“He hears sounds which seem to be voices”

The Army knew Cpl. Robert Marko might have psychological problems, but sent him to Iraq anyway. He is now awaiting trial for murder in Colorado.

Topics: Coming home: The Army's fatal neglect,

When Judilianna Lawrence missed school, her mother called the police. Then she checked her daughter’s MySpace account. Within hours, sheriff’s deputies were asking questions of Robert Hull Marko, a Fort Carson, Colo., Army soldier who fought in Iraq.

Lawrence’s mother had discovered correspondence indicating that her daughter and Marko had planned to meet, and Marko piqued investigators’ interest when he initially denied he knew Lawrence. His story kept changing during a chilly weekend in October 2008. Eventually, Marko admitted he knew the 19-year-old special education student, saying he was with her in the rugged terrain somewhere around Pikes Peak, west of Colorado Springs, Colo. He said he left her there.

By Monday, Oct. 13, on Marko’s 21st birthday, he finally led deputies to a wooded area. There, investigators searched for and found Lawrence’s body, her throat slashed. She had also been raped, investigators say.

Marko, of Decatur, Mich., a man with no prior criminal history, now sits in El Paso County jail in Colorado without bail, awaiting trial for murder. He also faces separate charges for allegedly sexually assaulting a 14-year-old runaway from a psychiatric facility, and for possessing child porn.

A Fort Carson-based Army corporal, Marko served a tour of duty in Iraq from January 2007 to February 2008. According to medical records obtained by Salon through a military official, Marko was deployed to Iraq even after he was found to be suffering from a psychological disturbance.

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On Nov. 2, 2006, a military doctor named Susanne Franz prepared the document that appears on the next two pages. Questioned during his “predeployment assessment,” Marko said he had problems sleeping, and recurrent nightmares. “Nightmares nightly since reading a disturbing book in 6th grade.” Franz referred him for further psychological evaluation.

Four days later, Dr. Harry B. Rauch, a psychiatrist at Evans U.S. Army Community Hospital at Fort Carson, interviewed Marko. Dr. Rauch believed that his evaluation showed that Marko, who reported “hearing sounds which seem to be voices,” had “schizotypal personality disorder.” (See that document on Pages 4 and 5.)

The disorder is a socially isolating condition that experts say is characterized by peculiar beliefs and paranoid ideas. “Nightmares generally about fantasy worlds and wars” disturbed Marko, Rauch wrote. And though Rauch also identified Marko’s history of “self-damaging behavior, generally accidental due to poor judgment and fascination with fire and exploding devices,” Marko was found fit to fight in the war.

Rauch said that Marko’s problems “may or may not result in some ultimate functional incapacity in the military.” He released him “[without] limitations.” The Army then seemed to leave it to Marko to determine whether he would seek to do anything about his personality disorder. Rauch wrote that Marko “declines follow up at present” but that Marko agreed to return to clinic if he suffered “any changes or deteriorations in thought or behavior patterns.”

Through his attorney, Marko declined an interview for this story. His attorney, Sheilagh McAteer, also declined comment on the case.

 

Judilianna Lawrence

Robert Hull Marko

Mark Benjamin is a national correspondent for Salon based in Washington, D.C. Read his other articles here.

Michael de Yoanna is a journalist and documentary filmmaker who won an Edward R. Murrow award for investigative radio journalism in 2011. You can view his past work at Salon here, visit his personal website here, and follow him on Twitter @mdy1.

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