Justice for PFC LaVena Johnson

Born: July 27, 1985 Missouri
Died: July 19, 2005 Balad, Iraq
LaVena Johnson
My daughter was beaten, raped, murdered, set on fire and then they tried to burn her tent down with her body in it; and your evidence says that. So it will be a cold day in hell before I stop, and I mean that with all my heart.
John Johnson ~ Military veteran and father of Lavena Johnson

LaVena Johnson was a Private First Class in the United States Army. She became the first female soldier in Missouri to die in the Iraqi invasion, but not the way you would think. Her death was officially ruled a suicide, but her autopsy results and other evidence have  made it clear she was raped and murdered. Despite copious amounts of evidence that a horrible crime had been committed, the United States Army ruled her death a suicide and refuses to investigate.

The following is taking in large part from an excellent article by Elizabeth Bernard Higgs. I liked her telling of the story and excerpt portions of it here.

According to the U.S. Department of Defense, Private LaVena Lynn Johnson killed herself on July 19, 2005, eight days before her twentieth birthday. Exactly how did she end her life? She punched herself in the face hard enough to blacken her eyes, break her nose, and knock her front teeth loose. She douched with an acid solution after mutilating her genital area. She poured a combustible liquid on herself and set it afire. She then shot herself in the head. Despite this massive self-inflicted trauma, she somehow managed to drag her then fully clothed body into the tent of a KBR contractor, leaving a trail of blood along the way and set the tent ablaze in a failed attempt to cover up her crimes against herself.

In reality, LaVena Johnson was raped, beaten, and murdered by someone on a military base in BaladIraq, and the Army doesn’t want you to know about it. Army officers most especially didn’t want her parents to know about it, so they concocted the suicide story, informing them that their daughter had shot herself in the head in her barracks.

When LaVena’s body was returned to her parents, however, her father, Dr. John Johnson, immediately noticed that her nose was broken and her lip was torn. He was surprised to discover that her gloves were glued to her hands (as it turns out, to hide burns). As a former military man himself, he also recognized that the exit wound from the bullet could not possibly have come from the weapon the military claimed LaVena used to kill herself. He knew then that the Army was lying to him, that his daughter had been murdered. He made these discoveries eight years ago. Today, the Army is still lying to him, and to us.

After filing a FOIA request for release of a CD-ROM contained in LaVena’s file but withheld from the family for over two years, and under added pressure from a congressman, the Army finally gave the Johnsons the CD. On it they found horrific photographs from the autopsy that clearly showed the extent of their daughter’s injuries. It proved that the original black and white photos of LaVena’s body originally sent to them had been doctored. Also on the disk were damning sketches of the crime scene that gave her parents further information contradicting the Army’s statements.

 Listen to NPR Tell Me More interview with her father recently and then become part of advocacy efforts on behalf of Lavena and her family. That advocacy needs to grow in momentum and volume. A vile injustice has been done and there should be an accounting. Any reasonable person reviewing the facts will agree. So the issue is really what can we do to raise the volume on this even further? How do we make an effective demand for accountability in this case? Reread the statement from Lavena's father at the top of this page.  Let us match his determination.