Death and dishonor: The murder of soldier Richard Davis
Davis survived Iraq only to be killed by his fellow soldiers
On August 19, 2003, Lanny Davis made a 700-mile trek from Missouri to Fort Benning, Georgia. He had received a disturbing call from the Army. His son, Specialist Richard Thomas Davis, had gone AWOL and not shown up for duty.
Lanny, a military veteran who served in Vietnam, knew this couldn’t be true. Lanny once worked as an MP. His instincts as a former military policeman and father kicked into high gear. Richard had just returned from Iraq. He was reliable and had shown no previous signs leading anyone to think he would just walk away from his duties. Lanny decided to visit Fort Benning and conduct his own investigation.
In the back of his mind, fear had gripped the old veteran. He knew something dreadful had happened to Richard. He even feared Richard may be deceased. Lanny thought back to their last conversation while his son was in Iraq. Richard said he wanted to return home and didn’t feel safe among his fellow soldiers. Lanny wondered if his son’s concerns for his safety had led to his disappearance.
Once Lanny arrived at Fort Benning, he spoke to both the local police and his son’s superiors. He didn’t receive much help and claimed the Army had stonewalled him. Lanny used an old contact to look into his son’s banking information. He learned Richard’s account hadn’t been touched. This wasn’t good. His son wouldn’t go anywhere without any cash.
Stonewalled by the Army
After failing to gain any answers from the Army, Lanny returned home to Missouri. He contacted congressman Kenny Hulshof, who used his influence to open a meaningful inquiry into Richard’s disappearance. After a thorough investigation, Lanny learned the truth about what happened to his son. On July 14, 2003, Richard and four fellow soldiers who served in Iraq with him had gone out to celebrate their return to the states. The soldiers were Jacob Burgoyne, Alberto Martinez, Mario Navarrete, and Douglas Woodcoff. The men went out drinking and had become boisterous at a strip club. This led to a bouncer asking them to leave. The group blamed Richard for the removal. This led to a physical altercation between Burgoyne and Richard in the parking lot. The five men then piled into their vehicle and drove to a remote area at the 4400 block of Milgen Road near a gun store called Shooters. The men left the vehicle to continue the argument.
According to Columbus, Georgia law enforcement, the following occurred:
While Burgoyne and Richard fought, Navarrette attacked Richard. At this time, Burgoyne and Navarrette were physically beating Richard. For unknown reasons, Martinez pulled out a knife with a three-inch blade and began stabbing Richard. Burgoyne told police he tried to stop Martinez, but he refused. He stabbed Richard over 30 times. However, Navarrete told a different story. He claimed he tried to stop Martinez, but Burgoyne told him to stay out of it and let Martinez “do what he’s got to do.”
According to Burgoyne and Navarrete, Woodcoff didn’t participate in any of the violence. However, he didn’t attempt to stop the murder or report it. After Richard died, Burgoyne, Navarrete and Martinez dragged Richard’s body into the woods. The four men returned to the murder scene after buying lighter fluid from a convenience store. Burgoyne covered Richard in the fluid and then tossed a match on Richard’s body, which then became engulfed in flames.
Why was Richard murdered?
Burgoyne, Navarrete and Martinez returned several days later to bury Richard. But the ground was too hard, so they left his body where authorities would ultimately discover it. So why kill Richard? This is debatable. It doesn’t seem feasible to believe he died because of the strip club incident. Was there a more sinister motive? One of Richard’s relative’s set up a webpage to commemorate him. She received an anonymous email from a soldier who served with Richard in Iraq. He provided his own theory of why Richard was murdered. The anonymous soldier claimed that while in Iraq, Richard witnessed Martinez and Navarrete rape an Iraqi girl. The soldier said Richard was considering reporting the incident to authorities. After the details of Richard’s murder came out, Burgoyne receive a 20-year prison sentence while Martinez and Navarrete both received life sentences. Woodcoff received probation for concealing a death.
Although Richard Davis was murdered in 2002, this behavior continues in the military. Recently, Fort Hood has been under intense scrutiny for the deaths of nearly 30 soldiers this year alone. You would think the American soldier would mostly fear being killed by a foreign enemy. Instead, they should have more fear of being murdered on American soil by a fellow soldier.