Following a lengthy investigation, three Fort Bragg paratroopers will face criminal charges over a May 2020 lockdown-defying, drug-fueled Outer Banks camping trip that ended in the beheading of Spc. Enrique Roman-Martinez, according to online court records and charge sheets obtained by Army Times.
Rolling Stone first reported one soldier’s charges, but Army Times has first obtained charge sheets identifying the other two.
“These charges are unrelated to the cause of...Roman-Martinez’s death, which remains unsolved,” said Lt. Col. Brett Lea, a spokesperson for the 82nd Airborne Division. “Army CID has offered a $50,000 reward for information leading to a resolution in this investigation.”
Roman-Martinez and seven other soldiers broke Fort Bragg’s COVID-19 restrictions to stay overnight on South Core Banks, a barrier island along Cape Lookout National Seashore. He disappeared overnight in the pouring rain on May 22, 2020, and the other campers in his group called 911 the following evening to report him missing after purportedly searching for him.
His severed head washed up on a nearby island on May 29, a week after he disappeared.
But the soldiers’ accounts came into question when Army Times reported they had encountered a park ranger in the hours before calling authorities. They failed to inform the ranger they were looking for Roman-Martinez, whose family described the omission as “one of the burning questions” they had about the events. The family has also criticized the Army Criminal Investigation Division’s handling of the case.
The murder investigation moved to cold case status in November 2021 after failing to recover any evidence — physical, forensic or testimonial — linking anyone to the paratrooper’s death, according to the Fayetteville Observer.
Charge sheets filed for the upcoming courts-martial allege that at least two of the soldiers used LSD, a hallucinogenic drug, during the trip. Rolling Stone first reported the alleged LSD link, though the charge sheets provided by the 82nd Airborne Division represent its first official confirmation.
“The charges in this case are merely accusations and the accused are presumed innocent until proven guilty,” added the division spokesperson.
The charges and new timeline details
The documents and the court-martial docket indicate three paratroopers will face a general court-martial. Rolling Stone first reported the pending charges against one of the soldiers, Spc. Alex Becerra, whose charge sheet was not released. Two of the charged soldiers, Pfc. Samad Landrum and Pvt. Annamarie Cochell, are members of Roman-Martinez’s unit: the 37th Brigade Engineer Battalion’s headquarters company. Becerra’s unit was not immediately clear.
According to his online docket entry, Becerra will be arraigned Jan. 20 on charges of conspiracy, violating a lawful order, three specifications of false official statements, three specifications of disobeying a commissioned officer and drug use. He was the soldier who made the 911 call reporting Roman-Martinez missing.
Landrum and Cochell’s charge sheets provide detail into their alleged actions.
The two soldiers stand accused of using LSD on the night that Roman-Martinez died, as well as violating Fort Bragg’s COVID-19 travel radius “without an approved leave or pass” when they left for the trip.
Prosecutors also charged the two paratroopers with conspiring with five unnamed people to make a false official statement on May 23, the day they searched for Roman-Martinez. The alleged co-conspirators’ names are redacted, including the unknown individual who reportedly lied to an official.
According to the charge sheet, an unnamed co-conspirator told an official that at 3:00 a.m. on an unknown date, they and two other people “left for Davis N.C. to board a ferry.” Investigators say that’s a lie, accusing the soldiers of colluding to conceal the presence of an unknown fourth person on the trip to the ferry.
Landrum also reportedly made two false statements to investigators on May 24, according to his charge sheet.
He allegedly lied to an investigator about drug use on the trip and intentionally concealed the presence of a seventh person at their campsite on the morning of May 23.
“[Person 1] was already looking for him. [Person 2] was still sleeping. [Person 3] was next to [person 4] watching him fish. [Person 5] was casting his fishing rod,” Landrum said “with intent to decieve...[by omitting] the presence of [Person 6],” the charge sheet read.
Because Becerra’s arraignment has not occurred, it’s not certain whether he allegedly participated in the same conspiracy or violated the same order as Landrum and Cochell.
Nor is it clear if his disobeying charges are related to allegedly breaking a no-contact order, as Cochell is also charged with doing. He declined to make a statement to Rolling Stone when reached via phone, and Army Times could not locate contact information.
The woman allegedly violated two no-contact orders, one repeatedly between November 2020 and February 2021, and the second for a few days in May 2021. No-contact orders barring investigative subjects from communicating with each other are common in Army criminal investigations.
An email address listed for Cochell returned an email as undeliverable, and a member of the Landrum family did not immediately respond to a Facebook message seeking Samad’s contact information.
Army Times editor Kyle Rempfer and Military Times reporter James Webb contributed to this report.
Davis Winkie is a senior reporter covering the Army, specializing in accountability reporting, personnel issues and military justice. He joined Military Times in 2020. Davis studied history at Vanderbilt University and UNC-Chapel Hill, writing a master's thesis about how the Cold War-era Defense Department influenced Hollywood's WWII movies.