Saturday, April 21, 2012

Fort Campbell, KY: South Bend native dies at Fort Campbell in apparent domestic violence incident

Friends and family of a South Bend native shot to death on a Kentucky Army base are searching for answers after she was found dead inside the home she shared with her husband. It appears to be an act of domestic violence, but military police have been tight-lipped about their investigation.

Photos of a vibrant, spontaneous young woman are all Jessica Roberts Rawls’ friends and family have.

“She’s a very, very intelligent, outgoing individual,” said Rawls’ former step brother, Rain Williams.

“Jessica was a fun person, a free spirit, she didn’t let anybody keep her down. [She] was always on the go, was a wonderful mother,” said friend Rica Clay.

Rawls grew up in South Bend and was the only girl to ever play football at Jackson Intermediate School. She graduated in the final class from LaSalle High School in 2002.

Those who knew and loved the 27-year-old mother of three young girls ... ages 11, 8 and 1 years... have so many questions.

“How could this have been prevented? What happened? Who was there? Why? What? Who? When? You know, just want to know,” said Clay.

Here’s what WSBT does know at this point:

  • Police found Army Reservist Jessica Rawls dead Friday night at her Fort Campbell home while responding to a suspected domestic dispute there. She lived there with her husband, Army Specialist Rico Rawls Jr., and their 1-year-old daughter. Fort Campbell, a U.S. Army base, is on the Kentucky/Tennessee border.
  • The Army would only confirm the deaths of Rawls and her husband are under investigation and stopped short of calling it a murder-suicide.

Jessica’s mom, Dawn Sult-Williams, told WSBT the couple’s daughter was asleep upstairs when Jessica was shot to death.

While wanted for questioning, Spc. Rawls reportedly led police on a high speed, 80-mile chase into Georgia.

When police put down spike sticks to stop Rawls’ vehicle, he apparently shot himself. The Army said he died Monday at a hospital.

Sult-Williams told WSBT she just found out about her daughter’s death Tuesday, four days after it happened.

“That was my friend, you know?” Clay said, wiping away tears.

As much as she wants answers, Clay refuses to jump to conclusions.

“We’re going to hear stories and, you know, hear everything, but we’re never going to know what really happened. They were the only ones there, you know?”

Sult-Williams believes Rico Rawls shot and killed her daughter. Sult-Williams claims Rico served two tours of duty in Iraq and came back a different person. She believes he never got the help he needed.

Sult-Williams is driving to Fort Campbell to sign papers so she can bring her daughter's body back to South Bend for the funeral and burial.

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