LaVena Johnson: Murdered By Her Colleagues, Ignored By The Army

Illustration for article titled LaVena Johnson: Murdered By Her Colleagues, Ignored By The Army

This is Private First Class LaVena Johnson of Missouri. An honors student who nonetheless didn't quite know what she wanted to do with her life, she enlisted in the Army right out of high school in 2003 and was sent to Iraq, where she died. When the Army returned her mutilated body to her grieving parents as a suicide, her dad, Dr. John Johnson, said to himself and the Army coroner, "Somebody murdered my daughter and you picked the wrong person to fuck with." Fucking right.


When LaVena's father finally brought himself to look at his daughter's corpse in 2005, sent home from Iraq with a report that she'd committed suicide by shooting herself in the left side of her head with an M-16 - which, by the way, is not a handgun but a relatively long rifle, he thought there was something wrong.

Private LaVena Johnson's nose was broken, teeth were loose, one eye was concave and there were abrasions over her body. The supposed M-16 hole to the head was far too small for the revolver-sized exit wound, and was on the wrong side of her skull for a right-handed woman to have pulled the trigger. Her genital area showed evidence of acid, perhaps used to destroy DNA evidence. She had white military gloves glued to her burned hands.

Since then, the Army has continued to insist that the LaVena committed suicide by pointing her rifle with her non-dominant hand at the side of her head and set herself on fire, all after she beat herself up and poured acid on her genitals (since their was no apparent investigation into whatever happened there). Oh, and there was a trail of blood leading away from the tent where her body was found.

Her father has been trying for nearly 3 years to get someone - including Congress - to investigate the death of his daughter, which he feels was a cover-up or conspiracy in the manner of Pat Tillman. Of course, he's trying to get people to pay attention to his African-American daughter's "suicide" and not the friendly-fire death of a white male NFL player, which is probably part of the problem. Lara Battles, spokesperson for the House Armed Services Committee, told KMOV, "At this time the House Armed Services Committee is looking into Private Johnson's case, but no decisions have been made for a formal investigation."

Wondering who to contact to get that formal investigation started? The website dedicated to getting LaVena's case investigated has some ideas.

The Cover-Up Of A Soldier's Death? [The Pfc. LaVena Johnson Petition]

Women GIs In Fear Of The Enemy In Their Army [New Zealand Herald]

M16-M4 [Military Weapons]

The Tragic Story Of LaVena Johnson [Salon]

Father Of Daughter Mysteriously Killed In Iraq Wants Answers [KMOV]



My best friend's sister spent 15 months in Iraq, in a National Guard unit. She was lucky, the guys in her unit treated her like a sister. She was quite aware of how many other women were being raped in the showers, by their military comrades.

Women have NEVER been welcome in the military, and violence against us is always covered up. There needs to be a whole lot of light shined on the military and it's attitudes about women, ASAP.

This story gives me the topic for my editorial this week. My Congresswoman is on the House Armed Services Committee. She'll be hearing from me.

I'd also recommend that folks email Congressman Dennis Kucinich. This is an issue I'm sure he cares deeply about.