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5467: U.S. soldier investigated on rape of girls in Haiti (fwd)

From: nozier@tradewind.net

Published Monday, November 6, 2000, in the Miami Herald 
 U.S. soldier investigated on rape of girls in Haiti
 Sergeant allegedly boasted of actions BY CAROL ROSENBERG 

 The Pentagon has opened an investigation into whether an American
 peacekeeper, now jailed for life in the rape-murder of an Albanian girl
in Kosovo, also victimized girls during an assignment in Haiti three
years ago. Internal U.S. Army documents show that Staff Sgt. Frank J.
Ronghi, 36, a native of Ohio now serving a life sentence at Fort
Leavenworth, Kan., bragged to Army subordinates that he engaged in sex
acts with Haitian children even before his deployment to Europe last
year. But, according to the Pentagon, no one reported the statements,
and authorities began to investigate the reports only after the
paratrooper was arrested in January for killing an 11-year-old Albanian
girl. Ronghi pleaded guilty in July to sodomy and premeditated murder.
 The crime shocked the U.S. military establishment, which launched an
 investigation into the behavior of Ronghi's unit while it was on a
six-month assignment in Kosovo. The investigation found that Ronghi, a
weapons squad leader, and other squad members routinely grabbed and
otherwise harassed young women while on patrol in Kosovo.
 It also found that Ronghi had boasted of molesting children in Haiti
and Saudi Arabia. The 12-year Army veteran served with the 101st
Airborne Division in Saudi Arabia during the Gulf War in 1990 and 1991
and with the 82nd Airborne Division on a peacekeeping mission to Haiti
in 1997, Pentagon records show.


 Army spokesman Lt. Col. Russ Oaks said last week that criminal
investigators in Europe had found no reports of unsolved murders
matching the description of Ronghi's claims in either Saudi Arabia or
Kuwait during his Gulf War duty, from October 1990 to May 1991.
 ``To date, CID has checked with Ronghi's former unit members and local
police where possible,'' Oaks said. ``Nothing has been found to
substantiate the rumors.'' A spokesman for the Criminal Investigation
Command, or CID, near Washington, D.C., said investigators in Europe had
asked counterparts in Georgia, responsible for looking into U.S. Army
crimes in South America and the Caribbean, to check
 out the Haiti allegations. The spokesman, Marc Raimondi, would not say
how long the investigation had been underway or whether or how the Army
was trying to locate possible victims in Haiti, where the law
enforcement system is frequently described as chaotic and
 Ronghi's service record reflects that he served in Haiti during 1997, a
time when news reports say members of his Fort Bragg, N.C.-based 82nd
Airborne were sent there on a deployment that included street patrols in
Port-au-Prince. Spc. Christina Bhatti, spokeswoman for the 82nd
Airborne, confirmed Ronghi's service in Haiti, but said she did not have
specifics of where he might have been assigned.
 A 1997 Defense Department announcement said that about 200 members of
the 82nd were sent to Port-au-Prince in April for a four-to-seven-day
training rotation. The January rape and murder of Merita Shabiu in
Kosovo is the most serious report of abuse by an American soldier
participating in a peacekeeping mission. In addition to investigating
the murder, the Pentagon began looking into whether a lack of discipline
or other factors had allowed Ronghi a chance to commit the


 The report concluded that the 82nd Airborne unit in Kosovo had
insufficient training for a peacekeeping mission, and that it had failed
to tone down its ``combat mentality'' while dealing with civilians.
 The paratroop unit's slogan was ``Shoot 'em in the face.'' The
1,100-page report, which had portions blacked out with a marker before
the Army provided it to The Herald, said that Ronghi had bragged of
having sex with children even before his unit was sent to Kosovo.
 The report quoted one sergeant as saying Ronghi had told him while the
unit was in North Carolina that while he was in Haiti, a 12-year-old
girl had performed a sex act on him ``while [an] 11-year-old watched.''


 The sergeant's sworn affidavit is dated Jan. 19. The report does not
explain why the noncommissioned officer, whose name is protected in the
report, did not report the remarks. Another member of Ronghi's company
in Kosovo, Spc. Randy Wineland, told investigators in a sworn statement
that Ronghi ``would brag about what he had done while deployed to Saudi
Arabia and Haiti.'' ``In Haiti Staff Sgt. Ronghi talked about a
9-year-old girl,'' Wineland's statement said. ``Staff Sgt. Ronghi said
he was the sergeant of the guard and little girls would come up begging
for food. Then Staff Sgt. Ronghi said one night he found
 out where one of the little girls lived. Then later he would go to her
house and rape her.'


 Wineland also said that during a break from a foot patrol in Kosovo,
the staff sergeant ``also told me about two little girls who were
sisters in Haiti. Staff Sgt. Ronghi said he took these little girls to
an empty building and he made the older girl sit in the corner and watch
as he had sex with the younger sister. Then he said he made them switch
places and he then had sex with the older girl.' The specialist said he
never told anyone about the remarks because he didn't
 believe Ronghi. Also in Kosovo, another soldier said that Ronghi, on
his arrival in Europe, told a group of servicemen ``that in a Third
World country you could easily get away with raping someone, disposing
of them and you wouldn't get caught.'' It was not until Ronghi bragged
about the Haiti rapes while he was disposing of the body of the young
Kosovo girl that the allegations began to filter up the chain
 of command.


 According to the report, Ronghi told a subordinate of his exploits
elsewhere when he asked the subordinate to accompany him in an armored
vehicle to a remote location where he disposed of the girl's body on
Jan. 12. He allegedly threatened the soldier, Pfc. Michael Stegemoller,
with death if he told. Stegemoller swiftly notified superiors in Kosovo
and led them to the girl's burial site. The private told investigators
that a rattled Ronghi told him as he disposed of the body, ``I also did
it a couple times in Saudi. It is easy to get away with things
 in a Third World country.''