Memorial services held for pregnant soldier

June 26, 2008 9:00:00 PM PDT
Friends and family gathered Friday for a private memorial service for Army Specialist Megan Touma. Friday's service comes as new details are being released in the investigation into her death.

An incident report released from the Fayetteville Police Deparment states Army Specialist Megan Touma was found "un-responsive in a motel bathtub" at the Fairfield Inn on Morganton Road Saturday. Touma was seven-months pregnant when she was found dead.

Fayetteville police is currently investigating Touma's death as suspious.

"That's our number one priority for the police department, we have all our investigators working on the case." Fayetteville Police Spokesperson Teresa Chance said.

On Wednesday, Megan Touma's ex husband, El Sayed Touma, spoke about her death.

"I mean the Army knows that she stayed in that hotel or motel; they put her in there and didn't even check on her to make sure she was okay. And when her family called the Army to check on their daughter, because they hadn't heard from her in a while, the Army said she was AWOL, and her mother said 'she would never go AWOL'," he said.

The following day, Public Affairs Specialist Jackie M. Thomas with Fort Bragg released a statement to clarify the AWOL accusations.

"Claims have been made in the media that Spc. Megan L. Touma was declared absent without leave (AWOL). This claim is false," Thomas wrote.

"It is vital to the integrity of the police's ongoing investigation that false or unverified information not mislead the public or investigators who are working on her case," said Maj. Angela Funaro, spokesperson for the XVIII Airborne Corps and Fort Bragg.

Fort Bragg is conducting its own investigation into the accountability of soldiers assigned to the 19th Replacement Company.

"Touma was not properly accounted for, and we are investigating how and why this happened," said Funaro. "We have procedures and processes in place designed to account for personnel during in-processing, and we are investigating why those procedures were not followed in this situation. We will determine what the shortfall was, correct it, and adjust as necessary for the future."

The 19th Replacement Company is responsible for the reception of the majority of soldiers assigned to Fort Bragg.

Each year they administratively process and support more than 12,000 Soldiers, which typically lasts 5 to 8 days. At the end of this time, they are reassigned to their permanent unit on Fort Bragg.

"Specialist Touma's family deserves respect from all interested parties as they grieve and await the findings of the police's investigation," said Funaro. "We have every confidence that the Fayetteville Police Department is doing due diligence to determine the cause of death. Our priority is to assist them by providing only accurate information so investigators can reach a swift conclusion."

During Wednesday's news conference, Fort Bragg officials say Touma was last seen on June 12, and she lived off post.

She signed into Fort Bragg's 19th Replacement Company on Thursday, June 12, at 2 a.m. and attended two required formations at 6:15 a.m. and 3 p.m. Touma was off the next day.

When she missed a formation Monday, June 16, she wasn't reported absent without leave after 24 hours, in accordance with Army regulations.

Bragg officials confirm that Touma requested a transfer to Fort Bragg to be near her fiance, who was also stationed at Bragg. Since the Army only requires soldiers to disclose spouses, Bragg officials say they would not know who her fiance is.

El Sayed says the couple were married for three years and divorced last year. He says there are no answers that will heal his broken heart.

"I still love her. I'm married now and I have a wife and a baby on the way, but I still love Megan, I do. I will never stop," El Sayed said. "She was a great person, she was lively, she was full of joy. She had a great smile and I just hate to see her go."

Officials say she came to Fort Bragg days ago, but say they have no information on any domestic trouble or problems with anyone they know of. They also said they are not aware of anyone who have wanted to kill her. Maj. Angela Funaro, a Fort Bragg spokeswoman said they have no information about the father of Touma's unborn baby. Touma joined the Army five years ago, and arrived in Fayetteville after returning from Germany as a dental specialist.

Police say customers at the Fairfield Inn complained of a strong odor coming from a room -- that's where a maintenance worker discovered the 23-year-old in the bathtub.

Investigators believe the woman had been dead several days.

According to court documents, motel workers say a 'do not disturb' sign hung on Touma's door for four days.

Police investigators say the bed appeared to be slightly pushed away from the wall and a nightstand and lamp were askew.

"We're shocked, first and foremost," Funaro said. "It's always sad when you lose a soldier and on top of that, here was a beautiful young woman. She was seven months pregnant. It's just sad and deeply troubling. We want to find out what happened to her and make sure that we and her family get all the answers we can to find out what happened here."

Fayetteville police hope autopsy and toxicology results will provide clues into Touma's death soon.

As for any idea on when a cause of death will be determined Chance says Fayetteville Police hope it will be soon.

"As soon as possible the medical examiner's office is supposed to let us know first, again we are hoping for something soon," she said.


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