The families of two teenagers shot to death execution-style in the Georgia woods in 2011 by a gang of American soldiers trying to cover up their criminal enterprise and delusional plot to overthrow the government took the first step today in a $30 million wrongful death lawsuit against the U.S. Army.
Charging the Army with a long list of negligent acts, the families are seeking $15 million for each murdered loved one: Tiffany York, 17, a high school junior, and her boyfriend, Michael Roark, 19, a former soldier who was discharged three days before he was killed.
The Army’s negligent acts and omissions – particularly its handling of an earlier investigation into the death of the gang ringleader’s wife – “directly and foreseeably caused the deaths of Claimants' children,” says the document.
The young sweethearts were murdered by members of an antigovernment militia called FEAR, or Forever Enduring Always Ready. FEAR was made up of active-duty soldiers stationed at Fort Stewart in Hinesville, Ga. Roark served with the gang members.
All told, 11 people, most of them current or recently discharged soldiers, have been arrested in connection with the gang and the murder in the woods on Dec. 5, 2011. Six members of the gang have pleaded guilty, including Pvt. Isaac Aguigui, the ringleader, who was sentenced in civilian court in July to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Aguigui, 22, is also facing an upcoming court martial in military court for the murder in July 2011 of his 24-year-old wife, Sgt. Deidre Aguigui, an Army linguist who was five months pregnant when she died. Isaac Aguigui was initially questioned by Army investigators but was not held long. A military autopsy proved inconclusive.
Within weeks of his wife’s death, Aguigui received a $500,000 life insurance policy and used much of the money, prosecutors say, to fund his militia that stockpiled nearly $90,000 worth of military-grade weapons. But it wasn’t until April 2013, after a civilian medical examiner ruled the death a homicide following a new look at the autopsy reports, that Aguigui was charged with his wife’s murder.
“I wish we wouldn’t have to file a lawsuit,” Brenda Thomas, the mother of Tiffany York told Hatewatch today. “I wish things would have been handled differently back in July 2011. I wish the Army had done its job. But I feel someone needs to be held accountable for the Army’s negligence.”
Brian C. Brook and Matthew J. Peed, the lawyers for the families, filed what is known as an administrative claim, an official notice of the family’s intent to sue the military in six months unless the Army pays the $30 million or agrees to a settlement.
A spokesman at Fort Stewart did not immediately respond to a Hatewatch request for comment.
Much of the wrongful death claim revolves around the death of Aguigui’s wife and the Army’s handling of the investigation. Military police were apparently skeptical of Aguigui’s story and said the death scene appeared to have been “staged.” Yet nothing was done for more than a year.
“Despite the wealth of incriminating evidence,” the complaint charges, “the Army negligently failed to even classify Sgt. Deidre Aguigui’s death as a homicide, much less arrest and prosecute Pvt. Isaac Aguigui for her murder until April 3, 2013, almost two years later. … Incredibly, both the April 3, 2013 arrest and the July 26 referral [for a court martial] appear to have been supported by evidence that was known or available to the Army prosecutors well before December 5, 2011, the date when Claimants’ children were murdered.”