Soon after a 21-year-old Army paratrooper vanished in North Carolina over Memorial Day weekend, investigators said they'd found his remains. Now, authorities have announced the remains were his head, and that he had been decapitated in a homicide.
In May, Enrique Roman-Martinez, who had been stationed at Fort Bragg in North Carolina, was reported missing after going on a camping trip with friends on the Outer Banks, according to the National Park Service. The group went to bed and when they awoke, Roman-Martinez was gone and had left his cell phone, wallet and wallet behind.
During a 10-day search for him, human remains were found washed up on a beach that were later identified through dental records as belonging to Roman-Martinez, according to the Army Criminal Investigation Command.
Now, a newly released autopsy conducted by the Division of Forensic Pathology at East Carolina University’s Brody School of Medicine confirms the Fort Bragg soldier was the victim of a homicide, but that his cause of death remains uncertain because only his head was found.
“While decapitation is, in and of itself, universally fatal, the remainder of the body in this case was not available for examination, and therefore potential causes of death involving the torso and extremities cannot be excluded,” the report states, the Durham Herald-Sun reports. “A definitive cause of death cannot be determined, [but] the findings in this case are most consistent with death due to homicide.”
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When they called 911 at around 7 p.m. on May 23, the group of soldiers camping with Roman-Martinez told the dispatcher they feared he had gotten up in the middle of the night and had possibly hurt himself.
“When we woke up, he was not here and we’ve been looking for him all day,” the unidentified caller said, according to a 911 call recording obtained by the Army Times. “We were trying to find a Park Ranger or their offices, or anything, and so we went all the way to the ferry and found that we needed to dial 911.”
However, a Cape Lookout National Seashore spokesman disputed the group's claims, telling the Times Park Rangers had encountered the group earlier that day when they were asked to move their vehicles farther away from the sand dunes.
“The Rangers moved on after hearing the group would comply … [and the group] did not make mention to the Rangers at this point that anyone was missing from their group,” the spokesperson said in an email, according to the Times. “You would have to ask members of the group why they didn’t report a missing person then.”
The autopsy found evidence of “multiple chop injuries” to the California native's head, according to the Sun. His jaw had been broken in at least two places. A toxicology report was also done that showed there were no drugs in his system.
"It was so cruel what they did to him," Roman-Martinez's sister Griselda Martinez told ABC7 in July. "Why did they have to do that to him? He's already gone. Why did they have to go the extra step to do this to him? So, it was really hard for us, too."
Roman-Martinez joined the Army in Sept. 2016 and was assigned as a paratrooper to Fort Bragg in March 2017. He served as a human resource specialist.
"All he wanted was to do good in his life, so he joined the military," Martinez told CBS Los Angeles in August. "And this is what happened to him? We only have a part of him, that's it. This is not right. This should never have happened to my brother."
Last Wednesday, the bodies of two men — Master Sgt. William J. Lavigne II, 37, and Timothy Dumas, 44, an Army veteran who once served at Fort Bragg — were found on a training area of Fort Bragg. A defense department official told ABC News that foul play is suspected in their deaths.
Newsweek reports the deaths of Lavigne and Dumas are the fifth and sixth at Fort Bragg this year.
A $25,000 reward has been offered for information leading to an arrest in Roman-Martinez's killing. Anyone with information is encouraged to contact Army CID Special Agents at (910) 396-8777, the Military Police Desk at (910) 396-1179 or to submit information via https://www.p3tips.com/. Persons with information can remain anonymous.
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