The Death of LaVena Johnson
Just days before her 20th birthday, LaVena Johnson's body was found in a tent in Balad, Iraq. The tent had been set on fire but the biggest question remains unanswered. Who killed LaVena Johnson?
Who Was LaVena Johnson?
She was an honors student and graduated from Hazelwood Central High School in Florissant, Missouri. LaVena had decided to go into the Army to help pay for her education as she did not want to place a greater financial burden on her parents.
Despite their reservations, she enlisted.Private First Class Johnson served from 2003 until her death which the Army ruled a suicide. LaVena Johnson was deployed to Iraq just 2 months before her death.
However, that ruling never sat well with her family.
Questions From the FamilyPrivate LaVena Johnson's death was quickly ruled a suicide.
Her parents were supposed to be informed of the autopsy findings immediately. However, they were not contacted until August 3, 2005. The autopsy was completed on July 22, 2005.
This didn't sit right with her father at all. The medical examiner insisted, despite her father's questions, that she shot herself worked an M-16 rifle.
It did not make sense at all to the family especially upon viewing her body prior to the funeral. She was right-handed, but the bullet hole was on the left-hand side. The medical examiner told Dr. Johnson that she placed the rifle in her mouth and that was an exit wound. Her father questioned why there was not more damage to her head if she shot herself through the mouth. He was once again dismissed.
She was only 5'1, so how did she manage to shoot herself with a rifle?
So many unanswered questions.
Was It a Cover Up?At a later time, with the help of a state politician, her father received a faxed copy of her files, and later the photos of her body when she was found. As heart-wrenching as it was for him to look through it, he knew it had to be done.
Dr. Johnson was a former Army GI and worked for the military as a contractor for many years. He knew that once the Army made a determination, they wouldn't change it.
But Was It Suicide?If she committed suicide, why would she do all that to herself?
Not to mention that there were bloody trails or footprints outside of the contractor's tent she was in.
The M-16 she is alleged to have used to kill herself was laid parallel to her body a few feet away. This rifle is on the other side of a cot from LaVena. This position doesn't make sense with the Army's narrative of events.
It was also discovered that sometime prior to her death, LaVena had been raped. She was undergoing treatment for an STD. She had not disclosed this to her family.
Due to other concerns, her family urged her to request a battle buddy. Her father was a former soldier and knew that this was a typical course of action. A Battle Buddy is a fellow soldier who would have been with her at all times as a safety precaution.
Not long after this conversation with her family, LaVena was dead.
After trying and failing to get the Army to reinvestigate, they hired their own team to analyze the scene and their daughter's autopsy.
The Army has refused to reopen the case despite all of the unanswered questions.It will truly take someone coming forward with direct knowledge of what happened, to assist in the possibility of getting the case reinvestigated.