The Macabre Murder Of Lavena Johnson And Power Abuse Within The U.S Army
19-year-old LaVenna Lynn Johnson was a victim of a gruesome murder while serving as a private first class army soldier in Iraq. However, her story reveals a lot of grey areas within the US army.
Lavena Johnson was born on the 27th of July 1995 in Florissant, Missouri, United States. She lived with her parents Dr John Johnson and her mother, Linda. Towards the end of high school, Lavena decided to join the army to ease the tuition burden to her parents. A few months later, she was deployed to Iraq and permanently stationed in the city of Balad. She frequently called everyone back home to keep them posted on how she was doing. Overall she seemed happy, and no one expected what transpired down the line.
Few months into her stay, her parents were shocked to learn of the mistreatment and disrespect their daughter was facing from her superiors though she claimed it wasn’t happening to only her and they shouldn’t be too worried about it. However, things slowly intensified, and Lavena wrote numerous letters to her mother, updating her on the situation, but remained optimistic about the future. Nonetheless, on the 14th of January 2005, she called home and asked to speak to her father. Though Lavena began the conversation on a good note, things gradually turned sour. She told Dr Johnson how harrowing her day had been towards the end of the shift, mainly because some soldiers were disobeying her and refusing to leave the communications room despite being fully aware that she was in charge and called the shots.
However, after few minutes of her going back and forth with them, the general had shown up and managed to get everyone out with just a single word. Surprisingly, he scolded her for failing to put her foot down and allowing them to run her over instead of telling them off. Lavena said she was shocked by his attitude and behaviour towards her and expressed that she felt targeted rather than supported. Seeing his daughter might be in danger, Dr Johnson advised her to find someone who would stick by her side no matter what and always watch her back.
Though Lavena agreed to take her father’s advice, she never implied it. Did it mean she didn’t trust anyone in that camp? If so, what was the reason behind it?.
Lies and cover-up
A few weeks later, she called home one more time and promised to be back before Christmas. She then asked that no one decorated the Christmas tree and that it was her sole responsibility to do it. The family were delighted to get the news, but sadly their joy was short-lived. Approximately three days after the lovely call, a man knocked on their door bearing the most devastating news. The messenger told them that Lavena had taken her own life, but Dr Johnson immediately knew the soldier was bluffing and concealing the truth.
A day later, the family received another call from one of the generals. Narrating the story, the general said Lavena had worked her usual shift that morning and finished around five. Soon after, she headed to her changing room and put on her training outfit to join others for that day’s training; however, she never arrived. One of the soldiers was then sent to call her, but she was not in her room. After few minutes of everyone searching, Laven was eventually located in a contractor’s room laying on her back, with her arm covering her face and in a pool of blood. To try and strengthen their suicide theory, they claimed that next to her corpse was a pile of burned papers that appeared to be laters from her boyfriend and maybe things had reached rock bottom between the two, and Lavena only saw her death as the only way out. They also mentioned that on her right was an M16 rifle which they assumed she used as a suicide weapon.
Before Lavena’s body was sent home for burial, the army claimed to have conducted an autopsy which verified their claim. The family was then advised against body viewing due to the nature of her corpse, but the parents wanted to see their baby despite its supposed awful condition. The father asked for the casket to be opened, and shockingly his daughter’s face was in good condition with only a tiny gun wound to the left of her head. However, she had lots of cuts and bruises on her face, neck and lips. Where could they have come from if she had shot herself? Did it mean she hurt herself before ending her life?. None of it made any sense, which angered the family, especially Dr Johnson, who felt they were being taken for a ride.
After a few analyses of the body, Dr Johnson began questioning how the gun wound was on her left head, yet his daughter was right-handed and why her hands were glued to her gloves?. Thirdly as a verified professional vet, Dr Johnson knew the wound was not an M16 rifle but a nine millimetre instead. Could it be a typo error, or just like the case of Vanessa Guillen, there was more to the story than what met the eyes?.
Desperate to find answers, the family hired a private investigator to look into the case on their behalf, and as expected, the truth had been concealed from them. Apart from the known verbal abuse attacks, Lavena had been sexually abused many times and was secretly being treated for a sexually transmitted disease. A second autopsy showed no signs of gun residue or powder on her hands, meaning the suicide notion was a big fat lie. However, pictures obtained by the investigator were too blurry to expose any concrete evidence and determine what could have happened to her.
While the parents continued to browse through the report, a bizarre page crossed multiple times and too hard to read popped up. Some believed it had been smuggled by mistake, while others are definite someone had intentionally slide it in to try and reveal something without risking losing their job. Whatever the case maybe be, it became handy. The family demanded its clear copy, but the US Army refused to hand it over. They claimed it contained everyone’s personal information and giving it away would breach that, but Dr Johnson did not give up. He kept insisting until he was told to basically back off, or the war was on if he was looking for one. Very gross and inconsiderate.
The fight and heartbreaking outcome
Seeing things were now beyond his power, Dr Johnson appealed to the Congressman for help. The party joined the battle and fought day in and day out, and after two years, the Johnsons finally got hold of the file. Upon looking at the crime scene pictures, they were clear as day compared to the ones they had been given before. The scars were much more apparent, and one of her elbows had popped out. Sadly her lower regions were badly burnt with acid, and Lavena’s back was fully covered in mud, dirt and debris as if someone had brutally dragged her on the ground. Could it mean someone had tried to abuse her again, and Lavena decided to put on a fight, or one of the soldiers from the communications room attacked her, believing she had called the general on them?. A lot of questions remain unanswered.
Though shocked and torn into pieces by the gruesome pictures, the family went back to the US Army and demanded justice for their daughter but were told the case was already closed, and there was no way of opening it again. Painfully that was the end of it, and to date, whoever killed beautiful Lavena remains scot-free whilst the family continues to drown in pain and sorrow, seeking the truth and closure. My heart goes out to them, and l pray she is resting in peace.
You can watch her documentary entitled The Silent Truth.