Grisly murder spurs legislation
Army nurse's slaying motivates Braley to propose a bill that would change the way domestic-abuse cases are handled in the military.
There is no anger in the soft, measured voice of Jesse James, of Key West, just south of Dubuque.
His pleasant, southern lilt and cadence belies the subject about which he speaks. He talks calmly about the murder and dismemberment of his daughter, Second Lt. Army nurse Holley Lynn James, and on this gorgeous April day he is happy to do so, because this is the day U.S. Rep Bruce Braley, D-Iowa, announced that this week he will introduce the "Holley Lynn James Act" into the House of Representatives.
James' daughter was murdered by her estranged husband, Marine Cpl. John Wimunc, in Fayetteville, N.C., in July 2008 while stationed at Fort Bragg and working at the Womack Army Medical Center. According to reports, Wimunc and James had been married about a year and were in the midst of divorce proceedings.
At a news conference Monday morning at the Dubuque Community Y, Braley talked about his bill.
"The Act will help victims get justice by providing independent oversight for sexual-assault and domestic-violence policies in the Department of Defense, through the Office of the Inspector General," Braley said.
"The key to the law Congressman Braley will be introducing is independence," James said, his daughter's uniform hanging on the lectern from which he spoke. "Involving the Inspector General takes the insider out of the equation, putting these situations into the hands of a group outside the military who can make unbiased decisions about what is happening."
James, a retired U.S. Army sergeant major who served in Vietnam, is well aware of the culture of the military.
"The military is made up of war fighters. That's what they train to do," James said later on Monday from his home in Key West. "The military is faced with social issues, like domestic abuse and violence, which they are not equipped to handle, not trained to handle, and yet they do handle it, in the best way they can. The law being introduced moves these things out of the chain of command."
Statistical data from the Department of Defense indicates that there were 3,158 reported sexual assaults in the military in 2010.
In the end, Wimunc pleaded guilty in North Carolina to first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder and arson. He reportedly will spend the rest of his natural life in prison, without the possibility of parole.