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No End in Sight for a Family’s Agonizing Guessing Game
Posted on Sep 20, 2011
By John Lasker
This development was a surprise to the family. Sylvia said the McBeths learned of the arrests and charges through the media, not through the Army. “To me, this is playing out like from some movie scene or something. It’s crazy,” she told a reporter in late 2010. She went on to say the family was still in the dark about the facts of Morganne’s death, adding, “We are kind of happy that they are being charged, but we are still disappointed.”
At that point, Bailey was charged with involuntary manslaughter, obstruction of justice, conspiring to obstruct justice by giving false statements and making a false official statement. Cain was charged with conspiring to obstruct justice by giving false statements and giving false statements. Later the Army made one of the charges against Bailey more severe after Cain admitted that his first account of the fatal night was not accurate.
Cain and Bailey first told investigators that the three were hanging out in a vacant tent throwing four-inch knives at a poster pinned to the tent’s thin synthetic fabric and foam lining and when Bailey yanked a knife out of the tent he pulled so hard he accidentally spun around and plunged it into McBeth. But, according to prosecutors, in a fourth statement that Cain gave, the specialist changed his story: He claimed that Bailey, instead of losing control of his motion when yanking the knife from the tent, had been wildly brandishing the knife, struck a wall and then accidentally stuck the blade into McBeth when he turned around. The Army elevated the main charge against Bailey from involuntary manslaughter to negligent homicide. Even so, that more serious charge, like the first one, carries the possibility of a far lighter sentence than murder, which would require that the prosecution prove malicious intent.
The McBeth family and Morganne’s friends, especially those outside the military, scoff at the Army’s acceptance of a claim that she was horribly, deeply stabbed by accident as she and two friends were goofing off, and they are repelled by the sentence that Cain received when he was found guilty at Fort Bragg this past spring on charges of obstruction and giving false statements—45 days in the brig and a reduction in rank. Those grieving for McBeth were stunned by what they saw as a slap on the wrist for Cain, and as Bailey’s September court-martial approaches they say the military cannot be trusted to see that justice is done.
The McBeths point to the report of a paramedic who tried to save Morganne. Louis Vega, an emergency responder and contractor for the Defense Department who helped rush McBeth to the main hospital at Al-Asad, told military investigators that the dying woman, in some of her last words, told him there had been an altercation. There is no published record of Vega ever saying that McBeth told him what had caused the “scuffle”—the word used in the first sentence of one of the articles of a North Carolina newspaper that is following the case. If indeed there was a physical conflict in the moments before the stabbing, doubt is cast on all the accounts by Cain and Bailey.
It stands to reason that Vega would be a key witness in legal proceedings stemming from the death. But after he was scheduled to testify during Cain and Bailey’s Article 32 hearings—hearings that determine whether court-martials go forward—he never showed up. The Army prosecution team told the court that Vega was not available to testify. The Fayetteville, N.C., Observer reported that Vega “could not be reached … because he was on a Carnival cruise ship.”
Sylvia McBeth said in an interview that when she asked the CID why Vega did not testify, she was told the Army had no power to bring the civilian to the hearings; the Army added that he was on vacation, she said. The writer of this Truthdig article made numerous attempts to reach Vega, but no correspondence was ever returned.
During the Article 32 proceedings, the prosecution’s contention that the stab wound was accidentally inflicted came under a barrage of skepticism from at least one military investigator and at least one Army surgeon.
Army CID Special Agent David Miller, who investigated the case, stated during one of the hearings, “I couldn’t reconcile pulling a knife out of that wall [made of foam and fabric] and losing your balance to the point that you take a knife with a 3½ [to] 4-inch blade literally to stab someone all the way to the hilt of the knife. Those sequences happening, they didn’t make sense.”
This reporter tried to interview Lynn, but the colonel of Lynn’s unit, the 21st Combat Support Hospital of Fort Hood, Texas, said he would not allow the doctor to talk about the matter.
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