An Army Veteran Recalls A Forgotten Murder
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[Previous Letter: A California Reader Thanks Paul Craig Roberts For Taking A Stand For The Environment]

Re: James Fulford’s article:  Troy Davis, Lawrence Brewer, Wyatt Matthews And The Disparate Death Penalty

From: An Anonymous Army Veteran [Email him]

I happened to come across James Fulford’s article regarding Wyatt Matthews   and it opened a raw wound for me.  I was an Army Lieutenant in February 1979 assigned to a regiment stationed in Germany.  We were at Grafenwoehr for our 5 or 6 week training period at the time and were living in the temporary camp—I believe it was named Camp Normandy—near the library where the murder occurred. [ Matthews, an African-American soldier raped and murdered a white woman who worked in the base library—see The Crime Of Wyatt Matthews.]

  My duties at the time gave me some free time many afternoons when I was not actually in the field or in training areas.  I often walked through a small patch of woods near the library to get to a small PX and snack bar and movie theater.  I got to know Phyllis, Matthews’s victim, slightly during that time just through small talk if I stopped at the library for a few minutes.  She was a very nice lady. 

At that time the army was in a shambles with low pay and recruiting standards and there were huge problems with drugs, violence, and race riots.  Many of the troops were criminals or had criminal tendencies and the army was afraid to push prosecutions for things like insubordination or disrespect to officers or sergeants because it would often lead to racial problems.

 I was only a few years younger than Phyllis and knew her husband was a warrant officer.  I had recently been married and my wife was an army lieutenant at the time and she was constantly being harassed by lowlifes and was often afraid to be alone in the supply area she worked at. 

I had thought a few times when seeing Phyllis that I felt sorry for her because of some of the same types of lowlifes that stopped by the library just to see here as there were few women anywhere at Grafenwoehr except those working at the PX or snack bar and there were thousands of troops there for field training away from home. 

On the day of the murder I was walking near the library and saw Matthews trying to talk up Phyllis—or so I assumed—and for a second or saw Matthews look towards me and I still remember having an odd feeling, but I just kept going since it was broad daylight and nothing seemed unusual. 

Later that afternoon I was near the theater area with some sergeants from my platoon and I believe we had a coffee at the snack bar and were heading back to our camp.  I was thinking of stopping by the library but as we got close to the library one of the sergeants said it would be closing soon and we went back to the base camp. 

At the time I had my issued .45 pistol and field gear because my jeep driver had dropped me off near the theater area after doing some work at a field site.  I don't know the official policy anymore, but on the advice of some older sergeants I always carried one magazine of 7 rounds for my pistol in an ammo pouch due to the threat of violence. 

The next day one of the sergeants who was the type to know all of the scuttlebutt said "Hey LT, you should have stopped at the library yesterday." 

I asked why and he said somebody had killed the librarian and her husband found her dead.  I was in shock for days and sickened as more details came out.  I even went by the MP station on some other pretense to catch a glimpse of the killer because somebody told me he was there.  On the advice of some older guys with more experience I never got involved in the case since he had been caught red handed and my experiences to date with the army had convinced me that any involvement in something like this could mean nothing but problems. 

Nobody asked me anything so I never did anything.  I'm sure had the killer had been on the loose and they were asking for info I would have reported what I saw that day. To this day I often have nightmares about this incident and wonder what would have happened if I had stopped at the library with my sergeants.  Please continue to follow up on this story.  I am now concerned that Matthews is out after reading your article.

James Fulford writes: We’ll be following up on this and other stories.

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