New sexual assault accusations after soldier’s death at Fort Bliss; Army opens investigation

Texas

FORT BLISS, Texas (NewsNation Now) — Military officials have opened an investigation at Fort Bliss Army base because of Asia Graham’s story, which NewsNation first brought to you in January.

The Fort Bliss soldier reported being sexually assaulted on base and was later found dead in her barrack on New Year’s Eve.

Officials at Fort Bliss tell NewsNation that our investigative report prompted them to begin what they call an Article 15-6 inquiry — what’s called a commander’s inquiry.  

NewsNation Investigation

Now, more women have come forward against the man charged with Graham’s assault, with new allegations of sexual assault.

Asia Graham

“She was wonderful. She was kind, courageous. She loved family,” said her mother, Nicole Graham. “Everybody that met her was impacted by her. If you were loved by Asia, you experienced a special love.”

19-year-old Asia Graham followed in her late father’s footsteps and enlisted in the Army.

“She was a super soldier,” she said. “She was proud to be a soldier.”

But within her first month after arriving at Fort Bliss, on Dec. 30, 2019, Asia was sexually assaulted by another soldier, Christian Alvarado; according to the military charge sheet, she was unconscious at the time.

Asia was found dead in her barracks on New Year’s Eve, a year after she was assaulted. Officials at Fort Bliss said her cause of death is still undetermined and that she had reported being sexually assaulted in June.

But in a letter Asia wrote to her mother, just three days before she died, she explained in painful detail, when she reported it to her commanding officer, and what she endured.

“I reported it in February.”

“I told my NCO sgt…”

“all they cared about the army doctrine and cover up themselves”

“I was really asking for help.”

“He lived right down the hallway from me so getting out of my room everyday knowing I might have to see him and speak I got an apartment.”

“they made me move back on post and restricted me to my company area”

“I’ve been asking for help, and my rapist still gets to walk around in the unit and it’s so crazy because its really feeling like I’m never going to get my peace.”

“I want to be heard and they not hearing me.”

Many details in her letter contradict what the Army is saying about her assault, and their response to her.

Asia’s family said the Army told her to ‘shut up about it’ and accuses the Army of a cover-up. We spoke to her brother Anthony Graham about what she told him before her death:

Anthony: Quit talking about it. You keep talking about it. That’s why you keep feeling about it. So just shut up about it. Keep it moving. Be quiet.
Rich McHugh: He told her to shut up?
Anthony: Yes.
McHugh: Shut up about it?
Anthony: Yes, keep it moving, and all they wanted to care about was her saying that she’s fine.

Ret. Col. Wes Martin has been focused on the issue of sexual assault in the military since the 1990s.

“Asia Graham was a victim of a predator, and she was also a victim of a broken system that did not take care of her. Through that, Asia Graham ended up dying,” he said.

He met with Asia’s family and vowed to help them navigate this.

McHugh: You say ‘broken system,’ what should have happened?
Martin: After it was discovered that she had been sexually assaulted while she was inebriated and passed out, she told two sergeants and a lieutenant. At that time, they had their responsibility in February 2020 to report it to their seniors. They did not.

Now, Fort Bliss officials, in a statement to NewsNation say:

“The information you relayed in your broadcast piece was very important to us. The Commanding General has initiated a Commander’s inquiry to discover the facts of what you presented. The claim Pfc. Graham did not receive assistance in February, if reported, is a failure to that Soldier. If Pfc. Graham was treated this way, that is not the behavior we expect of our Leaders in the U.S. Army… it is a violation of Army Regulations and command policy.”

Ltc. Allie M. Payne, Fort Bliss Public affairs

McHugh: After our story aired, Fort Bliss officials told us that they opened a 15-6 investigation. What is that?
Martin: That is a commander’s inquiry. The commander ordered a subordinate officer, senior to the officers responsible, to investigate them and investigate the situation. But there’s a problem with that. The criminal investigation command is already doing an investigation. We don’t need two investigations, especially one by a non-professional stomping through the same real estate and perhaps contaminating the evidence. In this case, the witness evidence.
McHugh: So why would they open an article 15-6 investigation?
Martin: On the right side, they would do it to find out what happened and who’s responsible for what, at what point in time. On the wrong side, it would be to cover themselves and say, ‘Oh, we’re aggressively taking care of this problem.’ When if they were, they wouldn’t have waited for you to do an investigation and then react. They should have been proactive, not reactive.

They should have been proactive, not reactive.

ret. Col. Wes Martin, U.S. Army

McHugh: So it sounds like you’re saying this is part of them trying to cover their tracks?
Martin: That’s putting it politely. 
McHugh: The military said, at Fort Bliss say they offered her a voluntary transfer. Yet, she declined.
Martin: I would like to see that in writing because we’re dealing with a command that is reverse engineering their explanations as to what happened. She should have been given an immediate transfer. If nothing else, to another command on base, all it takes is for a sergeant major to pick up a phone and call a friend. She moved off base to get away from her alleged predator. And then, she was ordered back on base and given the counseling and then restricted to quarters. When it was realized that Alvarado, the alleged predator, was a problem, he was moved from his unit to the headquarters unit, the same unit in which Asia was assigned. And he was housed two doors down across the hallway from her.

The solder charged with her assault, Christian Alvarado, is facing court-martial in May. And he was formally charged with two other sexual assaults last year.

He was also arrested by El Paso Police in March for firing an AR-15 assault rifle within city limits.

Christian Alvarado

Since our report aired, a number of other women have come forward to NewsNation with their own allegations against Alvarado.

“It started when I was 13, and there was just a lot of harassment. He was about… I want to say, 16. I was really good friends with his sister. He would try to touch me inappropriately,” said Katelynn Richards, who was neighbors with Christian Alvarado in Mesa, Arizona.

She was friends with his younger sister. One night, she said she slept over and woke up in shock.

Richards: I found him in the room, and he was touching me underneath my clothes.
McHugh: You woke up, and he was, had his hand under your clothes?
Richards: Yeah. I slapped him in the face for it because who does that when somebody’s sleeping and like in your little sister’s room? Like really dude, and your sister’s right there. It’s just, how can you do something like that. I ended up walking home that night at like 2 in the morning, and I went home, and I told my mom.

Despite trying to stay away from him, Katelynn said there was another incident after school one day in the garage.

“He forced himself on me and pushed me up against the wall and reached his hands down my pants. I just kept it to myself because most of my teen years, I wanted a lock myself up in a room. Like that’s how I felt inside because it’s damaging. It really is. And you just don’t want to talk about it.”

“Hearing all this, how does it make you feel,” McHugh asked Katelynn’s mom Debbie.

“Very angry. Like I want to go find him right now. It makes me very angry and concerned about her emotional well-being after that,” she said.

Katelynn said when she saw what happened to Asia, she decided to come forward.

“I felt like she didn’t want to come out, but she did. And I’m happy she did because I wouldn’t have been coming out with my story. It feels like I have a weight lifted off of my chest after these five years,” she said.

Through his attorney, Christian Alvarado declined to comment.

Zoe Whiting and Christian Alvarado
(Courtesy: Whiting)

Zoe Whiting said she dated Alvarado when he was at Skyline High School in Arizona, and it continued off and on through his time in the Army.

When she tried to break it off, she said he would be abusive.

“He started getting more and more aggressive, and then he started, you know, sending death threats, then I really was like, I’m very scared that he could actually do something to me,” Whiting said.

This was one of those threats, which Whiting read from messages he sent:

“I’m so f******* mad. I want to beat you to death. You promise me wouldn’t push me, but you keep doing this to me. You drive me insane. I want to die. I love you, but you want to believe what she says I’ve done. Be with me or die. Don’t make me be that man I don’t want to be, I’m scared to let him out now. Please don’t make me do this. Oh my f****** God. I swear to God, I’m going to murder you. I’m gonna do it. Where are you? Where are you? Where are you? I want to end you in person. If you can’t be my girlfriend, no one can have you. I’m willing to risk my future.”

Screenshot of message Whiting says Alvarado sent her.

Whiting says that after one such incident, when he was home from the military, Alvarado sexually assaulted her.

“I said, ‘I just want to be alone right now. Please, can you just go home?’ And he was like, ‘no, we’re going to figure this out.’ And then he got on top of me, and I mean, he weighed significantly more than I did. And he just used all of his body weight and pinned me down. And I was telling him, ‘no, get off of me. I want to be alone. Stop.’ And then he proceeded to use one hand to hold me down and the other to take off my pants. And then he took his pants off and then proceeded to sexually assault me. And I was fighting for a couple minutes, and then I just stopped because I just knew there was going to be no way to get him off of me. I just started dissociating because I just, this just didn’t seem real to me. And I literally felt like I was watching this happen to myself,” she said.

Later, Zoe sent him a text: “you mentally, emotionally and physically abused me. And you know you did.”

Alvarado responded:

“Did I hurt you yes and I shouldn t have.(sic)”

Through his attorney, Alvarado again declined to comment.

McHugh: This is obviously a very personal topic, and it’s probably easier for people not to talk about it. Why did you decide to speak up?
Whiting: Because I had realized what he had done to me was sexual assault. When I saw the accusations, charges and when I saw that Asia Graham was dead, I just felt like it was my duty as a woman to stand up for other women and let people know that this is not an isolated incident. This has been a pattern.
McHugh: Christian Alvarado is being court-martialed in May. The assault that you described happened while he was already in the military, in the Army. Do you think that your experience, your story that you just shared, should be introduced in the court-martial?
Whiting: If that is possible, yes. I believe that he needs to have as many of these charges as possible so that he can get put away for as long as possible because he’s not somebody who should be among the American public. He is dangerous. And I know that firsthand because I witnessed it for a long time.

Zoe Whiting said she fears for her safety, and has requested an order of protection from local authorities.

Alvarado’s court-martial begins in May. Until then, the Army says he is not confined and presumed innocent until proven guilty.

Fort Bliss officials tell NewsNation they will finish their commander’s investigation sometime in March.

This NewsNation investigation continues on Tuesday. An exclusive inside look at sex scandals inside the military.

“It’s a national security crisis.”

Amy Franck, sexual assault advocate for the Army

NewsNation talks one-on-one with the Pentagon and a retired general fighting for accountability.

Watch this NewsNation exclusive report Tuesday at 8/7 p.m. CST.

If you or someone you know is struggling with thoughts of suicide or a personal crisis, there are resources to help. In the U.S., the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255. The Crisis Text Line can be reached by texting HELLO to 741741 (US) or 686868 (Canada).

If you or someone you know is being abused, you can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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