Army Gives Soldier's Death Another Look

Tuesday, April 15th 2008, 10:14 pm
By: News On 6

The Army is re-opening the investigation into the death of an Oklahoma soldier.  23-year-old Sergeant James Musack died in November of 2006 of an apparent self-inflicted gun-wound.  But, now, The News On 6's Chris Wright reports the Army is questioning whether he committed suicide.

James Musack is from Iowa, but his mother now lives in Green Country.  She says the decision to re-open this investigation confirms what she has believed all along:  her son was murdered by someone in his own unit.

Nearly a year after her son's death, Yvette Eastom remains convinced that James did not kill himself.

"Incomprehensible.  What makes it the hardest is that James loved the Army.  He thrived on it," said Yvette Eastom.

Sergeant Musack was found dead near his patrol base on November 21, 2006, several hours after going outside to smoke a cigarette.  According to an Army report, there was a rifle next to his body, and he had a single bullet wound to his head.  But, fellow soldiers told investigators that James was a happy-go-lucky guy, and did not seem to be contemplating suicide.

It's a sentiment shared by friends back in Iowa.

"He had just bought a house, bought a car, he had no financial trouble, he was just happy," said Mike Pope, James' friend.

His mother says he even happily chose to return to Iraq for a second tour, and the stress of the war had not gotten to him.

"There was nothing so devastating in life that he couldn't handle.  He rose to the challenge and dealt with what he had to deal with," said Yvette Eastom.

Yvette says James did make a strange call to his aunt shortly before his death.  She claims he told her he had gotten himself in trouble, was worried, and did not know what to do.

There's also timing of the apparent suicide.  James was scheduled to come home on leave only a week later.

His mother hopes the Army will take all this into account during the renewed investigation and come to the conclusion that she has already reached.

"To me it's a dishonor to say that he killed himself when he didn't.  That's the hardest part for me," said Yvette Eastom.

According to the Army's report, fellow soldiers said while he seemed happy, James was also quiet, and did not open up to them about any problems he was having.