On July 31, 2008, Colonel Michael Ross Stahlman, USMC, was found in his room at Camp Ramadi, Iraq with a gunshot wound to the left side of his head. The right-handed colonel died Oct. 5, 2008. Despite the fact that he never suffered from depression, within hours, investigators labeled the shooting a suicide attempt. They have stuck with that finding to this day, leaving his widow to bear the task of finding the truth.
As a Marine Corps wife, Kimberly Stahlman packed up and moved more times than most people could stomach. With each move, she immersed herself into her husband's lifestyle and kept the home fires burning all over the world. While the colonel was climbing the Marine Corps ladder, she put her master's degree in psychology to work by helping to develop the first victim's advocacy group in Okinawa, Japan. She also joined other officers' wives in organizing charity fundraisers and attended endless social events to promote her husband's career. She even stepped forward to assume the role of president of the Parris Island Officers' Spouses Club when it was near collapse because nobody else wanted to assume leadership. She did all of this after enduring a difficult childbirth that left her with multiple health problems. In short, she was the epitome of a good Marine Corps wife.
Today, Kimberly is a Marine Corps widow and has come to believe that a widow's life is one the Marine Corps wants her to live in the shadows. In actuality, she would like to oblige them, but looming large is the ongoing investigation she has conducted into her husband's death. From the beginning, Kimberly didn't believe her husband shot himself and the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS), made it quite clear that she was on her own in pursuit of any other conclusion. Consequently, she joined forces with forensic experts and amassed considerable scientific evidence alleging that her husband was murdered. Despite this, NCIS has stubbornly refused to consider the new evidence, and informed Kimberly "she could not change their minds no matter what kind of evidence she presents."
Left with no alternative, on Jan. 16, 2013, she filed an Administrative Procedures Action or APA with the U.S. District Court in Maryland. The APA is a law which allows a federal judge to review and reverse the decisions made by governmental agencies. Kimberly's lawsuit accuses the defendants, who include NCIS and the Secretary of Defense with "acting in a manner that is "arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion, or otherwise, not in accordance with law."
Among the forensic issues are the number of shots fired in Colonel Stahlman's room the morning of July 31, 2008. According to court documents, two bullets fired in the room. One went clear through the wall of his trailer and landed in pristine condition in the trailer next door, while another went through the Colonel's head. On the other hand, NCIS claims there was only one bullet fired that terrible morning, and it went through the colonel's head and several walls, before it landed unscathed in the trailer next door. I don't know, but it seems quite miraculous for a bullet to travel through so many obstacles without sustaining any damage.
The suit goes on to allege that investigators "conducted little or no investigation" into at least 20 different matters that would have accompanied a thorough investigation and followed DoD directives. Among them, the number of bullets remaining in the Colonel's 9mm. Apparently, NCIS never counted them and subsequently did not examine his blood-soaked mattress for the presence of a second round. In addition, the suit claims that the blood spatter trajectory contradicts NCIS findings. It seems that Colonel Stahlman's blood sprayed in a different direction from the bullet that NCIS claims killed him. According to the forensic expert, Michael Maloney, this is an impossibility because blood always follows the same path as the bullet that causes the injury.
Whoever the judge deciding the APA turns out to be, he or she will be hard-pressed to not take Kimberly Stahlman seriously. After all, there is a certain irony to her steely determination. Life in the Marine Corps taught her to stand strong in the face of adversity even when the odds are stacked unfavorably. She lives the motto "Semper fi" and as a good Marine wife, has remained faithful. But unlike the Corps, she refuses to dishonor her husband by allowing a substandard investigation to go unchecked.