ANTIDEPRESSANTS, ETC.: FT CARSON Soldier (Marquez) Murder

“We’re used to seeing people who are depressed and want to hurt themselves. We’re trained to deal with that,” she said. “But these soldiers were depressed and saying, ‘I’ve got this anger, I want to hurt somebody.’ We weren’t accustomed to that.”
MARQUEZ:

Marquez started destroying himself with the pills that were supposed to help him.

For his injuries, he said, doctors at Evans prescribed him 90 morphine pills, 90 Percocets, and five fentanyl patches every three weeks.

“They were for pain,” he said. “And I still had pain. But, mostly, I was using them to get high.”

He could not get Iraq out of his head. Doctors prescribed antidepressants and sleeping pills, but he said they didn’t help. He was saving up Percocet, then downing a handful on an empty stomach.

He said he started trading his morphine with other soldiers for an antipsychotic called quetiapine and an anti-anxiety drug called clonazepam. Improper use of either can cause psychotic reactions, anxiety, panic attacks, aggressiveness and suicidal behavior, but, Marquez said, injured soldiers traded them like children in a lunchroom swapping desserts.

“It was real common among the guys who were hurt,” Marquez said.

At one point, Marquez said, he ate his three-week supply of meds in half the time, then went back to Evans claiming he had lost his pills.

He started not showing up for duty. He took more pills. He bought more guns and kept them his in his car, he and other soldiers said.

It was no secret. Sergeants later told police that Marquez had showed off his stash of weapons.

Print Story | E-Mail Story | Font Size

Casualties of War, Part I: The hell of war comes home

Comments 118 | Recommend 56

July 26, 2009 3:30 PM
THE GAZETTE

Before the murders started, Anthony Marquez’s mom dialed his sergeant at Fort Carson to warn that her son was poised to kill.

It was February 2006, and the 21-year-old soldier had not been the same since being wounded and coming home from Iraqeight months before. He had violent outbursts and thrashing nightmares. He was devouring pain pills and drinking too much. He always packed a gun.

(A word of caution about the language and content of this story: Please see Editor’s Note)

“It was a dangerous combination. I told them he was a walking time bomb,” said his mother, Teresa Hernandez.

His sergeant told her there was nothing he could do. Then, she said, he started taunting her son, saying things like, “Your mommy called. She says you are going crazy.”

Eight months later, the time bomb exploded when her son used a stun gun to repeatedly shock a small-time drug dealer in Widefield over an ounce of marijuana, then shot him through the heart.

Marquez was the first infantry soldier in his brigade to murder someone after returning from Iraq. But he wasn’t the last.

Hear the prison interviews with Kenneth Eastridge.

Marquez’s 3,500-soldier unit — now called the 4th Infantry Division’s 4th Brigade Combat Team — fought in some of the bloodiest places in Iraq, taking the most casualties of any Fort Carson unit by far.

Back home, 10 of its infantrymen have been arrested and accused of murder, attempted murder or manslaughter since 2006. Others have committed suicide, or tried to.

Almost all those soldiers were kids, too young to buy a beer, when they volunteered for one of the most dangerous jobs in the world. Almost none had serious criminal backgrounds. Many were awarded medals for good conduct.

But in the vicious confusion of battle in Iraq and with no clear enemy, many said training went out the window. Slaughter became a part of life. Soldiers in body armor went back for round after round of battle that would have killed warriors a generation ago. Discipline deteriorated. Soldiers say the torture and killing of Iraqi civilians lurked in the ranks. And when these soldiers came home to Colorado Springs suffering the emotional wounds of combat, soldiers say, some were ignored, some were neglected, some were thrown away and some were punished.

Some kept killing — this time in Colorado Springs.

Many of those soldiers are now behind bars, but their troubles still reach well beyond the walls of their cells — and even beyond the Army. Their unit deployed again in May, this time to one of Afghanistan’s most dangerous regions, near Khyber Pass.

This month, Fort Carson released a 126-page report by a task force of behavioral-health and Army professionals who looked for common threads in the soldiers’ crimes. They concluded that the intensity of battle, the long-standing stigma against seeking help, and shortcomings in substance-abuse and mental-health treatment may have converged with “negative outcomes,” but more study was needed.

Marquez, who was arrested before the latest programs were created, said he would never have pulled the trigger if he had not gone to Iraq.

“If I was just a guy off the street, I might have hesitated to shoot,” Marquez said this spring as he sat in the Bent County Correctional Facility, where he is serving 30 years. “But after Iraq, it was just natural.”

More killing by more soldiers followed.

In August 2007, Louis Bressler, 24, robbed and shot a soldier he picked up on a street in Colorado Springs.

In December 2007, Bressler and fellow soldiers Bruce Bastien Jr., 21, and Kenneth Eastridge, 24, left the bullet-riddled body of a soldier from their unit on a west-side street.

In May and June 2008, police say Rudolfo Torres-Gandarilla, 20, and Jomar Falu-Vives, 23, drove around with an assault rifle, randomly shooting people.

In September 2008, police say John Needham, 25, beat a former girlfriend to death.

Most of the killers were from a single 500-soldier unit within the brigade called the 2nd Battalion, 12th Infantry Regiment, which nicknamed itself the “Lethal Warriors.”

Soldiers from other units at Fort Carson have committed crimes after deployments — military bookings at the El Paso County jail have tripled since the start of the Iraq war — but no other unit has a record as deadly as the soldiers of the 4th Brigade. The vast majority of the brigade’s soldiers have not committed crimes, but the number who have is far above the population at large. In a one-year period from the fall of 2007 to the fall of 2008, the murder rate for the 500 Lethal Warriors was 114 times the rate for Colorado Springs.

The battalion is overwhelmingly made up of young men, who, demographically, have the highest murder rate in the United States, but the brigade still has a murder rate 20 times that of young males as a whole.

The killings are only the headline-grabbing tip of a much broader pyramid of crime. Since 2005, the brigade’s returning soldiers have been involved in brawls, beatings, rapes, DUIs, drug deals, domestic violence, shootings, stabbings, kidnapping and suicides.

Like Marquez, most of the jailed soldiers struggled to adjust to life back home after combat. Like Marquez, many showed signs of growing trouble before they ended up behind bars. Like Marquez, all raise difficult questions about the cause of the violence.

Did the infantry turn some men into killers, or did killers seek out the infantry? Did the Army let in criminals, or did combat-tattered soldiers fall into criminal habits? Did Fort Carson fail to take care of soldiers, or did soldiers fail to take advantage of care they were offered?

And, most importantly, since the brigade is now in Afghanistan, is there a way to keep the violence from happening again?

Maj. Gen. Mark Graham, who took command of Fort Carson in the thick of the murders and ordered marked changes in how returning soldiers are treated, said he hopes so.

“When we see a problem, we try to identify it and really learn what we can do about it. That is what we are trying to do here,” Graham said in a June interview. “There is a culture and a stigma that need to change.”

Under his command, nearly everyone — from colonels to platoon sergeants — is now trained to help troops showing the signs of emotional stress. Fort Carson has doubled its number of behavioral-health counselors and tightened hospital regulations to the point where a soldier visiting an Army doctor for any reason, even a sprained ankle, can’t leave without a mental health evaluation. Graham has also volunteered Fort Carson as a testing ground for new Army programs to ease soldiers’ transition from war to home.

Eastridge, an infantry specialist now serving 10 years for accessory to murder, said it will take a lot to wipe away the stain of Iraq.

“The Army trains you to be this way. In bayonet training, the sergeant would yell, ‘What makes the grass grow?’ and we would yell, ‘Blood! Blood! Blood!’ as we stabbed the dummy. The Army pounds it into your head until it is instinct: Kill everybody, kill everybody. And you do. Then they just think you can just come home and turn it off. … If they don’t figure out how to take care of the soldiers they trained to kill, this is just going to keep happening.”

Satan’s throne

The violence started to take root in Iraq’s Sunni Triangle, where the brigade landed in September 2004.

“It was actually beautiful. There were lots of palm trees,” said Eastridge, who is a working-class kid from Kentucky who had never really been anywhere before he joined the Army.

But, he said, “the situation was ugly.”

It was a little more than a year after President George W. Bush had landed on an aircraft carrier in front of a “Mission Accomplished” banner to announce the end of major combat operations. But the situation was growing worse. Rival militias of Sunnis and Shiites were gaining strength. Looting had crippled cities. And in a war with no clear front or enemy, the average monthly body count for U.S. soldiers was up 25 percent from a year earlier.

The brigade was in the worst of it.

None of it bothered Marquez.

In high school, he had been a co-captain on the football team and had run track. After graduation, he joined the infantry because the Army commercials full of guns and helicopters looked like the coolest job in the world.

Eastridge felt the same way. He was the closest thing to a criminal in the group of soldiers later arrested for murder. He was trying to get his life together after growing up with a mother addicted to cocaine. He had been arrested for reckless homicide when he was 12, after he accidentally shot his best friend in the chest while playing with his father’s antique shotgun. He pleaded guilty and was sentenced to counseling. After that, his record had been clean.

Felons cannot join the Army unless they get a waiver from a recruiter. Eastridge said he called a dozen until one told him, “Son, it looks like you just need someone to give you a chance.”

Like Marquez, Eastridge wanted to join the infantry because, he said, “that’s where you get to do all the awesome stuff.”

After basic training, the Army sent both men to South Korea.

They were in different battalions of what became the 4th Brigade Combat Team. Marquez was in the 1st Battalion, 9th Infantry Regiment; Eastridge, the 1st Battalion, 506th Infantry Regiment. Both were foot soldiers. Both were surrounded by other young, gung-ho GIs with no battle experience. And both learned in the spring of 2004 that they were going to Iraq.

“We thought it would be cool. It was what we signed up for,” Marquez said.

It turned out not to be cool at all.

Ramadi, where Marquez landed, had a population the size of Colorado Springs but had no dependable electricity, let alone law and order. Sewage ran in rubble-choked streets. The temperature sometimes rose to 120 degrees.

And when roadside bombs blew civilians to bits, soldiers said, packs of feral dogs fought over the scraps.

Pat Dollard, a documentary filmmaker embedded in the area at the time, wrote that it looked like “Satan had punched a hole in the Earth’s surface, plopped down his throne, and set up shop.”

Marquez was assigned to hunt terrorists in the city. Eastridge patrolled the highway between Ramadi and Fallujah. With him was Bressler, a quiet, friendly gunner later arrested with Eastridge for murder.

Going on a mission usually meant tramping house to house in dust-colored camouflage, loaded down with rifles, pistols, body armor, ammo, grenades and water to fight the incessant heat.

Soldiers went out day and night, knocking on doors — sometimes kicking them in. They set up checkpoints. They seized weapons. They clapped hoods over suspected insurgents. They rarely found terrorists, but the terrorists found them.

A few days into the deployment, a sniper’s bullet killed Marquez’s lieutenant. Then another friend died in a car bombing. Then another.

Combat brigades always take higher casualties than the rest of the Army because they fight on the front lines, but, even by those standards, the 3,500-soldier brigade got pummeled. Sixty-four were killed and more than 400 were injured in the yearlong tour, according to Fort Carson — double the average for all Army brigades that have deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan.

As the insurgents learned their craft, attacks became more gruesome.

A truck loaded with explosives careened into Eastridge’s platoon, killing his squad leader, blowing fist-size holes in his platoon sergeant and pinning the burning engine against the baby of the unit, Jose Barco.

Bombs meant to kill soldiers shredded anyone in the area. Women had their arms ripped off. Old men along the road were reduced to meat.

“It just got sickening,” said David Nash, a then-19-year-old private and Eastridge’s best friend. “There was a massive amount of hate for us in the city.”

One of the jobs of the infantry was to bag Iraqi bodies tossed in the streets at night by sectarian murder squads.

“First thing in the morning, all we would do is bag bodies,” Eastridge said. “Guys with drill bits in their eyes. Guys with nails in their heads.”

Eastridge said he was targeted by snipers twice. Both bullets smashed against walls so close to his face that they peppered his eyes with grit. He laughed at his luck. He loved being a soldier.

In February 2005, Eastridge was in the gun turret of his Humvee when it drove over an anti-tank mine. A deafening flash tore off the front end. Eastridge woke up a few minutes later, several feet from the smoking crater.

He sucked it up. He was bandaged up and sent back on patrol. He said cerebral fluid was leaking out of his ear.

That was the job of the infantry. Eastridge’s battalion was created in World War II and became known as the “Band of Brothers.” It parachuted into Normandy on D-Day and fought in the Battle of the Bulge. In Vietnam, it helped turn back the Tet Offensive and take Hamburger Hill.

Men who heard the stories of past glory almost never got a chance for their own in Iraq. The enemy was invisible. The leading cause of death was hidden roadside bombs.

Sometimes, Marquez felt his only purpose was to drive up and down roads in an armored personnel carrier called a Bradley to clear away hidden bombs.

To unwind, soldiers spent hours playing shoot-’em-up video games. They even played one based on their own unit in Vietnam. They said it offered a release. They could confront a clearly defined enemy. They could shoot, knowing they had the right guy. They could win.

In Ramadi, Marquez and other soldiers said, it felt like they were losing.

“It just seemed like the longer we were there, the worse it got,” said Marquez’s friend in the 1st Battalion, 9th Infantry Regiment, Daniel Freeman.

Freeman was knocked unconscious by a roadside bomb, but the most rattling thing, he said, was driving through the eerie calm, knowing an improvised explosive device, or IED, could kill every soldier in a Humvee without warning, or maybe just smoke one guy in the truck, leaving the others to wonder how, and why, they survived.

Hatred and mistrust simmered between soldiers and locals. Locals who waved to them one day would watch silently as they drove toward an IED the next.

“I’m all about spreading freedom and democracy and everything,” said Josh Butler, another soldier in the 1st Battalion, 506th Infantry Regiment. “But it seems like the Iraqis didn’t even want it.”

Soldiers said discipline started to break down.

“Toward the end, we were so mad and tired and frustrated,” Freeman said. “You came too close, we lit you up. You didn’t stop, we ran your car over with the Bradley.”

If soldiers were hit by an IED, they would aim machine guns and grenade launchers in every direction, Marquez said, and “just light the whole area up. If anyone was around, that was their fault. We smoked ’em.”

Other soldiers said they shot random cars, killing civilians.

“It was just a free-for-all,” said Marcus Mifflin, 21, a friend of Eastridge who was medically discharged with PTSD after the tour. “You didn’t get blamed unless someone could be absolutely sure you did something wrong. And that was hard. So things happened. Taxi drivers got shot for no reason. Guys got kidnapped and taken to the bridge and interrogated and dropped off.”

Soldiers later told El Paso County sheriff’s deputies investigating Marquez for murder that, in Iraq, he got his hands on a stun gun similar to the one he later used on the Widefield drug dealer. They said he used it to “rough up” Iraqis.

Stun guns are banned by the Geneva Conventions. Using one is a war crime, but four soldiers interviewed by The Gazette said a number of soldiers ordered the stun guns over the Internet and carried them on raids. The brigade refused to make other soldiers who served during the tour available for interviews. The Army said it destroys disciplinary records after two years, so it has no knowledge of whether soldiers in the unit were punished.

After 10 months, Marquez said, all he wanted to do was go home.

In June 2005, with a month to go, his platoon was walking across a field when a sniper’s bullet smashed through his best friend’s skull under the helmet.

The platoon circled its guns and grenade launchers, Marquez said, and “tore that neighborhood up.”

That night, Marquez got hit. His squad had just finished hosing his friend’s blood out of their Bradley when they were called out on another mission. They loaded into two Bradleys and rolled toward downtown Ramadi.

Marquez was riding in the dark, cramped rear of the lead Bradley. In a flash, a blast tore through the floor. The engine exploded. Diesel fuel spewed everywhere in a plume of fire. Marquez said he watched the driver scramble out screaming, flames leaping from his clothes.

Marquez and the others clambered into the dark street, rifles ready. Another bomb slammed them to the ground.

Then came a flurry of bullets spitting across the dirt. Marquez was hit four times in the leg.

As blood spurted from his femoral artery, Marquez said, he raised his grenade launcher to return fire and realized the storm of bullets had come from the heavy machine gun on the other Bradley, which had just come around the corner.

“They must have seen our Bradley on fire, figured it was an attack and thought we were all dead,” he said this spring, shaking his head, “then just started shooting.”

According to the Army, two soldiers died. Marquez said three others were wounded. Brigade commanders didn’t make anyone familiar with the incident available.

Marquez was flown to Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C.

He was still bleary on morphine on the Fourth of July weekend that he was told Bush was coming to award him a Purple Heart.

Marquez’s sister, who was visiting, didn’t want to see the president because she was so angry about the war and her brother’s wounds, but Marquez was honored.

“I had gotten hurt, but it is part of the job. I wasn’t mad at nobody,” Marquez said.

He was in the hospital for three months and had 17 surgeries so he could keep his leg. Marquez was being medically discharged from the Army and could have stayed at the hospital, but he transferred to Fort Carson on Sept. 13, 2005, to spend his remaining months with his war buddies, who had just returned from Iraq.

He eventually learned to walk without a cane, but other wounds proved harder to heal. He started having nightmares about the war. He felt worthless and crippled, depressed and angry. On a visit home to California, he made his mom put away all his high school sports trophies.

The only things that made him feel better were the pain pills the doctors prescribed for him — and only if he took too many.

‘Kumbaya period’

Post-traumatic stress disorder is like a roadside bomb.

The symptoms can remain hidden for months, then explode. They can cripple some soldiers and leave others untouched. And just like bombs disguised as trash or ruts in the road, PTSD can look like something else.

In many cases, it looks like a bad soldier. In addition to flashbacks and nightmares, Army studies say, symptoms can include heavy drinking, drug use, domestic violence, slacking off at work or disobeying orders.

You can often see it coming, said the most recent commanding general of Fort Carson, if you know what to look for.

Soldiers usually go through a jubilant high for a few months after they come home, Graham said. He calls this time “the Kumbaya period.”

“Soldiers have served their country, they’ve made it back, they’re home. It’s all great. It’s later that problems start to surface,” Graham said.

Usually, problems don’t show up for three to six months, he said.

When the brigade landed in Colorado Springs, most soldiers had spent a year in Iraq and a year in South Korea. Most had saved several thousand dollars. Many were old enough to legally drink in the United States for the first time. They had survived the worst of Iraq, and they were jonesing to blow off steam.

All they had to do was go through a few post-deployment debriefings that Fort Carson still uses.

Soldiers sit through classes that warn them that troops often have unrealistically rosy notions of home. They are told to be understanding with spouses and loved ones. They are cautioned to be careful with drinking and driving, and they are warned that the time for carrying a gun everywhere ended in Iraq.

All personal guns must be stored in the post’s armory — not in soldiers’ barracks, not in their cars and not tucked in their belts.

Then Fort Carson screens every soldier for PTSD and other combat-related problems.

If there are no red flags, the soldier can go on leave. If there are, they are referred for further diagnosis, officials at Fort Carson’s Evans Army Community Hospital said.

The screening asks soldiers a long list of questions about the deployment: Do you have trouble sleeping? Are you depressed? Did you clear houses or bunkers? Were you shot at? Did you witness brutality toward detainees? Did you have friends who were killed?

“Did you shoot people? Did you kill people? Did you see dead civilians? Did you see dead Americans? Did you see dead babies? No. No. No. No.” Eastridge said, mimicking how he answered the questionnaire.

“I had seen and done all that stuff, but you just lie to get it over with.”

Several soldiers said the same: They lied because they didn’t want the hassle of more screening.

When the young infantrymen were set free in Colorado Springs, many packed Tejon Street bars such as Rendezvous Lounge and Rum Bay. When the bars closed, soldiers said, they often picked fights in the street.

By 2006, the police were being called to break up bar brawls almost every night. Extra police were assigned to the area.

The Colorado Springs Police Department doesn’t track the crime statistics of individual units, but according to the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office, jail bookings of military personnel as a whole increased 66 percent in the 12 months after the brigade returned.

The “Kumbaya period” lasted about six months, soldiers said.

Eastridge said he blew through almost $27,000, mostly drinking at bars, but the first thing he did was buy guns: pistols, shotguns and an assault rifle similar to the one he carried in Iraq.

“After being in Iraq, it feels like everyone is the enemy,” he said. “You feel like you need a gun so they don’t come to get you.”

His friends all felt the same way.

Nash slept with a loaded .45 under his pillow.

Butler kept a Glock .40-caliber with him all the time, even when he rocked his newborn baby.

Marquez bought three pistols, a riot-style shotgun and an assault rifle like the one he carried in Iraq. He carried a pistol constantly, he said, even when he went to church.

His buddy, Freeman, said he bought himself a “big, scary” snub-nose .357 revolver.

“I couldn’t go anywhere without it,” he said. “I took it to the mall. I took it to the bank. I even had it right next to me when I took a shower. It makes you feel powerful, less scared. You have to have it with you every second of every day.”

Some returning soldiers, especially those with family members to notice their behavior, went into counseling.

More than 200 Fort Carson soldiers have been referred to First Choice Counseling Center, a private counseling service in Colorado Springs. Davida Hoffman, the director, said her counselors were unprepared for what they heard.

“We’re used to seeing people who are depressed and want to hurt themselves. We’re trained to deal with that,” she said. “But these soldiers were depressed and saying, ‘I’ve got this anger, I want to hurt somebody.’ We weren’t accustomed to that.”

In units that have seen the toughest combat in

[Message clipped]  View entire message

550 total views, 2 views today

ZOLOFT: FT CARSON – Soldier (Needham) Sucide Attempt, Murder

In March 2007, Needham went to the battalion’s doctor, saying he was “losing it” and needed a break, according to a summary of his service that he wrote. He was prescribed the antidepressant Zoloft and sent back to work. In May, Needham said, he went back to the doctor and was again sent back to work. In June, according to medical records, he went again. And in September. Commanders always sent him back out on patrol, he said.

Around that time, he posted a note on his MySpace page: “I’m falling apart by the seams it seems the days here bleed into each other I have to find the will to live man I miss my brothers. These walls are caving in my despair wraps me in its web, I feel I’m sinking in, throw me a lifesaver throw me a life worth living. I’m a part of death I am death this is hard to admit but this shits getting old.”

A few nights later, on Sept. 18, Needham and a fellow soldier bought a contraband can of whiskey and tried to drink away their sorrows. Then Needham took out a gun and fired a shot at his head, his father said. The bullet missed. Needham was detained by his commanders for illegally discharging a firearm. After a few weeks of arguing by phone and e-mail, Needham’s father convinced the unit to let his son see a doctor. The soldier was diagnosed with severe PTSD and flown to Walter Reed Army Medical Center.

“What led him to the point of such deep despair that he would attempt suicide?” his father, a retired Army officer, asked. “I understand it. He was trained as a soldier. He was a good soldier, and his group was doing things he knew was wrong. And he was in this prolonged combat situation where they have all this armor and lifesaving technology to keep them alive, but mentally, they are in pieces.”

http://www.gazette.com/articles/iframe-59065-eastridge-audio.html

Print Story | E-Mail Story | Font Size

Casualties of War, Part I: The hell of war comes home

Comments 118 | Recommend 56

July 26, 2009 3:30 PM
THE GAZETTE

Before the murders started, Anthony Marquez’s mom dialed his sergeant at Fort Carson to warn that her son was poised to kill.

It was February 2006, and the 21-year-old soldier had not been the same since being wounded and coming home from Iraqeight months before. He had violent outbursts and thrashing nightmares. He was devouring pain pills and drinking too much. He always packed a gun.

(A word of caution about the language and content of this story: Please see Editor’s Note)

“It was a dangerous combination. I told them he was a walking time bomb,” said his mother, Teresa Hernandez.

His sergeant told her there was nothing he could do. Then, she said, he started taunting her son, saying things like, “Your mommy called. She says you are going crazy.”

Eight months later, the time bomb exploded when her son used a stun gun to repeatedly shock a small-time drug dealer in Widefield over an ounce of marijuana, then shot him through the heart.

Marquez was the first infantry soldier in his brigade to murder someone after returning from Iraq. But he wasn’t the last.

Hear the prison interviews with Kenneth Eastridge.

Marquez’s 3,500-soldier unit — now called the 4th Infantry Division’s 4th Brigade Combat Team — fought in some of the bloodiest places in Iraq, taking the most casualties of any Fort Carson unit by far.

Back home, 10 of its infantrymen have been arrested and accused of murder, attempted murder or manslaughter since 2006. Others have committed suicide, or tried to.

Almost all those soldiers were kids, too young to buy a beer, when they volunteered for one of the most dangerous jobs in the world. Almost none had serious criminal backgrounds. Many were awarded medals for good conduct.

But in the vicious confusion of battle in Iraq and with no clear enemy, many said training went out the window. Slaughter became a part of life. Soldiers in body armor went back for round after round of battle that would have killed warriors a generation ago. Discipline deteriorated. Soldiers say the torture and killing of Iraqi civilians lurked in the ranks. And when these soldiers came home to Colorado Springs suffering the emotional wounds of combat, soldiers say, some were ignored, some were neglected, some were thrown away and some were punished.

Some kept killing — this time in Colorado Springs.

Many of those soldiers are now behind bars, but their troubles still reach well beyond the walls of their cells — and even beyond the Army. Their unit deployed again in May, this time to one of Afghanistan’s most dangerous regions, near Khyber Pass.

This month, Fort Carson released a 126-page report by a task force of behavioral-health and Army professionals who looked for common threads in the soldiers’ crimes. They concluded that the intensity of battle, the long-standing stigma against seeking help, and shortcomings in substance-abuse and mental-health treatment may have converged with “negative outcomes,” but more study was needed.

Marquez, who was arrested before the latest programs were created, said he would never have pulled the trigger if he had not gone to Iraq.

“If I was just a guy off the street, I might have hesitated to shoot,” Marquez said this spring as he sat in the Bent County Correctional Facility, where he is serving 30 years. “But after Iraq, it was just natural.”

More killing by more soldiers followed.

In August 2007, Louis Bressler, 24, robbed and shot a soldier he picked up on a street in Colorado Springs.

In December 2007, Bressler and fellow soldiers Bruce Bastien Jr., 21, and Kenneth Eastridge, 24, left the bullet-riddled body of a soldier from their unit on a west-side street.

In May and June 2008, police say Rudolfo Torres-Gandarilla, 20, and Jomar Falu-Vives, 23, drove around with an assault rifle, randomly shooting people.

In September 2008, police say John Needham, 25, beat a former girlfriend to death.

Most of the killers were from a single 500-soldier unit within the brigade called the 2nd Battalion, 12th Infantry Regiment, which nicknamed itself the “Lethal Warriors.”

Soldiers from other units at Fort Carson have committed crimes after deployments — military bookings at the El Paso County jail have tripled since the start of the Iraq war — but no other unit has a record as deadly as the soldiers of the 4th Brigade. The vast majority of the brigade’s soldiers have not committed crimes, but the number who have is far above the population at large. In a one-year period from the fall of 2007 to the fall of 2008, the murder rate for the 500 Lethal Warriors was 114 times the rate for Colorado Springs.

The battalion is overwhelmingly made up of young men, who, demographically, have the highest murder rate in the United States, but the brigade still has a murder rate 20 times that of young males as a whole.

The killings are only the headline-grabbing tip of a much broader pyramid of crime. Since 2005, the brigade’s returning soldiers have been involved in brawls, beatings, rapes, DUIs, drug deals, domestic violence, shootings, stabbings, kidnapping and suicides.

Like Marquez, most of the jailed soldiers struggled to adjust to life back home after combat. Like Marquez, many showed signs of growing trouble before they ended up behind bars. Like Marquez, all raise difficult questions about the cause of the violence.

Did the infantry turn some men into killers, or did killers seek out the infantry? Did the Army let in criminals, or did combat-tattered soldiers fall into criminal habits? Did Fort Carson fail to take care of soldiers, or did soldiers fail to take advantage of care they were offered?

And, most importantly, since the brigade is now in Afghanistan, is there a way to keep the violence from happening again?

Maj. Gen. Mark Graham, who took command of Fort Carson in the thick of the murders and ordered marked changes in how returning soldiers are treated, said he hopes so.

“When we see a problem, we try to identify it and really learn what we can do about it. That is what we are trying to do here,” Graham said in a June interview. “There is a culture and a stigma that need to change.”

Under his command, nearly everyone — from colonels to platoon sergeants — is now trained to help troops showing the signs of emotional stress. Fort Carson has doubled its number of behavioral-health counselors and tightened hospital regulations to the point where a soldier visiting an Army doctor for any reason, even a sprained ankle, can’t leave without a mental health evaluation. Graham has also volunteered Fort Carson as a testing ground for new Army programs to ease soldiers’ transition from war to home.

Eastridge, an infantry specialist now serving 10 years for accessory to murder, said it will take a lot to wipe away the stain of Iraq.

“The Army trains you to be this way. In bayonet training, the sergeant would yell, ‘What makes the grass grow?’ and we would yell, ‘Blood! Blood! Blood!’ as we stabbed the dummy. The Army pounds it into your head until it is instinct: Kill everybody, kill everybody. And you do. Then they just think you can just come home and turn it off. … If they don’t figure out how to take care of the soldiers they trained to kill, this is just going to keep happening.”

Satan’s throne

The violence started to take root in Iraq’s Sunni Triangle, where the brigade landed in September 2004.

“It was actually beautiful. There were lots of palm trees,” said Eastridge, who is a working-class kid from Kentucky who had never really been anywhere before he joined the Army.

But, he said, “the situation was ugly.”

It was a little more than a year after President George W. Bush had landed on an aircraft carrier in front of a “Mission Accomplished” banner to announce the end of major combat operations. But the situation was growing worse. Rival militias of Sunnis and Shiites were gaining strength. Looting had crippled cities. And in a war with no clear front or enemy, the average monthly body count for U.S. soldiers was up 25 percent from a year earlier.

The brigade was in the worst of it.

None of it bothered Marquez.

In high school, he had been a co-captain on the football team and had run track. After graduation, he joined the infantry because the Army commercials full of guns and helicopters looked like the coolest job in the world.

Eastridge felt the same way. He was the closest thing to a criminal in the group of soldiers later arrested for murder. He was trying to get his life together after growing up with a mother addicted to cocaine. He had been arrested for reckless homicide when he was 12, after he accidentally shot his best friend in the chest while playing with his father’s antique shotgun. He pleaded guilty and was sentenced to counseling. After that, his record had been clean.

Felons cannot join the Army unless they get a waiver from a recruiter. Eastridge said he called a dozen until one told him, “Son, it looks like you just need someone to give you a chance.”

Like Marquez, Eastridge wanted to join the infantry because, he said, “that’s where you get to do all the awesome stuff.”

After basic training, the Army sent both men to South Korea.

They were in different battalions of what became the 4th Brigade Combat Team. Marquez was in the 1st Battalion, 9th Infantry Regiment; Eastridge, the 1st Battalion, 506th Infantry Regiment. Both were foot soldiers. Both were surrounded by other young, gung-ho GIs with no battle experience. And both learned in the spring of 2004 that they were going to Iraq.

“We thought it would be cool. It was what we signed up for,” Marquez said.

It turned out not to be cool at all.

Ramadi, where Marquez landed, had a population the size of Colorado Springs but had no dependable electricity, let alone law and order. Sewage ran in rubble-choked streets. The temperature sometimes rose to 120 degrees.

And when roadside bombs blew civilians to bits, soldiers said, packs of feral dogs fought over the scraps.

Pat Dollard, a documentary filmmaker embedded in the area at the time, wrote that it looked like “Satan had punched a hole in the Earth’s surface, plopped down his throne, and set up shop.”

Marquez was assigned to hunt terrorists in the city. Eastridge patrolled the highway between Ramadi and Fallujah. With him was Bressler, a quiet, friendly gunner later arrested with Eastridge for murder.

Going on a mission usually meant tramping house to house in dust-colored camouflage, loaded down with rifles, pistols, body armor, ammo, grenades and water to fight the incessant heat.

Soldiers went out day and night, knocking on doors — sometimes kicking them in. They set up checkpoints. They seized weapons. They clapped hoods over suspected insurgents. They rarely found terrorists, but the terrorists found them.

A few days into the deployment, a sniper’s bullet killed Marquez’s lieutenant. Then another friend died in a car bombing. Then another.

Combat brigades always take higher casualties than the rest of the Army because they fight on the front lines, but, even by those standards, the 3,500-soldier brigade got pummeled. Sixty-four were killed and more than 400 were injured in the yearlong tour, according to Fort Carson — double the average for all Army brigades that have deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan.

As the insurgents learned their craft, attacks became more gruesome.

A truck loaded with explosives careened into Eastridge’s platoon, killing his squad leader, blowing fist-size holes in his platoon sergeant and pinning the burning engine against the baby of the unit, Jose Barco.

Bombs meant to kill soldiers shredded anyone in the area. Women had their arms ripped off. Old men along the road were reduced to meat.

“It just got sickening,” said David Nash, a then-19-year-old private and Eastridge’s best friend. “There was a massive amount of hate for us in the city.”

One of the jobs of the infantry was to bag Iraqi bodies tossed in the streets at night by sectarian murder squads.

“First thing in the morning, all we would do is bag bodies,” Eastridge said. “Guys with drill bits in their eyes. Guys with nails in their heads.”

Eastridge said he was targeted by snipers twice. Both bullets smashed against walls so close to his face that they peppered his eyes with grit. He laughed at his luck. He loved being a soldier.

In February 2005, Eastridge was in the gun turret of his Humvee when it drove over an anti-tank mine. A deafening flash tore off the front end. Eastridge woke up a few minutes later, several feet from the smoking crater.

He sucked it up. He was bandaged up and sent back on patrol. He said cerebral fluid was leaking out of his ear.

That was the job of the infantry. Eastridge’s battalion was created in World War II and became known as the “Band of Brothers.” It parachuted into Normandy on D-Day and fought in the Battle of the Bulge. In Vietnam, it helped turn back the Tet Offensive and take Hamburger Hill.

Men who heard the stories of past glory almost never got a chance for their own in Iraq. The enemy was invisible. The leading cause of death was hidden roadside bombs.

Sometimes, Marquez felt his only purpose was to drive up and down roads in an armored personnel carrier called a Bradley to clear away hidden bombs.

To unwind, soldiers spent hours playing shoot-’em-up video games. They even played one based on their own unit in Vietnam. They said it offered a release. They could confront a clearly defined enemy. They could shoot, knowing they had the right guy. They could win.

In Ramadi, Marquez and other soldiers said, it felt like they were losing.

“It just seemed like the longer we were there, the worse it got,” said Marquez’s friend in the 1st Battalion, 9th Infantry Regiment, Daniel Freeman.

Freeman was knocked unconscious by a roadside bomb, but the most rattling thing, he said, was driving through the eerie calm, knowing an improvised explosive device, or IED, could kill every soldier in a Humvee without warning, or maybe just smoke one guy in the truck, leaving the others to wonder how, and why, they survived.

Hatred and mistrust simmered between soldiers and locals. Locals who waved to them one day would watch silently as they drove toward an IED the next.

“I’m all about spreading freedom and democracy and everything,” said Josh Butler, another soldier in the 1st Battalion, 506th Infantry Regiment. “But it seems like the Iraqis didn’t even want it.”

Soldiers said discipline started to break down.

“Toward the end, we were so mad and tired and frustrated,” Freeman said. “You came too close, we lit you up. You didn’t stop, we ran your car over with the Bradley.”

If soldiers were hit by an IED, they would aim machine guns and grenade launchers in every direction, Marquez said, and “just light the whole area up. If anyone was around, that was their fault. We smoked ’em.”

Other soldiers said they shot random cars, killing civilians.

“It was just a free-for-all,” said Marcus Mifflin, 21, a friend of Eastridge who was medically discharged with PTSD after the tour. “You didn’t get blamed unless someone could be absolutely sure you did something wrong. And that was hard. So things happened. Taxi drivers got shot for no reason. Guys got kidnapped and taken to the bridge and interrogated and dropped off.”

Soldiers later told El Paso County sheriff’s deputies investigating Marquez for murder that, in Iraq, he got his hands on a stun gun similar to the one he later used on the Widefield drug dealer. They said he used it to “rough up” Iraqis.

Stun guns are banned by the Geneva Conventions. Using one is a war crime, but four soldiers interviewed by The Gazette said a number of soldiers ordered the stun guns over the Internet and carried them on raids. The brigade refused to make other soldiers who served during the tour available for interviews. The Army said it destroys disciplinary records after two years, so it has no knowledge of whether soldiers in the unit were punished.

After 10 months, Marquez said, all he wanted to do was go home.

In June 2005, with a month to go, his platoon was walking across a field when a sniper’s bullet smashed through his best friend’s skull under the helmet.

The platoon circled its guns and grenade launchers, Marquez said, and “tore that neighborhood up.”

That night, Marquez got hit. His squad had just finished hosing his friend’s blood out of their Bradley when they were called out on another mission. They loaded into two Bradleys and rolled toward downtown Ramadi.

Marquez was riding in the dark, cramped rear of the lead Bradley. In a flash, a blast tore through the floor. The engine exploded. Diesel fuel spewed everywhere in a plume of fire. Marquez said he watched the driver scramble out screaming, flames leaping from his clothes.

Marquez and the others clambered into the dark street, rifles ready. Another bomb slammed them to the ground.

Then came a flurry of bullets spitting across the dirt. Marquez was hit four times in the leg.

As blood spurted from his femoral artery, Marquez said, he raised his grenade launcher to return fire and realized the storm of bullets had come from the heavy machine gun on the other Bradley, which had just come around the corner.

“They must have seen our Bradley on fire, figured it was an attack and thought we were all dead,” he said this spring, shaking his head, “then just started shooting.”

According to the Army, two soldiers died. Marquez said three others were wounded. Brigade commanders didn’t make anyone familiar with the incident available.

Marquez was flown to Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C.

He was still bleary on morphine on the Fourth of July weekend that he was told Bush was coming to award him a Purple Heart.

Marquez’s sister, who was visiting, didn’t want to see the president because she was so angry about the war and her brother’s wounds, but Marquez was honored.

“I had gotten hurt, but it is part of the job. I wasn’t mad at nobody,” Marquez said.

He was in the hospital for three months and had 17 surgeries so he could keep his leg. Marquez was being medically discharged from the Army and could have stayed at the hospital, but he transferred to Fort Carson on Sept. 13, 2005, to spend his remaining months with his war buddies, who had just returned from Iraq.

He eventually learned to walk without a cane, but other wounds proved harder to heal. He started having nightmares about the war. He felt worthless and crippled, depressed and angry. On a visit home to California, he made his mom put away all his high school sports trophies.

The only things that made him feel better were the pain pills the doctors prescribed for him — and only if he took too many.

‘Kumbaya period’

Post-traumatic stress disorder is like a roadside bomb.

The symptoms can remain hidden for months, then explode. They can cripple some soldiers and leave others untouched. And just like bombs disguised as trash or ruts in the road, PTSD can look like something else.

In many cases, it looks like a bad soldier. In addition to flashbacks and nightmares, Army studies say, symptoms can include heavy drinking, drug use, domestic violence, slacking off at work or disobeying orders.

You can often see it coming, said the most recent commanding general of Fort Carson, if you know what to look for.

Soldiers usually go through a jubilant high for a few months after they come home, Graham said. He calls this time “the Kumbaya period.”

“Soldiers have served their country, they’ve made it back, they’re home. It’s all great. It’s later that problems start to surface,” Graham said.

Usually, problems don’t show up for three to six months, he said.

When the brigade landed in Colorado Springs, most soldiers had spent a year in Iraq and a year in South Korea. Most had saved several thousand dollars. Many were old enough to legally drink in the United States for the first time. They had survived the worst of Iraq, and they were jonesing to blow off steam.

All they had to do was go through a few post-deployment debriefings that Fort Carson still uses.

Soldiers sit through classes that warn them that troops often have unrealistically rosy notions of home. They are told to be understanding with spouses and loved ones. They are cautioned to be careful with drinking and driving, and they are warned that the time for carrying a gun everywhere ended in Iraq.

All personal guns must be stored in the post’s armory — not in soldiers’ barracks, not in their cars and not tucked in their belts.

Then Fort Carson screens every soldier for PTSD and other combat-related problems.

If there are no red flags, the soldier can go on leave. If there are, they are referred for further diagnosis, officials at Fort Carson’s Evans Army Community Hospital said.

The screening asks soldiers a long list of questions about the deployment: Do you have trouble sleeping? Are you depressed? Did you clear houses or bunkers? Were you shot at? Did you witness brutality toward detainees? Did you have friends who were killed?

“Did you shoot people? Did you kill people? Did you see dead civilians? Did you see dead Americans? Did you see dead babies? No. No. No. No.” Eastridge said, mimicking how he answered the questionnaire.

“I had seen and done all that stuff, but you just lie to get it over with.”

Several soldiers said the same: They lied because they didn’t want the hassle of more screening.

When the young infantrymen were set free in Colorado Springs, many packed Tejon Street bars such as Rendezvous Lounge and Rum Bay. When the bars closed, soldiers said, they often picked fights in the street.

By 2006, the police were being called to break up bar brawls almost every night. Extra police were assigned to the area.

The Colorado Springs Police Department doesn’t track the crime statistics of individual units, but according to the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office, jail bookings of military personnel as a whole increased 66 percent in the 12 months after the brigade returned.

The “Kumbaya period” lasted about six months, soldiers said.

Eastridge said he blew through almost $27,000, mostly drinking at bars, but the first thing he did was buy guns: pistols, shotguns and an assault rifle similar to the one he carried in Iraq.

“After being in Iraq, it feels like everyone is the enemy,” he said. “You feel like you need a gun so they don’t come to get you.”

His friends all felt the same way.

Nash slept with a loaded .45 under his pillow.

Butler kept a Glock .40-caliber with him all the time, even when he rocked his newborn baby.

Marquez bought three pistols, a riot-style shotgun and an assault rifle like the one he carried in Iraq. He carried a pistol constantly, he said, even when he went to church.

His buddy, Freeman, said he bought himself a “big, scary” snub-nose .357 revolver.

“I couldn’t go anywhere without it,” he said. “I took it to the mall. I took it to the bank. I even had it right next to me when I took a shower. It makes you feel powerful, less scared. You have to have it with you every second of every day.”

Some returning soldiers, especially those with family members to notice their behavior, went into counseling.

More than 200 Fort Carson soldiers have been referred to First Choice Counseling Center, a private counseling service in Colorado Springs. Davida Hoffman, the director, said her counselors were unprepared for what they heard.

“We’re used to seeing people who are depressed and want to hurt themselves. We’re trained to deal with that,” she said. “But these soldiers were depressed and saying, ‘I’ve got this anger, I want to hurt somebody.’ We weren’t accustomed to that.”

In units that have seen the toughest combat in Iraq, one in four soldiers can screen positive for PTSD, the director of psychiatry at Walter Reed, Dr. Charles Hoge, said in an e-mail interview.

“Many soldiers continue to be able to perform their duties very well despite having significant symptoms,” Hoge wrote. But others show what he called “serious impairment,” and the worse the combat and the longer units are exposed, the worse the effects.

The affliction is as old as war itself.

Eric Dean, an author in Connecticut who specializes in war’s psychological toll, reviewed records from the Civil War for his 1997 book, “Shook Over Hell,” and found the same surge of crime and suicide that Fort Carson has seen.

“They have been in every war,” he said. “They never readjusted. They ended up living alone, drinking too much.”

They were “the lost generation” of World War I. They are the veterans of Vietnam who disproportionately populate homeless shelters and prisons today.

[Message clipped]  View entire message

721 total views, 1 views today

DEPRESSION MED: Suicide Attempt: Story on The Gap: Australia

Paragraph 11 reads: “Years later, Mr Ritchie encouraged a ‘‘nervous and confused’’ woman, sitting on a ledge, shoes by her side, to follow him home. Over tea and toast, she revealed she was unhappy with medication she had been prescribed for depression. Mr Ritchie’s wife suggested she seek a second opinion. ‘‘A couple of months later she came up the path with a bottle of French champagne. We later got a Christmas card from her, and a postcard. It said ‘I’ll never forget your important intervention in my life. I am well’.’’

http://www.smh.com.au/national/an-angel-walking-among-us-at-the-gap-20090731-e4f2.html

An angel walking among us at The Gap

’’People will always come here. I don’t think it will ever stop’’ … Don Ritchie. Photo: Marco del Grande

Kate Benson Medical Reporter
August 1, 2009

HE IS the watchman of The Gap. A former life insurance salesman who in 45 years has officially rescued about 160 people intent on jumping from the cliffs at Watsons Bay, mostly from Gap Park, opposite his home high on Old South Head Road. Unofficially, that figure is closer to 400.

Some, at his urging, quietly gathered their shoes and wallets, neatly laid out on the rocks, and followed him home for breakfast. Others, tragically, struggled as he grabbed at their clothes before they slipped over the edge.

Still others later sent tokens of thanks, a magnum of champagne or an anonymous drawing slipped into his letter box, labelling him ‘‘an angel walking among us’’.

Don Ritchie, 82, spends much of his time reading newspapers, books and scanning the glistening expanse of ocean laid out before him. His days of climbing fences are gone and he admits some relief that most visitors now carry mobile phones and are quick to contact the police if they see a lone figure standing too close to the edge, too deep in contemplation.

For its part, Woollahra Council has been campaigning for $2.5 million to install higher fences, motion-sensitive lights, emergency phones and closed-circuit television cameras, but Mr Ritchie is ambivalent.

‘‘People will always come here. I don’t think it will ever stop,’’ he says, with a shrug.

Some deaths have been recorded in his diary, others are eternally etched in his mind.

One summer evening he spotted a young man perched on a thin ledge, beyond the fence.

‘‘I went over and I tried to talk to him, asking him questions about where he was from. He wouldn’t talk much, just kept looking straight ahead. I was talking to him for about half an hour … thinking I was making headway. I said ‘why don’t you come over for a cup of tea, or a

beer, if you’d like one?’ He said ‘no’ and stepped straight off the side … his hat blew up and I caught it in my hand.’’ Later, Mr Ritchie discovered the 19-year-old had grown up next door, playing with his grandchildren.

Years later, Mr Ritchie encouraged a ‘‘nervous and confused’’ woman, sitting on a ledge, shoes by her side, to follow him home. Over tea and toast, she revealed she was unhappy with medication she had been prescribed for depression. Mr Ritchie’s wife suggested she seek a second opinion. ‘‘A couple of months later she came up the path with a bottle of French champagne. We later got a Christmas card from her, and a postcard. It said ‘I’ll never forget your important intervention in my life. I am well’.’’

Despite his bravery and compassion, Mr Ritchie has steered clear of the limelight. He was awarded a Medal of the Order of Australia in 2006 for his services to suicide prevention but is all too aware that any publicity attracts more depressed and disturbed people.

In the weeks after the Channel 10 newsreader Charmaine Dragun jumped to her death outside his house in November 2007, Mr Ritchie’s wife is adamant six more followed.

‘‘But what do you do? Not talk about it?’’ he asks. ‘‘It’s the truth. It’s what goes on here.’’

It has long been a haunting dichotomy for rescuers, families and media. To speak out in a bid to have the area made safer, risking more people becoming aware of it, or to keep quiet, letting the deaths go on.

But for an anti-suicide campaigner, Dianne Gaddin, whose daughter Tracy jumped from The Gap in 2005, the answer is easy. If the issue is not aired, the problem will never be solved.

She has written four letters in the past month to the Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, urging him to act. While her pleas go unanswered, her desperation balloons. She knows Mr Ritchie will not be standing guard forever.

‘‘Sometimes just a smile and a greeting is all it takes to change the mind of the would-be suicider. I don’t believe people want to die, but living is just too hard. To me, Don is a guardian angel.’’

Lifeline: 131 114; Salvo Crisis Line 93312000; Beyond Blue 1300224 636.

332 total views, 1 views today

ANTIDEPRESSANT & ALCOHOL: In Pink Pajamas Woman Slashes Neighbor’s Tires: UK

Third paragraph from the end reads: “Stephen Constantine, defending, said: ‘Ms Fergus suffers from depression and this offending was a result of combining drink with her prescribed medication’.”

http://www.sunderlandecho.com/news/Easington-tyreslasher-wore-pink-pyjamas.5509772.jp

Easington tyre-slasher wore pink pyjamas
Published Date:
30 July 2009
By Rob Freeth

A drunken woman dressed herself in pink pyjamas before going out at the dead of night to slash car tyres.

Joanne Fergus did not know the owners of the vehicles she damaged, Durham Crown Court heard.

Fergus, 25, of Glenhurst Road, Easington Village, admitted three charges of criminal damage on January 23 this year.

She has no previous convictions, but has police caustions for a public order offence and possessing a small quantity of amphetamine, and she received a penalty notice for being drunk and disorderly.

Judge Esmond Faulks sentenced Fergus to a nine-month supervision order, and ordered her to pay £282 compensation.

“You slashed the tyres of cars belonging to neighbours who had done nothing to you,” the judge told Fergus.

“It was a disgraceful thing to do and I hope you are ashamed of yourself.”

“A neighbour in Easington saw a figure crouched down beside a Jaguar car,” said David Wilkinson, prosecuting.

“He then saw a flash of metal, which was later confirmed to be a kitchen knife.

“The neighbour was able to tell police the person with the knife was a woman dressed in pink pyjamas.

“Officers cruised around the immediate area and the only house with a downstairs light on belonged to Fergus.

“She was wearing the pink pyjamas when she answered the door.”

The court heard Fergus admitted she had been out slashing tyres, but could not say why she had done it.

“She had been drinking and was upset due to an argument with her boyfriend,” added Mr Wilkinson.

“One tyre on the Jaguar was found to be slashed, as well as two tyres on a Peugeot, and another two tyres on a Vauxhall Astra.”

Stephen Constantine, defending, said: “Ms Fergus suffers from depression and this offending was a result of combining drink with her prescribed medication.

“The incident was also borne out of a domestic argument with her boyfriend at the time.

“She can pay compensation, although her income from benefits is £120 a week, from which she has to look after herself and her young daughter.”

* Last Updated: 30 July 2009 12:44 PM
* Source: n/a
* Location: Sunderland

453 total views, 2 views today

ANTIDEPESSANTS: Death: 21 Year Old: Florida

Paragraph 20 reads: “Mr. Mott was discharged July 14. He went home with three prescriptions to treat depression, his family said ­ and a companion.”

Paragraphs 27 through 29 read: “In the wake of his death, his family searches for answers. Kathy Mott said she does not believe her son relapsed. She wonders if the antidepressants played a role in his death.”

“Now she wants others to be careful.”

“‘Just because it’s prescription drugs, doesn’t mean you can’t OD,’ she said.”

http://www.tampabay.com/news/obituaries/article1023489.ece

Track star Matthew Mott had started rehab
By Andrew Meacham, Times Staff Writer
In Print: Friday, July 31, 2009
[LARA CERRI | Times]

ST. PETERSBURG ­ At a gathering held in his honor Wednesday at Northeast High School, Matthew Mott’s family and peers recalled the good times.

A former teammate showed off a large pink stuffed bunny rabbit, the unofficial mascot of the Northeast High track team, led by Mr. Mott and his twin brother, Jonathan. Others reminisced about late-night scavenger hunts and mud-wrestling in Mr. Mott’s back yard.

But it wasn’t good times that brought more than 140 people to Northeast’s cafeteria Wednesday ­ it was an unexpected death. Mr. Mott died of unknown causes early July 23, nine days after leaving an addiction treatment center. He was 22.

Mr. Mott literally ran through most of his life, competing with and against his brother. The brothers anchored a previously unremarkable Northeast track team, each earning second-team all-county honors in 2005. The next year, they helped take Northeast to its first state finals in more than two decades.

They trained together, worked out together. Jonathan won many races just a second or so ahead of Matthew, though sometimes it was the other way around.

“I don’t think they were competing against anybody else,” said Patty Parker, the boys’ aunt. “The competition was between those two.”

The boys took separate paths after their graduation in 2006. Jonathan Mott got a full track scholarship to Webber International University, where he remains.

Matthew Mott did not get the same offer. He enrolled in the Orlando Culinary Academy.

In the fall of 2006, after less than two weeks at the school, he called his aunt.

“He called in a panic,” said Parker, 40. He didn’t like it there, she said. Parker and her husband drove Mr. Mott back to St. Petersburg.

It is around this same time that friends began noticing changes in Mr. Mott’s behavior. Suddenly, the happy-go-lucky man with bleached blond locks had grown quieter, more reserved.

“He was the most upbeat, happy person,” said Ian Upson, 21. “He was always saying, ‘Let’s do this’ or ‘Let’s do that.’ Afterward, he just wanted to sit back and do nothing.”

Some of his friends and family members knew that Mr. Mott was taking the painkiller OxyContin. But they, like everyone else, were powerless to stop him.

“If you were around him, you knew,” said older brother Sam Mott.

Mr. Mott got a series of cooking jobs at places like the Don CeSar, the TradeWinds, Bascom’s Chop House and Derby Lane, his family said.

“He lost all of those jobs due to his addiction,” said his mother, Kathy Mott, 53.

With less money to buy OxyContin illegally, Mr. Mott resorted to Coricidin Cough and Cold medicine ­ or “Triple C” ­ an over-the-counter antihistamine that can be used as an intoxicant.

In June, Mr. Mott told his family he had had enough. His mother entered him in Fairwinds Treatment Center in Clearwater.

During a family visit to the facility, Mr. Mott seemed to have improved. He had gained weight. He was his old, animated self.

Mr. Mott was discharged July 14. He went home with three prescriptions to treat depression, his family said  and a companion.

Mr. Mott had met Genny Perry in treatment, and the two had formed an attraction. Perry and Mr. Mott lived with Kathy Mott. The two went to 12-step meetings together and separately.

Mr. Mott had gone to an AA meeting the night of July 22, then talked to his AA sponsor, his mother said. They stayed close to home the rest of the evening, Perry said, and fell asleep together at 3:30 a.m.

She awoke at 4 a.m. sensing something was wrong.

“He felt sweaty,” said Perry, 32.

Mr. Mott was snoring ­something he did not normally do, his mother said. Foam bubbled around his lips, his mother and Perry said.

Paramedics were unable to revive him, and he died at 4:40 a.m.

In the wake of his death, his family searches for answers. Kathy Mott said she does not believe her son relapsed. She wonders if the antidepressants played a role in his death.

Now she wants others to be careful.

“Just because it’s prescription drugs, doesn’t mean you can’t OD,” she said.

Learning the cause of death could take months, as the Pinellas County medical examiner awaits toxicology results.

At his celebration service Wednesday, family and friends spoke of Mr. Mott’s zest for life. A friend strummed a ukulele and sang a song. A priest extolled the value of Mr. Mott’s life and called it complete.

The audience listened in respectful silence.

Andrew Meacham can be reached at (727) 892-2248 or ameacham@sptimes.com.

.Biography

Matthew

David Mott

Born: Feb. 20, 1987.

Died: July 23, 2009.

Survivors: brothers, Jonathan and Sam; parents, Kathy and Sam; aunts, Patty Parker and Barbara DuFault; extended family.

[Last modified: Jul 30, 2009 10:29 PM]

370 total views, 1 views today

ANTIDEPRESSANT: Man Threatens to Shoot Self: In Stand-Off with Police: …

Paragraph three reads: “She said he is taking medication to combat depression and that he had been drinking. The unnamed man allegedly told his wife he would resist if police responded, according to a news release.”

SSRI Stories Note: The Physicians Desk Reference states that antidepressants can cause a craving for alcohol and alcohol abuse. Also, the liver cannot metabolize the antidepressant and the alcohol simultaneously, thus leading to higher levels of both alcohol and the antidepressant in the human body.

http://www.lehighvalleylive.com/hunterdon-county/express-times/index.ssf/2009/08/armed_raritan_township_man_thr.html

Armed Raritan Township man threatens to shoot himself, engages in hour-long standoff with police

by Express-Times staff
Monday August 03, 2009, 6:55 AM
Officials in Raritan Township spent more than an hour Sunday urging an apparently suicidal man to put down his weapons and surrender peacefully.

Raritan Township police were called to a single-family home in the township about 3:30 p.m. after a woman reported her husband had locked himself in the bedroom and was threatening to shoot himself. The woman told police her husband had several guns in the house and that at least two — a pistol and a rifle — were in the bedroom with him.

She said he is taking medication to combat depression and that he had been drinking. The unnamed man allegedly told his wife he would resist if police responded, according to a news release.

Police set up a safe perimeter around the house, evacuated neighboring homes and blocked off the road. Officers called the man, with the assistance of his brother. After an hour on the phone with him, he agreed to surrender. Police recovered two handguns and a rifle from the home.

The man was taken to Hunterdon County Medical Center for an evaluation. Charges against him are pending.

The Hunterdon County Prosecutor’s Office, Flemington-Raritan First Aid and Rescue Squad and Raritan Township Department of Public Works assisted township police.

507 total views, 2 views today

DEPRESSION MED: Suicide: 14 year old girl: Ohio

Paragraphs 13 and 14 read: “After his daughter’s death, Weidlich went through a long bewildering search into why it happened.”

“She’d been on medication and in therapy for depression, but seemed to be responding.”

http://www.mansfieldnewsjournal.com/article/20090729/NEWS01/907290321/1002/NEWS01

Speaker confronts teen suicide, depression
By LINDA MARTZ • News Journal • July 29, 2009

MANSFIELD — James Weidlich is finally comfortable telling strangers about his daughter’s suicide.Advertisement

The family discovered 14-year-old Savannah after she hung herself at home July 15, 2004, after battles with depression.

Weidlich, who once ran a landscaping and contracting business, says this year he committed to a full-time mission to open up public discussion of suicide.

It’s a topic many people find difficult to address, but Weidlich argues people should talk about it. “The cost of promoting the human comfort level is that people are dying,” he said.

“There is a huge amount of secrecy and denial. We have done a really good job of scaring people out of talking about their own mental health,” he said.

Weidlich, of Cambridge, brought his Families on Fire Mental Health Reality Crusade to Citichurch last week.

This Friday, Saturday and Sunday, he’ll offer free public talks at the Quality Inn on Ohio 97, near Bellville.

Weidlich described his daughter as a good kid and an athlete. “My daughter had a very inspiring personality and a sense of humor. Yet she had an illness that took her life.”

Young people come under tremendous pressure, he said. “It is a war zone for children, in our schools, on our playgrounds, in our streets.”

Weidlich believes adults must take responsibility for spotting the signs a young person is contemplating suicide. He also believes adults must take action.

“I never want a parent to say, ‘Just get over it’ or ‘I went through the same thing you’re going through, and I got over it. Just toughen up,’ ” he said.

Severe depression is a physical illness, like diabetes or heart disease, he said. It should be discussed openly and swiftly treated.

After his daughter’s death, Weidlich went through a long bewildering search into why it happened.

She’d been on medication and in therapy for depression, but seemed to be responding.

Weidlich, a single father, eventually found clues that indicated Savannah hadn’t been doing as well as he thought. He doesn’t want others to miss signs or ignore reality.

“That moment, on that night, in our house, is something that you do not want to experience,” he said.

Now, from a “Families on Fire” camper, he spreads his message. He strikes up conversations about suicide in coffee shops and churches statewide. Making ends meet is difficult given his mission, but he’s sticking to it.

“Depression-related suicide is the number one killer of our children. You absolutely have no excuse not to come and learn something.”

lmartz@nncogannett.com

419-521-7729

443 total views, 1 views today

ANTIDEPRESSANTS: Mother Kills Daughter’s Rapist: Spain

First paragraph reads: “A MUM who killed her daughter’s rapist by throwing petrol over him and setting him alight has been jailed for nine years. Maria del Carmen Garcia Espinosa’s daughter Veronica was raped by a man from their home town, Benejuzar, in 1998 when she was just 13. Veronica’s mother has been in counselling and on anti-depressants ever since. But in June 2005, the rapist was on weekend leave from prison, where he was serving a nine-year sentence, and Maria del Carmen saw him in the family’s local bar.”

http://www.euroweeklynews.com/2009073061426/news/costa-blanca/jail-for-mum-who-killed-her-daughters-rapist.html

Thu, 30 July 16:33 2009

Jail for mum who killed her daughter’s rapist

BENEJUZAR

The deceased ‘provoked and intimidated’ the mother, who had been depressed since the rape

A MUM who killed her daughter’s rapist by throwing petrol over him and setting him alight has been jailed for nine years. Maria del Carmen Garcia Espinosa’s daughter Veronica was raped by a man from their home town, Benejuzar, in 1998 when she was just 13. Veronica’s mother has been in counselling and on anti-depressants ever since. But in June 2005, the rapist was on weekend leave from prison, where he was serving a nine-year sentence, and Maria del Carmen saw him in the family’s local bar.

The bar was next to the stop where Veronica caught her bus every day, leading her mother to believe his presence in the area was aimed at provoking and intimidating the family. Antonio Velasco is said to have approached Maria del Carmen and asked her how her daughter was in order to scare her. A distraught Maria del Carmen returned home and fetched a vat of petrol, a court heard. She then went back to the bar where she doused her daughter’s rapist in fuel and set him alight.

The woman was then found hours later in Alicante ‘in a disoriented state’, police say. Meanwhile, the man died in Valencia’s La Fe hospital from third-degree burns affecting 60 per cent of his body. Family members of the arrested woman say the deceased’s relatives had sold their assets to avoid having to pay compensation owed to Veronica, now 24. But Veronica’s mother has now been ordered to pay them 140,000 euros. She has also been sentenced to nine years in prison.

368 total views, 1 views today

ANTIDEPRESSANTS: Police Officer Dead: Shooter Dies Also: shooter was o…

Headline reads:
Coroner: “Shooter was prescribed antidepressants.”
Paragraph four reads: “The shooting left Sgt. David Kinterknecht dead, along with the suspect, Dennis Gurney, who lived at the home.”

http://www.montrosepress.com/articles/2009/07/30/news/doc4a71057ebf681398337489.txt

Injured officers face lengthy recovery

Coroner: Shooter was prescribed antidepressants

Print this story Post a Comment ShareThis

By Katharhynn Heidelberg
Daily Press Senior Writer
Published/Last Modified on Thursday, July 30, 2009 4:11 AM MDT

MONTROSE ­ Two officers shot Saturday can expect an extensive recovery process, the chief of police said.

Montrose Police officers Larry Witte and Rodney Ragsdale were hit in the legs with shotgun blasts while responding to a domestic violence call in the Cobble Creek area.

“I think it’s going to be weeks to months before we see them back to work,” Police Chief Tom Chinn said.

The shooting left Sgt. David Kinterknecht dead, along with the suspect, Dennis Gurney, who lived at the home.

Witte was released from Montrose Memorial Hospital Tuesday, to a hero’s welcome from other officers. Ragsdale’s release from St. Mary’s Hospital in Grand Junction was expected today, Chinn said.

He said both men will need extensive rehab.

­­­

The above is an excerpt from the story that appeared in today’s print edition. The excerpts, usually the first few paragraphs, may not reflect all relevant information that was reported. We encourage readers to obtain the full story by reading the print edition or our e-edition, To subscribe, call (970) 252-7081 or click on the subscription link on the main page.

438 total views, 1 views today

ANTIDEPRESSANTS: 52% of Women Who Committed Suicide in 2006 Were taking a…

Paragraph three reads: “We first looked at antidepressant prescriptions. Of the 776 Scandinavian men in the sample, 259 (32%) (age-adjusted 95% confidence interval [CI]=28.5–35.2) filled a prescription for antidepressants in the 180 days before death. The corresponding figures were 176 of the 333 Scandinavian women in the sample (52%) (CI=46.7–57.5), 32 of the 102 foreign-born men (31%) (CI=21.6–39.5), and 21 of the 44 foreign-born women (43%) (CI=28.7–58.1).”

http://ps.psychiatryonline.org/cgi/content/full/59/1/116-a

Psychiatr Serv 59:116-a-117, January 2008
doi: 10.1176/appi.ps.59.1.116-a
© 2008 American Psychiatric Association

Letter

Ethnic Differences in Antidepressant Treatment Preceding Suicide in Sweden
To the Editor: In the October 2007 issue Ray and colleagues (1) observed that the odds of receiving treatments for mood disorders in the year preceding suicide were lower for African Americans. The study of racial-ethnic differences in drug utilization among individuals with severe mood disorders is important. We analyzed whether similar undertreatment is present in Sweden, a country of nine million inhabitants. However, because Sweden has a different racial-ethnic composition than the United States, we analyzed country of birth instead of race.

We analyzed all suicides and deaths from undetermined intent among persons aged 18 to 84 in 2006 (N=1,255, or about 95% of all suicides). We examined use of prescription drugs in the 180 days before death. Persons born in Sweden, Denmark, and Norway, representing the Scandinavian countries, were compared with persons born in all other countries.

We first looked at antidepressant prescriptions. Of the 776 Scandinavian men in the sample, 259 (32%) (age-adjusted 95% confidence interval [CI]=28.5–35.2) filled a prescription for antidepressants in the 180 days before death. The corresponding figures were 176 of the 333 Scandinavian women in the sample (52%) (CI=46.7–57.5), 32 of the 102 foreign-born men (31%) (CI=21.6–39.5), and 21 of the 44 foreign-born women (43%) (CI=28.7–58.1).

We also examined use of antipsychotic drugs. Among Scandinavian men, 100 (13%) (CI=10.1–14.5) filled a prescription for an antipsychotic in the 180 days before death. The corresponding figures were 81 of the Scandinavian women (24%) (CI=19.5–28.9), 19 of the foreign-born men (18%) (10.7–25.4), and 16 of the foreign-born women (32%) (CI=19.8–44.6). Use of lithium was 2% or less in all groups.

As a comparison we analyzed use of these drugs among persons aged 18 to 84 years in the Swedish population in 2006 by country of birth. Among Scandinavian men, 6.1% (CI=6.05–6.10) had at least one filled prescription for an antidepressant. The corresponding figure for foreign-born men was 6.5% (CI=6.43–6.59). Among Scandinavian women the figure was 11.7% (CI=11.68–11.76), compared with 11.1% (CI=11.02–11.20) for foreign-born women. We did not analyze differences in inpatient or outpatient admission before suicide, although we have previously commented on postdischarge suicides in Sweden (2).

We have some minor concerns about the study by Ray and colleagues (1). Data used in that study represented suicides in different periods­1986 to 2004. Over those years, at least in Sweden, policies in regard to inpatient care changed. We also suspect that use of antidepressants increased substantially in the United States since the early 1990s as a result of the introduction of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). The increase in use of SSRIs in Sweden was sixfold between 1990 and 2004. In the study by Ray and colleagues, the mean age of African Americans who committed suicide was also nearly ten years lower than that of whites, which may indicate socioeconomic or other differences in the underlying white and African-American populations from which the samples were drawn.

Although one might suspect relative undertreatment of psychiatric disorders in the non-Scandinavian population in Sweden, it could not be verified by our analyses because we studied only drug utilization without knowledge of the underlying disease prevalence. However, the rates of prescription were similar for Scandinavians and foreign-born persons in our sample who filled a prescription for an antidepressant in the months before they committed suicide­and who therefore could be said to have been suffering from a severe mood disorder. This, together with the observed similar rates of prescription in the general population, could indicate equal access to drug treatment. The study by Ray and colleagues highlights an important issue in research on socioeconomic inequalities in care. Racial-ethnic differences in the use of medications may result from differences in religious and cultural beliefs that can affect both health-seeking behavior and attitudes toward suicide.

649 total views, 1 views today