(NewsNation) — Denisha Montgomery’s family is demanding answers after they say she was murdered while serving her country overseas.
Montgomery, 27, pursued her dreams and joined the Army two years ago. She was determined to help provide for her three young boys.
However, her trust in the military abruptly changed when she was assigned to the 139th Military Police Company stationed in Wiesbaden, Germany for the summer.
According to her family, she no longer felt safe with her fellow soldiers.
On July 19, she made a frantic video call to her family and asked them to record it. “I just want to come home. Look what they did to me,” Montgomery said in the recorded video. She is seen with serious bruises and open wounds on her body.
In the 12-minute video call with her family, she said she went with a group military police from her unit, off base to a water park, and said they had been drinking. On the car ride back, they assaulted her.
“They choked me out like they was doing this in the car. I kept telling them … I cant breathe,” Montgomery said in the video.
In and out of tears on the call, she vowed to report her assault the next day.
Her family also called the Red Cross and reported what she had told them: that four military police officers assaulted and strangled her.
In a text message to her uncle the next day she wrote, “they told me if I report an assault I’ll be charged with assault too because I mushed the female and bit the male that was choking me.”
On Aug. 9, 21 days later, Montgomery was found dead in her barracks. That same day, the Army told her family that she took her own life.
“They said, ‘We’re sorry to inform you that your daughter has committed suicide by suffocation.’ And I said, ‘How do you suffocate yourself? How can you possibly suffocate yourself?’ mother Heather Montgomery said.
Rodney Montgomery, Denisha’s father, said he knows his daughter would never kill herself.
“I know my daughter, she’s strong. She’s not a weak person. she’s a very strong person.”
The Army released a statement five days later confirming Montgomery was found unresponsive in her barracks and said “the incident is currently under investigation by the U.S. Army criminal investigation division.”
“It doesn’t make any sense. How are you still investigating when you prematurely said she committed suicide? That tells me that you’ve already have a determination,” said Tomeka Light, Denisha’s aunt.
Light served 13 years as an Army sergeant and was awarded the Purple Heart. She worries that something bigger may be at play.
“Something told me that her life was in danger,” Light said.
None of Montgomery’s family believes she took her own life. Her husband, Joshua Smith, also said he knows that she did not commit suicide.
NewsNation has asked the Army about the investigation, but officials declined our request for an interview.
They sent the following statement: “special agents with department of the army criminal investigation division are investigating the death of Spc. Denisha Montgomery.”
Lindsey Knapp, executive director of Combat Sexual Assault, who represents Denisha’s family, said that the military was too quick to call this a suicide.
“We’ve got a service member who was afraid for her life, and assaulted, 21 days prior to her death,” Knapp said Wednesday night on “NewsNation Prime.” Knapp has also personally reached out to numerous military officials but hasn’t heard back.
“What we’re calling for now is that the FBI immediately take this case over. Because what the military has shown us is that they are unable to take this case and give Denisha the justice that she deserves,” Knapp said.
Never Alone Advocacy founder Amy Frank, who is also representing Denisha’s family, said that no one was looking into an “attempted murder on her life” after the reported assault.
“If leadership believed that she was suicidal, she should have not been walking around with a gun. What I do know is none of this makes sense,” Frank said on “NewsNation Prime.”
The reaction to Denisha’s story has been overwhelming. Lynn and Michael Matthews, a couple featured in the award-winning documentary “The Invisible War,” shared their frustrations Thursday on “NewsNation Prime.” They’ve spent decades fighting for change within the U.S. military.
“Sadly, the story is a repeat of Vanessa Guillén and many other people that we have heard about in the last 20 years of our advocacy,” Lynn said.
Michael explained that Denisha “should have been removed from that situation immediately” due to protocol. “That’s what they’re supposed to do. And they didn’t do it. Whether they believe the person was raped or not, they’re supposed to follow the rules and they don’t, and that person died.”
“They should find the person who didn’t follow through on it properly like they’re supposed to. And they should court-martial because they’re destroying the military, destroying our national defense. They are worse than any terrorist in the world. This is destroying the fabric of our military,” Michael added.