- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 1, 2002

The wife of a special operations officer has been charged with killing her husband while he slept, in possibly the fifth domestic homicide associated with Fort Bragg Army Base in North Carolina since early June.

Army officials are examining the homicides, four of which involved military men accused of killing their wives, to try to determine whether the stress and culture of military life contributed to the bloodshed on the home front.

Three of the four soldiers linked to their wives' deaths had recently returned from special operations duty in Afghanistan. Two killed themselves and the other two confessed.

On Tuesday, Joan Shannon, 35, wife of Maj. David Shannon, 40, of the Special Operations Command, was arrested and charged with first-degree murder in his July 23 shooting death.

Sgt. Brian Sutton, spokesman for Special Operations Command at Fort Bragg, says the media have tried to place the blame for the slayings on the soldiers' deployment in Afghanistan. But he strongly denies such a link.

"The Special Operations Command was set up 13 years ago, and this never occurred before. We had troops deployed in Operation Desert Storm and there were no problems," he said. "They were also deployed in Haiti and Kosovo and there were no problems."

Mrs. Shannon told police an intruder shot Maj. Shannon, who didn't serve in Afghanistan, while they were sleeping at their house near the Fayetteville base. The couple's four children also were at home.

"From what I understand, police have concerns about several insurance policies she had: a military policy and a private policy," said Sgt. Anthony Kelly, spokesman for the Fayetteville Police Department.

Dr. Paul J. Fink, professor of psychiatry at Temple University, said the number of supposed domestic slayings at the fort represents an "extraordinary amount."

"There are figures that show there is more domestic violence inside the military than outside of it," said Dr. Fink, chairman of the American Psychiatric Association's Task Force on the Psychiatric Aspects of Violence.

He believes the military culture is a factor. He says that when a soldier returns home from a wartime deployment, he's "going from macho warrior to loving husband," and he may not be ready for the transition.

"Men are very sensitive about power and the issue of who is in charge" is one he may well confront when he gets home from a mission, he said.

Frederick Medway, a psychologist at the University of South Carolina, said "separation" can cause a lot of problems in marriages. He said spouses who engage in frequent business travel can have the same difficulties as those in the military. He also said research indicates that there is "more cheating" when military spouses are apart than one might ordinarily expect.

The other four incidents at Fort Bragg are as follows:

•On June 11, Sgt. First Class Rigoberto Nieves, a soldier in the 3rd Special Forces Group, shot his wife in the head and then killed himself. Sgt. Nieves had come home from Afghanistan two days before to try to work out marital difficulties.

•Jennifer Wright, wife of Master Sgt. William Wright of the 96th Civil Affairs Battalion, disappeared June 29. Sgt. Wright had returned from Afghanistan the month before. Because of marital problems, the sergeant had moved out of his home and back into the barracks. On July 19, the sergeant confessed to strangling his wife and led police to her body.

•On July 19, Sgt. First Class Brandon Floyd of the elite Delta Force, the secret anti-terrorism unit of the special forces, shot and killed his wife before killing himself.

•On July 9, Sgt. Cedric Ramon Griffin of the 37th Engineer Battalion, who was not part of the Special Forces, stabbed his wife 50 times and set her on fire. Police said he had a long history of marital discord and was living with another woman, who was pregnant, at the time of the killing, to which he later confessed.

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