FORT HOOD, Texas — Army Criminal Investigation Division personnel at Fort Hood confirmed this morning that Pvt. 1st Class Wilson Jennings, Jr., committed "suicide-by-first-sergeant," and his death will not be ruled a homicide.
“This case displays all the classic suicide-by-proxy signs," confirmed CID spokeswoman Allison LeMay. "Unbloused boots. Out-of-reg sideburns. Shamming out of work details and missing medical appointments. Failing to sign routine paperwork properly, necessitating much more administrative oversight."
"The final straw was his field loss statement to the first sergeant, in which he claimed to have lost multiple TA-50 issue items," LeMay added.
Jennings, an 88M truck driver assigned to 1st Brigade (Ironhorse), 1st Cavalry Division, was originally taken to Darnall Army Medical Center with severe crush injuries and lacerations on his face and torso. Doctors attempted unsuccessfully to revive him, and Jennings was pronounced dead in the surgery room in the Emergency ward. Jennings, 21, is survived by his wife Liza, 46, and her three adult children.
Harald C. Barnes, the senior noncommissioned officer in Jennings’ company, was initially arrested in connection with the death, after MPs responding to the scene in the company orderly room found Jennings unconscious on the floor.
"Barnes had blood all over his uniform," according to one witness, "and he was holding Jennings’ field loss statement for $3500 worth of TA-50."
While Barnes was held in the Fort Hood disciplinary holding facility overnight, investigators eventually determined the private had essentially committed suicide and dropped all charges against Barnes.
LeMay described the growing number of incidences of suicide-by-proxy in the military. The practice is increasing at a rate sufficient enough to alarm several top generals, who sent a letter to the Joint Chiefs last month requesting additional resources and research to combat the problem.
With regard to the specific Jennings incident, LeMay was careful to stress that Barnes will not be, and should not be, held responsible for Jennings’ death.
“After all of Jennings' failures, who among us could blame Barnes for killing him as brutally as possible?” added LeMay. “Especially when, during the autopsy, much of the missing gear was discovered inside Jennings’ rectum. Barnes is no more to blame for Jennings’ death than a speeding train or truck that some civilian threw herself in front of.”
Barnes will undergo therapy to recover from the trauma incurred during the incident, the culmination of which will be a psychiatrist-supervised firing of Jennings’ mortal remains out of a howitzer.
“We see this in the civilian world all the time,” LeMay said. “That is, 'suicide-by-cop' or individuals diving into traffic. It’s a way for them to mentally separate themselves from the act, yet still achieve the effect of killing themselves."
"It relieves them of the responsibility, in the hope that suicide-by-proxy is not as egregious as committing the act by their own hand,” LeMay said.