Reopen death investigation of Chief Petty Officer John Keith Bemis

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We are Sue and Tony Bemis of Delphos, Ohio. On August 7, 2012, we  were informed by Naval Caco that our son Chief Petty Officer John"Keith"Bemis had died. We were called by his commanding officer and told that Keith had apparently had committed suicide. We are a Catholic family that strongly believes in God and value life very much. Keith was the oldest brother of 5 children. Keith,like the rest of his family, believed in hard work and duty to others. Keith had such a positive self-esteem to the point that he seemed a little arrogant. Keith loved to laugh and if there was a problem, it did not stay on his chest very long. Keith was full of life. During his life, Keith was always doing acts of charity: giving blood to those who needed it, funding a single mother's college career so that she could provide a better life for her children,encouraging his two younger sisters to join the Navy,and counseling others who were depressed on his ship in San Diego. Keith cared deeply for those around him.He was a member of the suicide watch team on ship. Keith was in love with his Tiajuana girlfriend, Shio Murguia. He even called us to ask how to properly ask for her hand in marriage in Spanish to Shio's father. Keith received the Navy-Marines Achievement Award twice. All of that changed in August 2012.

Our first leg of learning about Keith's death was on August 15,2012. I had spoken with an officer from the Lemon Grove,CA. Sheriff's Department. The officer stated the ruling was a suicide and that the family could only speak to the San Diego Medical Examiner's office. On that same day, we were escorted by our son's Master Chief to his Spring Valley Apartment. Family members and I had learned that all doors and windows were locked and his lights were turned off.To me, the whole scenario smacks of a "school lockdown." The school where I work at practiced and performed this often. As I entered his bedroom, a cardboard box was lifted and revealed a bloodstain where his head had laid. I asked why the stain was in the shape it was. I was told that Keith was wearing his full-faced motorcycle helmet. I took a picture of the blood stain and it revealed it to appear "skull-shaped" in appearance with impressions of a face with 2 eyes, nose, mouth, a picture of "Satan" drawn on his forehead and two homosexual slurs written on on the facial area of the bloodstain: "Fag" and "Gay." My wife and I were told by San Diego Medical Examiner Leonore Aldridge that Keith had died face-up.

Although  the San Diego Medical Examiner's Office had spent several hours looking at the scene of Keith's apartment on the morning of August 7th, there were several things that were left little attention to:

1.There are two holes in Keith's living room ceiling. Only one bullet found- A 40 caliber.

2. There are homosexual slurs written on Keith's eyelids, hands,fingers,living room ceiling, and bedroom carpet around Keith's body and infront of the closet mirror. .("Fag" and "Gay.") These slurs are present in the San Diego County Medical Examiner's photos.

3.We have received his clothing and furniture from his Spring Valley, CA home. There is a "bloody" shirt and his work chair that have the same homosexual slurs written on them.( Since the bloody shirt has homosexual slurs written on it, who changed Keith's clothing?)The picture from Lenore Aldridge's investigation shows the slurs on the chair. Keith's bedboard has slurs written on the leather headboard. These are also visible in the San Diego County Medical Examiner's photos.

4.His entertainment center had "Fairy" written on it in dust. This appears in the photos by the San Diego Medical Examiner's Office. 

5. Keith's death scene was not a controlled scene: People identifying themselves as "NCIS" were allowed to come onto the scene without proper identification taking paperwork belonging to Keith. According to the only one person interviewed, there was someone assigned from Keith's ship who took his personal laptop. When asked by. the neighbor why he was taking the laptop, the ship personnel said that he was not at liberty to say why he was taking it or who wanted it. Keith's kitchen was being cleaned and dishes were being washed by Keith's Masterchief. What if his killers ate or drank something while they were there?

6.I asked Leonore Aldridge via e-mail if she had bagged Keith's hands for testing for gun powder residue. She said that she believed that she did not do so.

My wife and I have contacted Lenore Aldridge several times by phone. She has stated that she does not see what we have seen in the photos. She has stated that she prefers to have her supervisor speak with us. The supervisor has not responded concerning comments or questions regarding the appearance of any questionable that appear in the pictures.

As for the photos from Naval Doctor Scot Luzi who performed Keith's autopsy at Balboa Hospital in San Diego,CA, the autopsy pictures nor records did not indicate  homosexual slurs,numbers, or drawings that were imprinted or drawn on his body: that appear in the pictures.

1.Fag" and "Gay" are written on his face, left eyelid, hands, arms, chest, thighs, and buttocks. The word "Fag" is etched into his hair. The word "Gay" is written on his fingernails on his left hand.  A gauge is located on back side of Keith's head.

2.Numbers are etched onto the left side of his tongue. The word "Gay" is written on the tip of his tongue.

3. Numbers are written on the shaft of his penis. "Gay" is written on his pelvis. A sketch was drawn on Keith's left thigh.

4. The word "Arana"(Spanish for Spider) appears above the bullet hole on the back side of his head. 

My wife and I have contacted Dr. Luzi by phone or e-mail several times. He has responded that there could be some defensive wounds on his hands that he may not have been aware of. He has stated that he does not see the homosexual slurs or other items. He has not answered any other e-mails regarding these particular items.

At the end of May 2014, I contacted Colonel Ladd Tremaine of the Armed Force Medical Examiner's office in Dover, Delaware. I explained that his mother and I had received a letter verifying the reports and autopsy documents from him.. He mentioned that he had not been aware of Keith's file. I explained that it appeared that dog tag imprints ad writing had been imprinted on Keith's body. He said that he would establish a independent forensic pathology team to examine the photos and documents. He said that he was not promising anything that would overturn the finding regarding the cause of Keith's death. During the time from May 27 to July 2,2014, I had communicated with the head pathologist regarding such topics as a hair stuck between Keith's two front teeth, dog tag imprints and writing on Keith's body, and how was it possible for our son to shoot himself in the mouth with a 40 caliber gun while wearing a full-faced motorcycle helmet. The doctor stated that the hair was probably left by someone leaning to close to him to examine him at Balboa Hospital. The doctor continued to say that it was possible to fit a 40 caliber gun in his mouth while wearing his helmet and that his team did not see any signs of dog-tags or writing. When I mentioned that we could send him pictures that were highlighted with the imprints ad writing, he said that the team would go with the original ruling of suicide. If they saw anything in our pictures, they would take another look at his file. I sent them pictures of said items, they have never responded.

On July 2,2014, I wrote Laura Pechaitis(Brown) regarding of the finding from the pathology team from the AFME in Dover. I sent her pictures of the imprints and writing on our son Keith's body. Her response was: Pechaitis, Laura (Brown) <Laura_Pechaitis@brown.senate.gov>
Jul 2"I will not share this material with anyone." "Who discovered all these imprints and words and when were these details first known"

At the end of July 2014, a family friend who is former military and who has known our son since his infant years requested copies of pictures and reports from Lemon Grove Sheriff's Department, San Diego County Medical Examiner's Office, and the Armed Forces Medical Examiner's Office. Our friend told us not to tell us what we saw on our son's body. He asked permission to send all pictures and reports to a local Ohio county coroner that he knew. In mid-September 2014, we were told by our friend that the Ohio coroner contacted the AFME office in Dover, Delaware to express his opinion/concern that our son's death was not a suicide, but a homocide.The coroner was contacted by a military base in Montgomery County, Ohio. A representative from the base told the coroner to "Stand Down" and that representatives from the base would come to the coroner's office to destroy said files and photos regarding our son's death. The coroner told the representative that he would destroy the files and photos himself. The coroner has moved onto another position and does not want to comment in fear of reprisal from the government.      As for our friend, he was visited by a government agent who our friend if he did not stop fanning the flames," his Navy son could receive a dishonorable discharge. Our friend does not want to talk about this incident in order to protect his son. 

In August of 2017, my wife and I had Keith's  swabs  from Keith's 40 Caliber gun tested to determine what was on Keith's 40 Caliber Taurus. After a month and one-half, we received a report from a forensic agency that there was very little blood on the gun. It was suggested by the agency that they pool all 3 swabs together to determine who's DNA was on the gun. In September 2017, I was swabbed to determine if there was DNA from Keith on the swab. In the winter of 2017, we received word that our DNA matched. We and our lawyer were curious why so little blood was on the gun. In April 2018, Our lawyer asked a local lead detective for a local police force. During the time from April to October, the detective formulated that it was a suicide. Our lawyer called me to pick up the 6-8 packets of pictures and reports from the various agencies such as San Diego Medical Examiner's Office, Lemon Grove Sheriff's Agency, and the Armed Forces Medical Examiner's Office. Out of the many packets that were sent to the detective, only two were opened.The rest of the packets of material were never opened nor looked at. 

Our thoughts regarding the work of all agencies involved are that no explanation was provided nor documented regarding such writing and imprints to indicate this was a murder vs. suicide, nor who could be responsible for leaving such degradation on and in Keith's body. One parting thought is that Keith shared with me that he was counseling a lady serving in the Navy who was receiving attention from someone from a different rank than her own. 

Our family is asking that the investigation be reopened to discover the truth. All we have at this time are memories of his smile, his laughter, and memories of his love for his God, his country, family, and friends.

Please help us discover the truth. 

Sincerely,

 

Sue and Tony Bemis                                                                                                    Parents of CPO John Keith Bemis                                                                                Our Son and Our Hero

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