Army accused of changing the date of soldier’s death after refusing to let family see his body

The “open casket” funeral of SFC Contreras in Flagstaff, Arizona.(Thelma Gomez)

The mysterious death of an aspiring drill sergeant has left one family asking the United States Army for answers— which has resulted in what can only be described as mixed reports.

The June death of Sergeant First Class Jamié Contreras, who reportedly died during a Land Navigation [LANDNAV] exercise at Fort Jackson, South Carolina, has been soaked in intrigue and mystery, from a closed casket burial to an inconsistency of consensus regarding his date of death.

“In my eyes… what my son hoped to dedicate his adult life to was tainted,” said Contreras’ mother, Thelma Gomez.

According to Gomez, the US Army Criminal Investigation Division (CID) informed the family that Contreras had been found on June 12, nearly 10 hours after he was reported missing.

The Army law enforcement investigations division went on to state that rigor mortis had set in by the time the body was located.

Staff Sergeant Jaime Contreras (US ARMY)

The family was denied viewing of the body and ordered to perform a closed-casket funeral.

However, an Army Causality Assistance Officer (CAO) said the date of death was June 13, conflicting information which was also printed on Contreras’ obituary.

“I feel like a ping-pong ball. Is it the 12th or is it the 13th? Somebody at Fort Jackson needs to at least give me the semblance that they know what they’re doing,” Gomez said.

“Honestly, I have a lack of trust right now with the information they’re giving us. It’s kind of like they’re trying to piecemeal what they can… I really want to know what happened to my brother, whatever it may be, and that’s what we’re seeking. The honest truth,” added Lorizelda Stoeller, Contreras’ older sister.

When South Carolina local news station WIS10 attempted to get clarification with the US Army, they were initially issued the following statement:

“The investigation by Army Criminal Investigation Division, in partnership with the Fort Jackson Installation Safety Office, is ongoing. To protect the integrity of the investigation, no additional details can be provided at this time.”

Later in the day, CID issued a second statement:

“Fort Jackson Military Police located Staff Sgt. Contreras June 12, at 11:15 p.m. with no signs of life. Fort Jackson Emergency Medical Service personnel pronounced Staff. Sgt. Contreras deceased June 13, at 12:06 a.m.”

After Broadcasting the story, WIS10 was sent an unsolicited statement from CID.

“Army CID does not determine times or dates of death, please contact USAG Jackson Public Affairs,” the third statement read. “We are unsure where the time frame of 7-8 months has come from. Army CID Special Agents have spoken with the family and have communicated to them that the family can, at any time, contact our Special Agents with questions or concerns.”

In response, Gomez stated that she had never been told the exact time of her son’s death.

The investigation is ongoing.

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