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‘How Do You Suffocate Yourself?’: The Family of a U.S. Army Soldier Who Died During Deployment Believes She Was Murdered, Rejects Military Assertion That She Committed Suicide

The family of a former U.S. Army soldier stationed in Germany is demanding answers regarding her recent death. Before her premature demise, the 27-year-old Black woman told relatives she no longer felt safe with the others she was stationed with overseas.

There is a mystery surrounding the Aug. 9 death of Denisha Montgomery. The military told her family the young woman died by suicide, but only 21 days prior Montgomery said she was afraid for her own life and pointed to other officers within her unit as the source of her anxiety and anguish, according to News Nation Now.

The mother of three based at Fort Stewart, Georgia, joined the Army two years ago and was transferred in the summer of 2022 to the 139th Military Police Company stationed in Wiesbaden, Germany. Once she got overseas, things started to change and her enthusiasm for the armed forces diminished.                                                                   

The family shared on Tuesday, July 19, Montgomery called her family, asking them to record her as she spoke. 

On the 12-minute tele-visit, she said, “I just want to come home. Look what they did to me.”

Montgomery showed her loved ones a series of serious bruises and open wounds on her body, implicating other officers as the perpetrators of her assault.

According to the Black woman, she said she and some other military police from her unit went off base to a water park. While hanging out, she shared they all started to drink and enjoyed each other’s company.

During the return to the barracks, she says members of the unit assaulted her.

She said, “They choked me out like they was doing this in the car. I kept telling them … I can’t breathe.”

Though sobbing throughout the call, she managed to tell her relatives that she was going to report the assault the next day. Montgomery never reported. Instead, she texted her uncle the next day saying, “They told me if I report an assault, I’ll be charged with assault too because I mushed the female and bit the male that was choking me.”

Still, her relatives reported the four military police officers who assaulted and strangled Montgomery to the Red Cross, not knowing about the aforementioned threat.

Three weeks later, Montgomery was found dead in her barracks. She was supposed to return home a month later at the end of September.

Her mother Heather Montgomery said the family was told she killed herself.

The mom said the Army called her saying, “We’re sorry to inform you that your daughter has committed suicide by suffocation.”

“And I said, ‘How do you suffocate yourself? How can you possibly suffocate yourself?’ mother questioned.

Her father, Rodney Montgomery, said it would have been outside of his daughter’s character to take her own life, saying, “I know my daughter, she’s strong. She’s not a weak person. She’s a very strong person.”

Joshua Smith, her husband, is also certain his wife did not die by suicide.

In a statement from the U.S. Army Europe and Africa Public Affairs department, it said, “On Aug. 9, Pfc. Denisha Montgomery, assigned to the 139th Military Police Company, was found unresponsive in her barracks room on Lucius Clay Kaserne, in Wiesbaden, Germany. Emergency services were immediately called and the scene was secured until their arrival. She was pronounced dead on the scene.”

“We are saddened by the loss of Pfc. Montgomery,” the statement continued. “Our thoughts are with her family and loved ones during this difficult time.”

The Army said the incident is being investigated by the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Division and is expecting a “complete and thorough investigation will be conducted.”

“We take any and all accusations regarding this incident seriously and request everyone refrain from posting unsubstantiated information to social media platforms,” it concluded.

“While we are yet to have a final determination of the cause or manner of death, we can say that there were no signs of foul play,” Army spokeswoman Cynthia O. Smith told Army Times. “We extend our heartfelt condolences to Spc. Montgomery’s family, and will provide them a comprehensive update once the investigation is complete.”

Tomeka Light, Denisha’s aunt who also served 13 years as an Army sergeant and was awarded the Purple Heart, said, “It doesn’t make any sense. How are you still investigating when you prematurely said she committed suicide? That tells me that you’ve already have a determination.”

“Something told me that her life was in danger,” Light added.

The Army says it has not arrived at a definitive conclusion about Montgomery’s cause of death, telling Army Times in a statement, “While we are yet to have a final determination of the cause or manner of death, we can say that there were no signs of foul play.”

Lindsey Knapp, executive director of Combat Sexual Assault, is now representing the private’s family. She believes the Army was too speedy to suggest suicide.

“We’ve got a service member who was afraid for her life, and assaulted 21 days prior to her death,” Knapp said. “What we’re calling for now is that the FBI immediately take this case over. Because what the military has shown us is that they are unable to take this case and give Denisha the justice that she deserves.”

Amy Frank, from the Never Alone Advocacy, said the military did not look at it as an “attempted murder on her life.”

“If leadership believed that she was suicidal, she should have not been walking around with a gun. What I do know is none of this makes sense,” Frank said.

Others have added their thoughts on the matter saying the military “should have … removed” her from the “situation immediately.”

Michael Matthews said, “That’s what they’re supposed to do. And they didn’t do it. Whether they believe the person was raped or not, they’re supposed to follow the rules and they don’t, and that person died.”

“They should find the person who didn’t follow through on it properly like they’re supposed to. And they should court-martial because they’re destroying the military, destroying our national defense. They are worse than any terrorist in the world. This is destroying the fabric of our military,” Michael added.

A GoFundMe was set up by the family in August. The goal was $15,000. It has only raised $2,794 as of this writing.

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