Friday, March 26, 2010
Murder in Baker Company by Cilla McCain -- Book Review
Murder in Baker Company: How Four American Soldiers Killed One of Their Own is a compelling, yet unnerving military crime read.
After serving in Bosnia, Army Specialist Richard T. Davis reenlisted in time for the invasion of Iraq. He would make it through the bloody, savage battle known as the Midtown Massacre and return on July 12, 2003 to Fort Benning, Georgia. Richard looked forward to reuniting with his parents soon in St. Charles, Missouri.
That reunion never happened.
When Richard's father, a career army officer, received a call stating his son was AWOL, he knew something was terribly wrong. After wading through months of red tape, an official investigation into Richard Davis's disappearance was opened. In November 2003, Richard's remains were discovered in a small patch of woods in Columbus. He had been viciously murdered and his body set on fire. Four members of Richard's platoon were arrested for the crime.
This is the story of his parents' nightmare to discover the truth of what happened to their son; a nightmare that seems to have no end.
In this thoroughly researched account, author Cilla McCain traces the events in the case of the murder of Army Specialist Richard Davis. Using court transcripts, personal interviews, and police records, McCain's journey to assist Remy and Lanny Davis in uncovering the truth behind their son's horrific murder and the cover-up that followed, provides the reader with a disturbing look into today's military.
I finished Murder in Baker Company a while ago. It has taken me many weeks to sit down and write this review. The picture of today's military that is portrayed in this book is disconcerting at best. I doubt anyone wants to believe the events as they have been written about in this book are true. Our soldiers are the good guys. And let me point out what I feel is very important here, the author does not take away from any of the good that our military has done with this account. McCain comes from a large army family, and therefore, she takes great pains to share what her research into the murder of Richard Davis and the subsequent trial indicated, without damning the military as a whole.
What Murder in Baker Company brings to light are issues that are of importance to military families and civilians. Due to being spread too thin is the military accepting applicants that might have been turned down in the past? Are psychological issues overlooked or treated with medication that is taken without proper instructions or monitored to keep the soliders performing? Is treatment for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder stigmatized? Are gang members making their way onto our barracks?
This book immediately called to mind the disappearance of Lance Corporal Maria Frances Lauterbach from Camp Lejeune, North Carolina on December 14, 2007. Lauterbach was eight months pregnant when she disappeared. The charred remains of Lauterbach and her unborn child were found in a fire pit in Corporal Cesar Armando Laurean`s backyard. Lauterbach had once accused Laurean of rape.
Some of the more troubling aspects of the Richard Davis case revealed in this book are:
* The time that elapsed before the army opened an official investigation into Davis's disappearance
* The lack of solid information provided to Lanny and Remy Davis about their son's murder
* A November 2003 letter typed on Fort Benning stationery and signed "Men of Baker Company" that was mailed to members of the local media and legal communities of nearby Columbus, Georgia from unknown soldiers just back from America's march through Baghdad, pleading for help
* The theft of Richard Davis's personal belongings
* The disappearance of Davis's camera in light of certain comments about how he had messed up or had seen something
* The investigation into the shooting deaths of three Iraqi soldiers on April 11, 2003 and the questionable actions of the Batallion Commander
The list could go on, but the point is that McCain makes a compelling case that forces us to wonder who is responsible for what happened to Richard Davis. Could his murder have been prevented? Mark Shelnutt, a criminal defense attorney, who represented Specialist Douglas Woodcoff, who was accused in Davis's murder, believes the tragedy never should have happened, and that McCain's telling of this story will save lives. He says as much on the back cover.
While McCain has managed to put together an account that is as engaging as a novel, the tragedy is that this isn't fiction. Richard Davis lost his life, and no one, not even his parents, has learned everything about what happened the night Richard was murdered.
I highly recommend this book. It's difficult to read, but it's well worth your time.
Title: Murder in Baker Company: How Four American Soldiers Killed One of Their Own
Author: Cilla McCain
Publisher: Chicago Review Press