griselda. “Why wouldn’t you, first thing in the morning, wake up and freak out … On top of that, why would you wait all day, until 7:30 p.m., to report him missing?”
According to Griselda, Roman-Martinez, who had been in his fourth year of enlistment, was months away from leaving the military. He was scheduled for medical discharge because of a chronic compartment syndrome in his legs.
Roman-Martinez was planning to live with his sister in California and planned to spend his military benefits to study psychology and pharmacology.
“Just have it in your hearts to help,” Griselda said. “I want to know if my brother suffered or not.”