(Stars and Stripes)

A string of mysterious soldier deaths, cases of drug trafficking, sexual assault and even human trafficking have come out of Fort Bragg in recent years. Is there something more going on there?

Army veteran Seth Harp has been looking into crime at Fort Bragg and in the Fayetteville, N.C., area, and his reporting on cases such as the deaths of Delta Force member William Lavigne and Army veteran Timothy Dumas, has appeared in Rolling Stone and Harper’s Magazine. In this episode of Military Matters, co-host Jack Murphy compares notes with Harp as the two discuss Lavigne and Dumas, the still-mysterious death of Special Forces soldier Mark Leshikar before them, and other cases out of Fort Bragg, the home of U.S. Army Special Operations Command.

Harp, who is working on a book about these stories, said the Lavigne-Dumas case was what led him to start thinking that “there must be something … rotten in the state of Special Forces at Fort Bragg.” Lavigne, who was found dead alongside Dumas on Fort Bragg in December 2020, shot and killed Leshikar in March 2018 in what was officially ruled a justifiable homicide.

“That Lavigne's body could just turn up kind of shot to death in the woods there with Dumas right next to him, and nobody, nobody knows anything,” Harp said. “Nobody is saying anything, and (there) doesn't seem to be much investigation going on.”

Another example: In January, 15 special operations soldiers were investigated for drug allegations at Fort Bragg. Two of the soldiers were cleared of charges. Murphy and Harp have not been able to get answers about the other 13 soldiers in the investigation.

Harp theorized many of these issues could stem from the end of the Afghanistan War.

“I think that's certainly a fair interpretation, especially since those wars turned out so poorly; you do see a lot of disillusionment and a lot of trauma,” Harp said. “People that are suffering from those things will often turn to substances to self-medicate. But there's also a larger trend in the United States now just of drug use and violent crime. It's going up all over the United States, and our military is a microcosm of our society and also tends to concentrate phenomena in certain ways as well.”

You can find Military Matters on Twitter @stripesmmpod.

Follow Jack Murphy on Twitter @jackmurphyrgr and Rod Rodriguez @rodpodrod.

A transcript of the episode can be found here.

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