A soldier from Middletown and his wife were found shot to death in their home at Fort Hood, Texas, in an apparent murder-suicide.
Sgt. Michael Timothy Franklin, 31, and his wife, Jessie Anne Yeager-Franklin, 29, were found dead on Sunday at the massive Army post. Franklin, a decorated soldier who served two tours in Operation Iraqi Freedom, was the latest in a series of confirmed and suspected suicides at the base.
The couple leave behind a 6-year-old daughter and 2-year-old son, and their grieving families. Franklin’s mother, Beverly, awoke neighbors in her apartment complex in Middletown with her screams of grief when she was notified of the deaths of her son and daughter-in-law. “It was really sad,” said neighbor Yamaris Espinet. “It hit everybody hard to find out about that.”
Officials from the Rhode Island National Guard met with the family Wednesday and later issued a statement on their behalf, saying the couple’s families remained “inconsolable.”
“Though the family may not know the final circumstances which led to this tragedy, we are mindful and proud of Michael’s devotion to his country while volunteering for two tours in Iraq, for which he received numerous awards and decorations,” the statement read, on behalf of Beverly Franklin. “We ask for our privacy and for the public to keep both our families in their prayers at this time.”
Michael Franklin was raised in Newport and graduated from Rogers High School in 1997. Both he and his wife studied at Salve Regina University, where Franklin earned a bachelor of science in elementary education in 2003, and Yeager studied administration of justice with the 2003 class.
“Both were considered to be very fun loving and caring individuals and had a loyal group of friends,” said Salve Regina spokeswoman Kristine Hendrickson. Franklin was a football player and standout athlete at the university, and he also served as an orientation leader for the freshmen, she said. “Our faculty who knew them are pretty devastated.”
Franklin had joined the Army in August 2005 as a motor transport operator and was assigned to Fort Hood two months later, to the 115th Brigade Support Battalion, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division. Franklin served two tours in Iraq, most recently returning in January, and earned a number of commendations and medals.
The circumstances surrounding the couple’s deaths are still under investigation. Fort Hood officials told the Associated Press that evidence suggests that Franklin shot his wife and then himself. So far this year, 14 confirmed suicides and 6 more suspected suicides have been reported among soldiers stationed at Fort Hood, according to figures released by the Army Suicide Prevention Task Force. The Providence Veterans Administration Medical Center strives to reach out to soldiers returning from combat in Iraq and Afghanistan, said Susan Raffa, director of mental health and behavioral sciences. “We want veterans to know we are here and that we are here to help,” said Raffa.
Raffa said that a common issue that a veteran seeks counseling for is anger. “Anger can often be associated with violence,” she said. “Once we start working with them, we might learn what’s going on with the family… [Domestic violence] is something people don’t necessarily seek help for or want to disclose.”
Studies have shown that domestic violence is more prevalent in military families and that when it flares up, it’s often more explosive, experts say.
Throw in posttraumatic stress disorder and easy access to weapons, and “stress in the family can be a deadly combination,” says Deborah DeBare, executive director of the Rhode Island Coalition Against Domestic Violence. A 2006 study in the Journal of Marital and Family Therapy, which looked at veterans who sought marital counseling at a VA medical center in the Midwest, found that those with PTSD were “significantly more likely to perpetrate violence toward their partners.”
The national coalition notes that frequent relocations by military families can isolate victims from family and loved ones and that a high percentage of military personnel have experienced domestic violence in the past.
“The death of this couple tragically highlights the vital importance of providing services to military families,” DeBare said in a statement.
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