Skip to comments.Army Wives Sought Separation ,Marital woes preceded deaths
Posted on 08/05/2002 7:27:56 AM PDT by robowombat
Fayetteville (NC) Observer August 4, 2002
Army Wives Sought Separation
Marital woes preceded deaths
By Christina DeNardo, Staff writer
Four Fort Bragg wives allegedly killed by their husbands had at least one thing in common that could have contributed to their deaths.
According to family, friends and investigators, the women wanted out of their marriages.
In January, Jennifer Wright told her parents she was "tired of being a military wife" and wanted a divorce. Investigators said her husband, Master Sgt. William Wright, killed her at the end of June. They said he confessed three weeks later and led authorities to her body.
Marilyn Griffin separated from her husband of eight years in May. Two months later, she was stabbed to death and set on fire in her home. Sgt. Cedric Griffin was charged.
Investigators and family believe Teresa Nieves and Andrea Floyd told their husbands they wanted to separate in June. Lawmen said Sgt. 1st Class Rigoberto Nieves shot his wife in the head and himself June 11. Sgt. 1st Class Brandon Floyd killed Andrea on July 19, then turned the gun on himself.
A fifth killing involving a military spouse happened July 23. Maj. David Shannon, 40, a soldier assigned to the U.S. Army Special Operations Command, was shot to death in his home as he slept. His wife, Joan, 35, and her 15-year-old daughter were charged last week.
There is no indication that threats of separation played any role in that death. Investigators said he was killed for insurance money.
Andrea Floyds mother, Penny Flitcraft, said she believes her daughters desire to leave undercut Brandon Floyds sense of control. "Theyve been trained to be so in control," Flitcraft said. "How dare that person walk out on them."
That need for control is a common trigger for men who kill their wives, said people who work with victims of domestic abuse.
"We do know that the most dangerous time for a woman who is in an abusive relationship is when she leaves," said Bill Duke, former director of the CARE Center, a shelter and advocacy group for battered women in Fayetteville.
Crystal Black, who heads the center now, said men who kill their wives may be extremely dependent on them. "When they leave, the men may see their whole world falling down," she said. "They see it as the end."
The men charged with killing their wives in the past two months are not the first Fort Bragg soldiers charged with murder this year. In January, police charged Damian Franceschi in the stabbing death of his estranged wife, Shalamar, in front of Mi Casita restaurant in the Tallywood shopping center on Raeford Road. A month before, Damian Franceschi had been charged with kidnapping his wife, raping her and holding her mother and their 17-month-old son hostage. He was released from jail after posting bail.
In three of the more recent slayings, the husbands were special operations soldiers who had been deployed to Afghanistan. But civilian investigators discount a direct connection to wartime service. They say that the deaths were the culmination of major domestic problems rather than a symptom of any kind post-combat stress.
Rigoberto Nieves, who was assigned to the 3rd Special Forces Group, had requested to leave Afghanistan in June to resolve personal problems. But Brandon Floyd, a member of the secretive counterterrorism unit Delta Force, and William Wright, who served in the 96th Civil Affairs Battalion, had been back from combat for some time. Cedric Griffin had never been to Afghanistan. He worked in the commissary.
"Its not like all three went to Afghanistan, came back and killed their wives," said Lt. Sam Pennica of the Cumberland County Sheriffs Office. "They all had ongoing marital problems before the war."
Still, Fort Bragg officials have said they will conduct a review of how troops and their families were handled as they returned from Afghanistan. They want to find out if they missed warning signals.
Post officials also said they will look at how the military deals with marital problems in general, especially where there are indications of domestic abuse. The military has programs to help troubled families, but since reports of the killings appeared in the Observer, dozens of military spouses have contacted the newspaper to complain that those programs are ineffective.
Those wives, most of whom asked to remain anonymous, have said that the military winks at infidelity, that seeking help is seen as a sign of weakness in a soldier and is potentially career-threatening, and that lack of confidentiality in the counseling programs keeps some women from speaking out.
History of trouble
According to friends, family and investigators, marital problems went back months and even years, in the four recent cases that ended in the deaths of wives.
Teresa, 28, and Rigoberto Nieves, 32, were married 10 years. In early June, Nieves requested leave from Afghanistan. He had been home for less than two days, police said, when he shot his wife in the head and then committed suicide in the couples home on Watling Court in the Country Club North subdivision.
Investigators said that there were accusations of infidelity from both husband and wife. And Teresa Nieves had reportedly told her husband she wanted to part ways with him.
Rigobertos sister Carmalita Nieves said she last spoke to him in June, after he returned from Afghanistan. She was unaware of any serious problems.
"We dont know what happened to make him snap like that." she said from her home in New Jersey.
Marilyn Griffin, 32, had separated from her husband three times during their eight-year marriage. The most recent was in May, two months before she was killed. Cedric Griffin, 28, continued to visit his wife and her two children, Breaunna, 6, and Keanna, 2.
According to a report in The Washington Post, Griffin was the only one of the four soldiers who was in counseling on post.
Tonya Styles is Marilyn Griffins sister. She said the couple first separated when Cedric Styles was deployed several years ago.
"She said that Cedric didnt want to be married anymore and that he didnt want to be a family," Styles said from her home in Atlanta. "But she was trying to make it work."
While he was away, Marilyn got pregnant. But in 1999, the couple reunited.
About six months ago, Styles said Marilyn told her a subordinate of her husbands was pregnant with his child. "My sister threatened to tell his sergeant about the relationship and he said she wasnt going to ruin his life."
Styles said Marilyn never told the sergeant.
A sign of weakness
Army officials say the military is sensitive to family problems and offers marriage counseling to any soldier or spouse who seeks it. But a soldier who was William Wrights neighbor said that seeking help on post could be perceived as a sign of weakness and hurt a soldiers career.
The soldier, who asked that his name not be used, said he never would have thought Wright was capable of killing his wife of 14 years. "He loved her. He probably still does."
But upon his return from Afghanistan, the soldier said, Wright, 36, knew Jennifer, 32, was on the verge of leaving him. When he reported her missing to sheriffs investigators, he said he suspected her of running off with another man. "She wasnt happy, and that hurt him more than anything else," the soldier said.
Wright would often take his three sons -- 13-year-old Ben, 9-year-old Jacob and 6-year-old John -- fishing on Fort Bragg. "When he came home, he was always with the kids," said the soldier. "Thats the only time I saw him happy. His boys were his life."
Hours after he strangled his wife, put her in a parachute recovery bag and buried her near Fort Bragg, he took his sons fishing, investigators said. Two days later, he reported her missing.
"In the Army, your last resort is to strangle someone," the soldier said. "I dont think he planned it."
The soldier said he had recently separated from his own wife. Time apart and accusations of infidelity caused the breakup, he said. "But this didnt help," he said, looking toward the Wright home.
William Wrights cousin, Jerry Wood, saw the couple at the funeral for Williams mother last year.
"They seemed so perfectly happy with the kids," said Wood, who lives in Indianapolis. "It didnt seem like there was any turmoil. Thats why we are so shocked."
Wood described the Wrights as the perfect couple. The children were home schooled.
"My wife and I kind of envied them. It seemed like they had everything going for them."
Flitcraft, Andrea Floyds mother, is now raising her three grandchildren. All five of the spouse killings have left 12 children essentially orphaned. In two cases, both parents are dead. In the other three, the surviving parent faces the prospect of years in prison.
Flitcraft said Brandon Floyd verbally abused her daughter, although she said he never hit her. The only report of violence was the murder-suicide, investigators said.
"Andrea and Brandon were like oil and water," said Kendra League, one of Andreas best friends, who lives in Syracuse, N.Y. "As long as Ive known them, they havent gotten along."
They Floyds met while stationed in Germany in 1993. Both had joined the military after graduating from high school. A year later, they had Harlee, the couples daughter, now 8.
Brandon Floyd was a perfectionist, League said, and he wanted the perfect wife.
"She struggled to please him. She was tall, blond and beautiful. He would tell her she was fat and she needed to do something with herself," League said.
League said Andrea, 29, and Brandon, 30, had separated briefly before marrying in 1995. "Andrea was always determined to make things work," she said.
Flitcraft said she noticed the couples problems were getting worse as Brandon Floyds career in special operations progressed.
But Andrea Floyds mother said she was willing to make sacrifices. "It was obvious that he was very loyal to the Army and he wanted a military career," Flitcraft said. "My daughter was willing to be in sync with that."
That meant frequent deployments. Flitcraft said Andrea was sometimes alone at least half the year. The couple also had two sons, B.J., who is 5, and Garrett, who is 4.
League said Andrea would sometimes look forward to the deployments. "I think for a while she was glad when he went away," League said. "It was more peaceful when he went away."
Andrea Floyd never took advantage of the military wives support groups, her mother said. "She saw those as cliques," Flitcraft said. "They never prepared the women for any type of domestic issues."
And those issues grew through the years of the marriage.
"He became more and more unkind to her," Flitcraft said. "She wasnt pretty enough. She wasnt thin enough. She wasnt a centerfold."
In June, Flitcraft said, her daughter called her in tears. "She was sobbing and saying she couldnt take the verbal abuse anymore."
"I kept telling her the verbal abuse was abuse," Flitcraft said. "I dont think she had any idea that he could snap like that."
League said some of the couples problems might also have been financial. In December, the couple bought a large two-story home on Carl Freeman Road in Stedman.
Flitcraft said she believes the military did not help them deal with their problems.
"Brandon needed help and she needed help," Flitcraft said. "And it wasnt available. The military likes to pretend that good soldiers can handle anything, and thats absolutely bull."