Tina Priest was a 20-year-old from Smithville, Texas. She was certified as a medical assistant, and decided to join the Army shortly after. She served as an Army Private First Class on a military base known as Camp Taji in Iraq. She was assigned to the 5th Support Battalion, lst Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, in Fort Hood, Texas.
On February 15, 2006, Tina accused a fellow solider of sexually assaulting her. She underwent medical examinations, but they were inconclusive of an assault. On February 27, she was deemed “stable with no risk management issues” and was prescribed 48 hours of rest due to exhaustion by an Army clinical psychologist.
On March 1, two weeks after reporting her sexual assault, Tina Priest was found dead in her room. She had died of an M-16 gunshot wound to her chest. The Army ruled the death as a suicide.
Tina’s family disputed the Army’s suicide claim from the start. How could their petite 5-foot-tall daughter physically have shot herself with the M-16 rifle with her short arm length. The Army claimed that Tina used her toe to pull the trigger to kill herself.
The Army also claimed that Tina was suicidal and had trouble coping with her assault. Joy Priest, Tina’s mother said that the two spoke on the phone and exchanged emails frequently after her assault, and that if anything, she was angry but not suicidal.
It took the Army almost six months to provide Tina’s family with investigative documents, and then nine more months for them to release photos of the autopsy and death scene.
They have you jump through hoops, then they back you up and make you jump through more. It’s so painful — just mind-bending.Joy Priest – Tina Priest’s mother (The Los Angeles Times)
The Army never investigated Tina Priest’s death as a homicide, only as a suicide. Rape charges against the soldier who Tina accused of raping her were dropped a few weeks after her death, even-though his sperm was found on her sleeping bag. He was convicted of failure to obey an order and sentenced to forfeiture of $714 for 2 months, 30 days restriction to the base and 45 days of extra duty.
Tina Priest’s case is no longer under investigation by the Army, but her family is still fighting for the truth.
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