Life Insurance Fraud is a Common Motive for Murder in the Military

crime scene tape

In a recent episode of Deadly Women, profiler Candice DeLong highlighted the case of Paul Berkley, a US Navy reservist living in Raleigh, North Carolina. After returning from a deployment overseas to the Middle East in 2005 without injury, he returned home to his wife, Monique, who had him murdered by her teenage lover less then a week later. The motive was a common one I see in both murders and murder for hire cases in the military: Servicemen’s Group Life Insurance (SGLI) policy. The SGLI insurance plan offers increments of $50,000 up to $400,000. This case emphasizes the fact that military men and women are at risk of becoming victims of murder by their abusive, manipulative spouses or those who benefit from the large financial payout that comes with the death of a service member.

I recognized the motive to kill for the insurance money because I had studied other cases in the military involving this motive. It’s a pattern. Civilians are targeting our military members for the benefits and insurance money. So I googled “murder insurance military” today and found more examples to bolster this theory. Based on the research, it is mostly civilian women who murder their military husbands for the SGLI. Other cases involved military members who killed their spouse for the insurance payout. Although most of the cases are female civilians targeting military men, I did find two examples of male civilians targeting female soldiers for the insurance money.

In Their Name:
James Goodyear, US Air Force (Orlando, Florida, 1971)*
Kenneth Barnes, US Army (Fort Gordon, Georgia, 1972)*
Chester Garrett, US Army (Fort Bliss, Texas, 1977)*
Lee Hartley, US Navy (Jacksonville, Florida, 1982)*
Bill Lipscomb, US Air Force (Lackland AFB, Texas, 1986)
Anthony Riggs, US Army (Fort Bliss, Texas, 1991)*
Joseph Snodgrass, US Air Force (Clark AFB, Philippines, 1991)
David Russo, US Navy (Lemoore Naval Air Station, California, 1994)*
Elise Makdessi, US Navy (NAS Oceana, Virginia, 1996)*
Doug Gissendaner, US Army Veteran (Auburn, Georgia, 1997)*
Kevin Spann, US Army (Fort Gordon, Georgia, 1997)*
Marty Theer, US Air Force (Fayetteville, North Carolina, 2000)*
Lynn Reister, US Army (Fort Bliss, Texas, 2002)*
David Shannon, US Army (Fort Bragg, North Carolina, 2002)*
Jeremy Meyers, US Army (Fort Lewis, Washington, 2003)
Gary Prokop, US Army (Fort Hood, Texas, 2003)*
Philip Shue, US Air Force (Lackland AFB, Texas, 2003)*
Paul Berkley, US Navy Reserve (Raleigh, North Carolina, 2005)*
Michael Severance, US Air Force (Dyess AFB, Texas, 2005)*
Donald Gower, US Army (Fort Hood, Texas, 2007)
Gilbert Hart, US Army Retired (Clarksville, Tennessee, 2009)*
Travis McGraw, US Air Force Reserve (Saluda, North Carolina, 2011)
Patricia MacCallum, US Army Veteran (Medford, Oregon, 2012)
Isaac Aguigui, US Army (Fort Stewart, Georgia, 2014)*
Alphonso Doss, US Navy (Orange Park, Florida, 2014)*
John Eubanks, US Army (Fort Stewart, Georgia, 2014)*
Brandon Horst, US Army (Minnesota National Guard, 2014)*
Michael Walker, US Army (Aliamanu Military Reservation, Hawaii, 2014)
Michael Andrews, US Army (Fort Benning, Georgia, 2015)*
Dmitry Chepusov, US Navy (Armed Forces Network, Germany, 2015)*
Jonathan & Lenin Otero, US Army (Florida National Guard, 2015)
Nathan Paet, US Air Force (Nellis AFB, Nevada, 2015)*
Elizabeth Shelton, US Navy (Naval Station Norfolk, Virginia, 2015)**
David Wi, US Army (Fort Campbell, Kentucky, 2015)

The asterisk (*) denotes that the soldier was a victim of alleged homicide, homicide or attempted homicide for the insurance money. **Elizabeth Shelton and unborn baby survived the murder-for-hire plot.

Indeed the Servicemen’s Group Life Insurance has been a motive for murder as recently as 2015. As military members, we have the option to decline this insurance plan but most of us want to make sure our loved ones are cared for in the event something does happen.  If at any point, you choose your spouse as the beneficiary and then remove them as a beneficiary from the insurance policy, they are informed. It’s sad that a program created to ensure our families are taken care of in the event we die in combat has turned out to be a motive for sociopathic spouses to murder the insured. In this research, most of the cases involved civilian women targeting men serving in the Army.

In an effort to always look out for our troops and present information in a way that educates them, it is my hope that those serving in the military realize that they are in fact a target because of the benefits they have including the Servicemen’s Group Life Insurance policy. It’s unimaginable to most, that a person, let alone a woman, would be capable of these heinous crimes but it’s happening as evidenced by the Paul Berkley case on Deadly Women and the above listed cases. As with most things, it is important to have a large data set to work with so the next part of this research could include a more in-depth look at cases on the internet and an analysis of the spousal relationship prior to the homicide. If there were red flags such as abuse, financial difficulties, etc., was there a place the soldier could turn to in an effort to help escape what could be a dangerous situation. There are lots of variables to consider and this helps open up the dialogue.

Both males and females are abusers, rapists, and murderers. Although most crimes are committed by men according to the research, we must have empathy for the situation male soldiers may find themselves in when they become victims of crimes. It’s also important to note that according to the Department of Defense over half the victims of sexual assault in the military are men and very little report the crime. How many are victims of domestic abuse? Where do they turn to for help if they are being abused by their spouse? Do they go to the Commander and risk tarnishing their career in any way? Do they turn to resources on base and risk them informing the Commander that they reached out for services? Are they fearful they will risk the very career that provides for their children and families? Are men not reporting being abused by their spouses because they are afraid the Chain of Command won’t believe them? Are they afraid the Chain of Command will believe their spouse instead? Are soldier’s being exploited and/or extorted by their spouses? We need to make it clear to both our male and female soldiers that they have a safe place to turn to in the event they find themselves a hostage of a domestic violence relationship or a sexual assault by one of their own.  We most certainly do not want our male soldiers to feel isolated and end up dead simply because people can’t fathom that they can be victims and women can be wicked too.

Related Link:
Paul Berkley, US Navy Reserve, Murdered by Wife & Friends in North Carolina while Home on Leave from Middle East, SGLI was the Motive (2005)

2 thoughts on “Life Insurance Fraud is a Common Motive for Murder in the Military

  1. My son who was a Marine was murdered by his wife assisted by her father, her boyfriend and her brother in law. They are getting by with it and Noone will help because her boyfriend was the police investigator.

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