LaVena Johnson - The Silent Truth
Is there an army cover up of the rape and murder of women soldiers?
Ninety-four United States military women have died in Iraq or during Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF). Of these deaths some twenty occurred under extremely suspicious circumstances; defined by the Army and the Department of Defense as ‘non-combat related injuries,’ with the additional characterization of ‘suicide’.
‘The Silent Truth’, tells the story of nineteen year-old U. S. Army Private LaVena Johnson, who was found dead on the military base in Balad, Iraq in July, 2005, her death determined by the US Army to be suicide by a self-inflicted M-16 gun shot. Through interviews with Ms. Johnson’s parents, Dr. John and Linda Johnson, this documentary tells the story of the family’s struggle to find the truth surrounding LaVena’s death, and their continued pursuit of justice for their daughter. As Dr. Johnson explains it — from the day his daughter's body was returned to him, he had grave suspicions about the Army's characterization of her death as suicide.
He says that while viewing his daughter's body at the funeral home, he developed concerns about the bruising on her face. He was also puzzled by the discrepancy in the autopsy report regarding the location of the gunshot wound. Dr. Johnson, a U. S. Army veteran and a twenty-five year U. S. Army civilian employee who had counseled veterans, was mystified about how the exit wound of an M-16 shot could be so small. The hole in LaVena's head appeared to be more the size of a pistol shot rather than an M-16 round. He questioned why the exit hole was on the left side of her head, when she was right handed. But the fact that military uniform white gloves were glued onto LaVena's hands, hiding third degree burns, is what deepened Dr. Johnson's suspicion that the Army's investigation into the death of his daughter was flawed.
As the documentary will show, over the next two and one-half years, Dr. and Mrs. Johnson and their family and friends, through the Freedom of Information Act and Congressional offices, relentlessly requested that the Department of the Army supply them with all documents concerning LaVena's death. With each response of the Army to their demands, another piece of information/evidence about LaVena's death emerged.
Most shocking, was a CD Dr. Johnson received of photographs taken by Army investigators of his daughter's body as it lay where it had been found, as well as other photographs of her disrobed body taken just prior to the autopsy.
These photographs reveal that LaVena, a small woman, barely 5 feet tall and weighing less than 100 pounds, had been brutally beaten. The photographs of her disrobed body showed bruises, scratch marks and teeth imprints on the upper part of her torso. The right side of her back as well as her right hand had been burned and there was clear evidence of sexual assault.
As the Johnsons explain in our interviews, despite the bruises, scratches, teeth imprints and burns on her body, Lavena was found completely dressed in a burning contractor's tent. There was a blood trail outside the tent. She apparently had been dressed after the attack and her body moved into the tent and set it on fire.
On April 9, 2008, Dr. John Johnson and his wife, Linda, flew from their home in St. Louis for meetings with U.S. Congress members and their staffs, requesting that the Army reopen LaVena’s case. There they met with Representative Clay from Missouri, his staff, and representatives from the Army’s investigative unit. The Army maintained its position throughout the dialogue and had no answers for the Johnsons when contradictions in the evidence were pointed out. They steadfastly insisted that LaVena had shot herself.
Today the Johnsons are continuing the fight to have their daughter’s case reopened by the Army and are still requesting a congressional hearing into the obvious cover-up. As filmmakers we are following this renewed effort, and have initiated our own meetings with Congressional members of both the Armed Services Committee and the Oversight Committee.
Interviews with our Military Consultant, (Ret.) Colonel Ann Wright will also be included in the film. Colonel Wright will provide an overview of sexual abuse of women troops in the military, its alarming increase, and describe several other suspicious ‘suicides’, that have yet to be resolved.
Dr. John and Mrs. Linda Johnson have created a scholarship fund to honor their daughter. Donations can be made to:
The LaVena L. Johnson College Scholarship Fund
P.O. Box 117
Florissant, MO 63032