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Father: Ex-soldier slain in Ga. wanted out of Army

By Russ Bynum
Associated Press / December 13, 2011
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SAVANNAH, Ga.—Michael Roark had been in the Army barely a year when he started telling his father he wanted out because of disagreements with superiors at Fort Stewart. He ended up being discharged from the military, but just three days later he was found shot to death along with his girlfriend.

Georgia investigators have charged four soldiers who served with Roark at Fort Stewart in the double slaying. The 19-year-old former soldier's father said Tuesday his son wasn't getting along well at the Army post and had complained of a supervisor who was "coming down on his head," but nothing that made him sense there was any danger.

"The last month and a half or two months, there was a lot of dissatisfaction between him and that NCO (noncommissioned officer) and others," Brett Roark, the slain man's father, told The Associated Press in an interview. "All of a sudden he went from wanting to be in the Army to saying, `I want to be out of the Army.'"

Fishermen found the bodies of Michael Roark and his 17-year-old girlfriend, Tiffany York, earlier this month off a dirt road in rural Long County near the Army post. Both victims had been shot in the head. On Monday agents from the Georgia Bureau of Investigation announced charges against the four soldiers.

Army Sgt. Anthony Peden and Pvt. Christopher Salmon, both 25, are charged with malice murder in the killings. Pfc. Michael Burnett, 26, and Pvt. Isaac Aguigui, 19, are charged with being party to a murder.

The exact relationship between the victims and suspects remains hazy. A Fort Stewart spokesman, Lt. Col. Benjamin Garrett, declined Tuesday to say whether Roark worked directly with any of the suspects and would not specify their units. The Army is saying only that all of them served in the 4th Brigade of the 3rd Infantry Division. Army brigades have up to 4,000 soldiers.

The slain man's father, who lives in Daytona, Fla., declined to say whether any of the suspects charged in the case were among those his son had disagreements with at Fort Stewart. He said he didn't want to disrupt the criminal investigation.

Mike McDaniel, the GBI agent leading the investigation, said Roark and his girlfriend both knew the four suspects. But he referred all questions about their military service to the Army.

"They were not killed at random or by chance," said McDaniel, who would not discuss a motive for the slayings. "They all knew each other. It's kind of an oxymoron to say they were friends. Michael (Roark) believed they were friends, but friends don't do that."

It's also unclear why the Army discharged Roark on Dec. 2. His service record shows he enlisted in March 2010 and trained as a cavalry scout before being assigned to Fort Stewart earlier this year. The Army Human Resources Command said only that Roark's discharge was not dishonorable.

Roark's father said his son arrived at Fort Stewart this year as an eager private who was disappointed he didn't get to deploy to Iraq with the 4th Brigade, which returned from a yearlong tour last summer. He said Roark had recently gotten a traffic ticket for running a stop sign, but insisted he was unaware of any serious infractions.

"He was not happy" about being discharged, Brett Roark said. "He was broken-hearted. Something happened up there and he was broken-hearted and disappointed with what he found at Fort Stewart."

Brett Roark said his son traveled to Florida to visit him after he left the Army. He said they changed the brakes on his son's truck and spent an uneventful weekend together.

"There was no inkling for him of the danger he was in," Roark's father said. "There was no flag, no warning, not even remotely."

Authorities say Roark and his girlfriend, a high school student, were killed Dec. 5 -- right after he returned to Georgia. Roark's father said the two had been dating for about three months and "were truly in love."

A Long County judge denied bond for the four soldiers charged as suspected at a hearing Monday. Despite calls to authorities and the local public defender's office, The AP was unable to determine Tuesday if any of them had hired attorneys.

Brett Roark said that even after he learned of the slayings, he never suspected they might have been committed by men he'd served with in uniform.

"We thought maybe he ran into some bad people out in the swamp or something," Roark's father said. "We didn't think at all that it would be four soldiers. It's incredible."

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