Alabama

Family claims murder as they seek to reopen Fort Benning soldier suicide case

COLUMBUS, Ga. (WRBL) - Nearly seven years after losing her son, Christopher Robert "Robbie" West's mother says getting his case attention again is bittersweet.

Robbie West was a U.S. Army Sergeant who passed July 17, 2011. The Phenix City Police Department and Army CID ruled his death a suicide and closed the case, but Deanne Miller remains convinced otherwise. That's why she tells News 3 she contacted the Crime Watch Daily with Chris Hansen to further investigate her son's death.

"It's something of course you don't want to be on TV for, but it's because of the situation and because there's nothing we can change about what happened it's amazing that they contacted us," Deanne says.

Once producers with the show responded to Deanne's request, she and her family's lawyer Thomas Worthy shared the evidence they believe prove Robbie's death was actually a murder.

Robbie's Final Hours

Deanne shared details of events leading up to Robbie's death that she claims are suspicious, to say the least. Robbie and another, older staff sergeant were shopping for handguns in Columbus the day before he was discovered dead.

"My son didn't have his paperwork with him to show he was stationed at Fort Benning, so the other soldier offered to buy the gun for him," Deanne explains. "They went to several establishments and drank heavily, before they went home to Phenix City where their apartments were right across to each other."

She says text messages in her son's phone prove the two men later had an argument over payment.

"About 3:53 in the morning there was a text message in my son's phone from the other soldier saying he wanted the gun back. They argued because Robbie had agreed to pay him back Monday and do the paperwork then," Deanne says. "The last text message in my son's phone said 'I'll come get it then.'"

The same soldier called 911 at 2:35 p.m. Sunday, July 17 to report he had walked into Robbie West's apartment to find him dead with a gun in his hand:

911 DISPATCHER: "Phenix City 911, what is your emergency?"

CALLER: "My name is ***** and I am at ***** and my friend just committed suicide. In the apartment next to me.

911 DISPATCHER: "You know for sure that he or she committed suicide?

CALLER: "Yes ma'am,  I have a key to his apartment, he has a key to my apartment. I just went over to check on him, and he's sitting in his chair and he's cold and I checked his pulse ma'am."

Deanne says her suspicions are pointed at that soldier for a number of reasons.

"Without even being asked, he just started explaining himself away which we thought was very suspicious," she says. "He just said everything so calmly and it came out later he had some possessions of my son's, there was money missing out of my son's dress greens -- the same amount he had agreed to pay this other soldier for the gun -- and that was never looked into."

The Evidence

Deanne also shared evidence photos that she obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request with News 3.

"There was a lack of blood splatter, there was the weapon that was laid in his lap and it was up under a fold of his belly, which how can you shoot yourself in the head, lean over to the right, then the gun fall perfectly under the flap of your belly?" Deanne asks.

Thomas Worthy represents Robbie West's family as they try to get the case reopened. He also shared his thoughts on the investigation process that he tells News 3's Mikhaela Singleton he believes further shows Robbie's death deserves a second look.

"That soldier was allowed to stay at the apartment throughout the entire process and all the while, he's in the [officers'] ears saying things like 'Oh he's having problems with his money, problems with his wife, other women, problems with drugs.' None of that was true or even remotely proven," Worthy explains. "For a potential main suspect to be allowed to stay at the crime scene and all the while he's standing there saying these things and they're going into the process of determining if this was a suicide."

"He's refused three polygraph tests, the Army shipped him off from Fort Benning to Fort Hood, Texas before he was discharged for another incident and he's just been unaccounted for since then," Deanne claims. "We strongly feel that this was covered up and swept under the rug because they were both military. It's unfortunate that he is another soldier, but we want justice for my son. He deserves it."

News 3 reached out to Fort Benning and the Phenix City Police Department for comment on revisiting Sgt. Christopher Robert West's death. 

Fort Benning personnel responded the Army would be happy and willing to cooperate with any investigation, should the case be reopened. However, at this time CID will not pursue the case, as it happened off base and remains in PCPD's jurisdiction.

Phenix City Police did not respond to News 3 calls.

 


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