Summarized by Kent Larsen
Probe of Utah Marine's Death Leaves Unanswered Questions
Salt Lake Tribune (Gannett) 19Dec99 P2
Gannett News Service
CEDAR CITY, UTAH -- The death of Mormon US Marine Pfc. James Gardner in
1991 led his family to question the work of Navy investigators in the
case and caused the family additional grief. Odd things about his death,
ruled a suicide, have lead his mother, Arlene Ball, to pursue the issue,
looking for help from congressional investigators and the Defense
Department's Inspector General.
One of the unresolved issues in the case was Gardner's complaint that he
was being harassed because he was Mormon. Gardner had reported the
abuse to family and friends, but Ball says investigators basically
ignored the reports.
Probably the oddest thing about the case is that the safety was in the
on position on the pistol he used. Investigators believe that Gardner
switched the safety back on after he shot himself as a reflex. Ball also
notes that the owner of the gun, one of Gardner's roommates, had three
other friends die in the two years before Gardner's death; one from
suicide, another in a shooting accident and the third in a mysterious
Add this to evidence that Gardner planned to continue his life, and Ball
becomes suspicious about the investigation. "I was open with the
military, and I think that worked against me," Ball told the Gannett
News Service. "I think they felt, 'Well, the mom's taking the blame, so
we don't have to investigate.' I took more responsibility than I should
In the end, Ball was finally convinced that her son did commit suicide
by a Navy 'blood spatter' study, "It finally made sense to me. There
would be a break in the pattern had there been another person in the
room." But that didn't solve Ball's exasperation with investigators.
She wrote to congressional investigators, saying that the Navy
investigators "demean the person's character by guesswork -- this is a
blame-the-victim mentality that reflects the laziness and lack of
training in the military investigative bodies."