KIRK C. VANDERBUR, USMCR
Kirk was found
Feb. 17, 1992 at a private rifle range near Camp Lejeune, NC. He had been
shot in the abdomen with #6 birdshot by a Spas 12 and between the eyes
with a Ruger Mini 14 (.223). There was no homicide investigation. The JAG
investigation was questionable because there was missing property and fingerprint
and powder residue tests weren't done. Strangely, the guns were about 10
feet apart and there were two (2) spent shells from the rifle...does the
military believe that Kirk missed the first time?
1967 - Feb. 16, 1992)
As with so
many military deaths during peacetime Kirk's death was ruled a suicide
by the military. I think that after reading Kirk's story you will
reach the same conclusion that his family has ~ Kirk did not die by his
own hand ~ he was murdered.
has belonged to "UNTIL WE
HAVE ANSWERS" since January 1993. After
reading the article about the death of Scott Jakovic in the U.S. News &
World Report by Peter Cary in November 1992, several families contacted
Peter Cary, who put them in touch with each other. Three of their stories
aired on 20/20 in June 1993 under the "Until We Have Answers" title. In
May 1993 the families met in Washington DC with the congressional oversight
committee. Several of the contested "suicides" rulings were written about
and the committee agreed that these investigations should be looked into
funeral his body was taken to St. Luke's hospital in Sioux City, Iowa,
where Dr. Tom Bennett, IA State Medical Examiner, had agreed to do a second
autopsy. His body was released for cremation without examination. His family
doesn't know why. Dr. Bennett was a part of the 20/20 program. In January
1994 Dr. Bennett and IA Department of Criminal Investigation agent, Dan
Moser, went to North Carolina without a representative of the family or
their investigator, Fredrick McDaniels, from Kansas City, MO, which was
contrary to a previous agreement. Instead, Dr. Bennett called Kirk's family
from North Carolina to let them know that their investigation was finished.
Agent Moser and Darwin Chapman, head of IA DCI, met with Kirk's family
in February, but provided no new information. Dr. Bennett later wrote and
sent poor copies of crime scene photos. Unknown to Kirk's parents, a letter
to Sheriff Ed Brown, Onslow County, NC, went out over Dr. Bennett's signature
after the meeting. That letter is cover for the sheriff but no more correct
than the "suicide" ruling and the spelling of Kirk's name [Kurt]. Kirk's
mother feels that Dr. Bennett was forced to participate in this injustice.
His correspondence with her and Kirk's father always had Kirk's name spelled
correctly. Kirk's parents were unaware of the letter until after the 1996
Senate hearings when they received the letter through FOIA. When they contacted
the IA Department of Safety they were told that nothing could be done as
Dr. Bennett was no longer an employee. Kirk's father wrote a rebuttal letter
which can be found at the ~PACC~
website. [Parents Against Corruption and Cover-up]
met with the DOD IG's agents and a reinvestigation was turned down. They
question if that was because of the 'Dr. Bennett letter' they hadn't seen.
Will they ever know?
interviewed Kirk's mother for a segment they did on Capt. Gordon Hess.
Although her part wasn't aired, the local CBS affiliate did a joint interview
of Kirk's mother and father. After the piece aired Thanksgiving weekend
in 1999, Kirk's parents received a phone call from a former Marine, who
told them that Marines had killed their son and even knew what order the
injuries were inflicted. The NCIS will not look into the matter without
his name. However, after the deaths of others involved in cases like Sabow
and Louthain Kirk's family refuses to put the man's life in danger.
is a Marine and is very hurt by the lack of espre de corps...as he believed
in Semper Fi. Kirk's mother has tried to uncover the truth and prevent
the continuing cover-ups, which result in damage to the family and friends
of the bogus "suicides". Kirk was "gung ho" about life, family and the
Marines. He wasn't able to be an organ donor which was important to him.
His life was taken and his ability to help others was taken.
says, 'Corrupt people are everywhere, civilian and military. Looking the
other way solves nothing. Too many times it is the best and the brightest
that are lost.'
Sandi Silarski, a student of the Forensic Sciences at the University of
Arkansas at Little Rock, have uncovered 'physical evidence' that makes
Kirk's death a matter of "murder"! Ms. Silarski's report is posted, in
its entirety at: http://communities.msn.com/IssuesinTodaysLawEnforcementand
If you have
any questions or comments on this case, or would like to send a note to
Kirk's mother, please use this e-mail button
was the son of a Marine Corps veteran. Kirk entered the Marine Corps
Reserves in 1988 to help pay his way through college. While in college,
Kirk chose his major around the needs of the Corps. After receiving
his BBA, Kirk decided to work on his commission, and received it in 1990,
as a Second Lieutenant. Kirk firmly believed in family, and had a
very close, supportive family that planned for their children's financial
needs if they wanted their help. Kirk dreamed of having a family
of his own, and while an officer in the Marine Corps began collecting Walt
Disney movies for his children that he would have some day. Kirk
had recently reported to a new command where he would have duties he did
have any experience in, but was bound and determined to do the best job
he could possibly do.
14th, Kirk ask his mother to send him cookies and rice crispy bars for
his time afloat. The same week he reordered checks, and renewed his
playboy subscription. On the 16th, a Sunday, Kirk went to the Flatwoods
Gun Club near Camp Lejuene, North Carolina, where he had a membership to
target practice with two of his guns, a Ruger Mini-14, and a 12-gauge shotgun.
Laretta Wager, owner of the gun club stated to investigators that Kirk
arrived at 4:30 p.m. and that there were no other people there at that
time. Later, it was discovered that there were actually two other
people there at the time Kirk arrived. After promising Ms. Wager
that he would clean up after himself, Kirk went to the firing range.
Kirk collected and shot guns as a hobby, and as a Marine had earned both
sharp shooting insignias for pistol and rifle. Ms. Wager stated to
investigators that when she left for the evening, Kirk's car was not there,
and she assumed that he left. Normally the gun club is closed on
Mondays, but Ms. Wager decided to go in to finish some paperwork.
When she arrived, Kirk's car was there, with all the doors closed.
After she parked her car, and started down the driveway toward the parking
lot, and the driver's side door was open, and she discovered the keys in
the ignition. Kirk had a security alarm in his car, and always turned
it on. Ms. Wager discovered Kirk's body, and immediately called the
Sheriff's department. Kirk appeared to have a gunshot between his
eyes, and his right thumb was clenching the trigger of the mini-14, although
it was originally reported that it was his index finger. After all
the crime scene photographs were taken, the Sheriff's department allowed
paramedics to roll the body to take it. They discovered a second
gunshot to the abdomen, with bruising above the gun shot, and intestines
and part of the omentum protruding. They again took photographs,
removed his clothes, and took more. Sheriff Brown ruled this death
a suicide. He stated that Kirk had been cleaning his 12-gauge (which
had birdshot in it), accidentally shot himself in the stomach, crawled
for 8-10 feet, then decided the pain was too severe to go on, and used
the mini-14 to shoot himself in the head. None of the weapons, ammunition,
diet Dr. Pepper Can, or other objects found at the crime scene were dusted
for fingerprints. Although Kirk's hands were bagged for analysis,
none was conducted. There was a brown paper bag at the scene, with
blood spatters all over it. Instead of sending it in for analysis,
or asking for an expert's opinion, Sheriff Brown simply explained it by
stating "the blood stains on the brown paper bag prove that 2nd LT Vanderbur
was lying down when he shot himself". There was a Marine Corps Major,
who sat on the front porch of the gun club, watched the investigation,
saw Kirk's car, but was never questioned.
a package from Kirk's mother containing photocopies of the crime scene
photographs, the JAG report, the Naval Investigative Reports, pathology
reports, medical history, financial history, and a copy of the congressional
investigation. On the back of Kirk's head was a blunt force injury.
The injury was a 9-inch cut, straight across, right next to the large exit
wound from the bullet, where part of the brain was protruding. The
blood spatter patterns on the brown paper bag are impact spatters, and
impression marks (Saferstein:336). This would be consistent to a
hard blow to the back of the head.
from his last and present duty station were questioned by investigators.
Although they were asked about alcohol/drug abuse, financial problems,
women, and career, the answers were consistent...Kirk did drink a beer
or two on occasion, but didn't have a drinking problem. He didn't
have financial problems, but his roommate made the statement to investigators
that in his opinion, the Isuzu that Kirk bought was "a little excessive
for a 2nd LT". Kirk paid his car payment, rent, utilities, and credit
card bills all on time. He never once fell behind on his payments,
and if he needed money, he knew that his parents had money available
for him. Coworkers stated that Kirk was anxious to do a good job
at his new duty station. Kirk had also been making plans for 1994
when he got out of the Marines Corps, although he wanted to get into
full-time regular Marines, the military was downsizing at the time, and
he knew there was a possibility it wouldn't happen.
Kirk was 5'8",
and weight 175 pounds at the time of his death. Investigators stated
that Kirk wedged the mini-14 between his body and the ground, with the
butt pushed into the ground, put his thumb on the trigger and shot himself
in the forehead, between the eyes after shooting himself in the stomach
with birdshot and crawling for 8-10 feet. Kirk's thumb wouldn't have
been able to reach the trigger in this position.
There are several
Marine Corps officers that feel that Kirk was murdered. They have
vowed to find his killer. I believe that the crime scene was compromised
when investigators assumed there was only the bullet wound to the head,
and took all their photographs, only for paramedics to roll him over and
discover a second bullet wound. This bullet had traveled upward,
going through his liver into the right ventricle of the heart. I
also feel that the brown paper bag was a crucial piece of physical evidence
that should have been sent for analysis by a crime lab for evaluation of
blood spatter patterns and possibly the lifting of latent fingerprints.