Now, CID is offering up to $50,000 for credible information concerning the death of the 21-year-old Fort Bragg paratrooper, who went missing late at night on May 22, 2020, while camping with fellow soldiers near Cape Lookout National Seashore in North Carolina.
“This is the first one to hit this level in more than 10 years,” CID spokesman Jeffrey Castro said of the large sum of money being offered for information.
The increased reward follows an extensive investigation that does not appear to have generated any tangible leads. The sister of Roman-Martinez said the case still “doesn’t make sense,” and she remains suspicious of the soldiers with whom her brother camped that weekend.
“Until they let me speak to these individuals I will never be convinced it wasn’t them,” she said.
A specialized task force was created to investigate Roman-Martinez’s death, comprising CID special agents, FBI personnel and the FBI’s Behavioral Analysis Unit. The task force executed 100 warrants and subpoenas and 400 interviews across North Carolina, Michigan, Texas, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Colorado and California, according to a CID statement.
“I have been a criminal investigator for more than 40 years and have worked hundreds of death investigations,” CID Special Agent Steve Chancellor, who is spearheading the investigation, said in the statement. “This tragic death is a real mystery on what exactly happened.”
So far, the task force has not recovered a single piece of physical, forensic or testimonial evidence linking anyone to the death of Roman-Martinez, according to Chancellor. That includes 130 items of physical evidence and five terabytes of digital data.
“All logical theories or suspicions that were developed to date have been investigated and either discounted or disproven,” Chancellor said. “We have and are still looking at all possibilities, but need the public’s help.”
While Roman-Martinez’s death is ruled a homicide, according to Chancellor, it doesn’t necessarily mean it was a murder.
“That means that the death could have been intentional or it could have been unintentional — for example in this case, someone running over someone with a boat while the person was in the water,” Chancellor said.
The severed head of Roman-Martinez washed up near Cape Lookout National Seashore on May 29, 2020, a week after he had gone missing during a camping trip with seven fellow soldiers.
Roman-Martinez’s older sister, Griselda Martinez, has in previous interviews with Army Times said she worries that those soldiers haven’t been completely truthful.
“I still feel that way,” Griselda Martinez said again on Monday. “They had a whole day to cover anything up. They also had the weather conditions on their side.”
When the other soldiers first reported Roman-Martinez missing, they told the 911 dispatcher at 7:30 p.m. on May 23, 2020, that the last time they saw their fellow camper was at midnight the night before.
“When we woke up, he was not here and we’ve been looking for him all day,” an unidentified caller says in the 911 call previously obtained by Army Times. “We were trying to find a Park Ranger or their offices, or anything, and so we went all the way to the ferry and found that we needed to dial 911.”
However, early in the afternoon, Park Rangers did encounter the group and asked them to move their vehicles, according to Cape Lookout National Seashore spokesman B.G. Horvat. The group was parked too close to sand dunes, an important park resource, and asking them to move was a routine request, Horvat confirmed to Army Times in July 2020.
“The Rangers moved on after hearing the group would comply ... [and] did not make mention to the Rangers at this point that anyone was missing from their group,” Horvat said in an email. “You would have to ask members of the group why they didn’t report a missing person then.”
The unidentified 911 caller also said their group was “afraid [Roman-Martinez] might’ve hurt himself.” And though he was undiagnosed, they claimed he had “suicidal tendencies,” an allegation his family disputed.
Inconsistencies like those still bother Griselda Martinez.
“It still doesn’t explain why they lied to police officials and authorities. And quite frankly why they lied to police saying my brother was suicidal,” she said. “It just doesn’t make sense.”
Army CID and the FBI are strongly encouraging asking anyone with information to come forward.
If you were operating a boat near Cape Lookout National Seashore on the night of May 22-23, 2020, and recall hitting something in the water, or if you have any other information, regardless of how trivial it might seem, please come forward, said Chancellor.
Anyone with information is encouraged to contact Army CID Special Agents at 910-396-8777 or the Fort Bragg Military Police Desk at 910-396-1179. Information can be reported anonymously to https://www.cid.army.mil/report-a-crime.html.
James R. Webb is a rapid response reporter for Military Times. He served as a US Marine infantryman in Iraq. Additionally, he has worked as a Legislative Assistant in the US Senate and as an embedded photographer in Afghanistan.