Autopsy: Fort Bragg soldier beheaded at Cape Lookout National Seashore

Army SPC Enrique Roman-Martinez

A severed head washed up at Cape Lookout National Seashore in May is among the only physical evidence authorities have of what happened to a 21-year-old Army paratrooper who went missing on a beach camping trip with friends.

Enrique Roman-Martinez, 21, was camping with fellow soldiers from Fort Bragg when he vanished May 22. On May 31, a head washed up on the Shackleford Banks, and dental records positively identified the remains as the soldier from California, according to autopsy results recently released by the North Carolina Office of the Chief Medical Examiner.

Army SPC Enrique Roman-Martinez

The autopsy, performed June 3, “documented evidence of multiple chop injuries” to the victim’s neck and spine, as well as incised — or cut — injuries to the skin’s surface. Roman-Martinez also had multiple broken bones to his jaw.

With the rest of Roman-Martinez’s body never found, medical examiners said they could not determine a cause of death. But the case has been ruled a homicide.

“While decapitation is, in and of itself, universally fatal, the remainder of the body in this case was not available for examination, and therefore potential causes of death involving the torso and extremities cannot be excluded,” the autopsy states.

“Despite multiple conversations with investigating officers, no explanation for the death of this individual or the findings at autopsy has been offered. It is therefore my opinion that while a definitive cause of death cannot be determined, the findings in this case are most consistent with death due to homicide.”

Authorities have released little information about the soldier, who was reported missing when his friends hadn’t seen him around camp that day. Over a 10-day period, ground and aerial searchers covered South Core Banks, Shackleford Banks, and the immediate ocean and sound areas surrounding Roman-Martinez’s camp. Cape Lookout National Seashore is located south of the Outer Banks on North Carolina’s Crystal Coast.

Very few clues were discovered during the search efforts, the seashore said in a news release. Early in the search, the National Park Service issued a statement in search of anyone who saw a white/silver Jeep Wrangler with two young men standing on the outside step rails while it drove at a high rate of speed south down the beach.

Park rangers would still like to hear from anyone who may have had contact with Enrique Roman-Martinez. In addition, the Army is offering a $15,000 reward for information in the case. Please call the Carteret County Dispatch office at 252-726-1911.

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Kari Pugh is digital director for, Beach 104, 99.1 The Sound, 94.5 WCMS and News Talk 92.3 WZPR. Reach her at