October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Take a minute to contact your Representative and ask them to support the Holley Lynn James Act (H.R. 1517).
A bill making its way through Congress named for an Army nurse killed by her Marine husband calls for greater accountability for military leaders and may prevent similar future tragedies, supporters of the new legislation said.
John Wimunc, 26, was sentenced to life in prison last year after pleading guilty to first-degree murder in the 2008 death of his 24-year-old wife, Army 2nd Lt. Holley Lynn James Wimunc, of Dubuque, Iowa.
The Holley Lynn James Law, HR 1517 — currently being discussed in a House Armed Services subcommittee — seeks to amend titles 10 and 28 of the United States Code to provide for greater domestic violence accountability in the military.
Holley’s father, Jesse James, who supports the bill, said he not being critical of the military. James, a retired Army sergeant major, said he comes from a family with a long history of military service.
“As difficult as it is to speak out against the handling of such cases by the military, it’s only by speaking out that change can be encouraged,” he told The Daily News in an email interview on Thursday.
He said he believed the Holley Lynn James Law would be helpful to those enduring what his daughter did prior to her death.
John Wimunc, a corporal stationed aboard Camp Lejeune, drove to Fayetteville the night of July 9, 2008, shot his wife and set fire to her apartment. He returned to Onslow County and buried his wife’s dismembered body in a Sneads Ferry shallow grave. Her body was discovered after Wimunc set a woods fire in an attempt to destroy evidence. She had a hatchet buried in her back and a bullet embedded in her brain.
But Wimunc should have never left the base that night, according to U.S. Rep. Bruce Braley, a congressman from Holley’s district in Iowa. He said in a recent press release that Holley had filed complaints against her husband, who was supposed to be restricted to his barracks the night he murdered her.
Braley said his bill would strengthen the legal process for addressing claims of domestic violence and sexual assault in the military and improve policies to prevent sexual assault. The bill would better protect victims’ rights, streamline the way cases are handled, guarantee that experienced prosecutors are handling investigations and help make sure that punishments fit the crime.
“Not long after Holley and John Wimunc began to live together as husband and wife Wimunc began to show signs of an abusive personality,” Jesse James said. “The relationship almost immediately degenerated into an abusive relationship. Holley told me she called upon members of his unit for help many times and they failed to react.”
One night when Wimunc pulled a gun on Holley and threatened to kill her, James said he called Camp Lejeune and spoke to the duty officer and was told that they would send a Marine to get Wimunc.
“I called back the next day, again spoke to a duty officer, and was informed that the Marine I had spoken to the night before had done nothing and that that day, was his last day in the Marines anyway, and he had been discharged on a psychiatric discharge of some sort,” James said.
He said his daughter called Wimunc’s unit many times asking for help, but her requests fell on deaf ears.
“In her words, Cpl. Wimunc had convinced members of (Wimunc’s unit) that she was the problem,” James said. “While that seems possible for a Marine to do, it seems to me that someone should have recognized that even beyond my daughter’s calls, Wimunc was a problem Marine.”
James said Wimunc had been in trouble on a recent deployment on a ship in the Mediterranean.
“In addition to that, several times Holley told me he was on restriction for causing problems, and he showed up at my daughter’s house anyway,” James said. “She called the unit, and nothing happened. I know that the USMC did not murder my daughter — John Wimunc did that. What I have a problem understanding is that this Marine, who was a problem for his unit, convinced his superiors that none of what she was saying was real or true.”
James said that perhaps a more positive and aggressive response such as the response the proposed law would require may have averted his daughter’s murder.
The new law would provide relief for domestic and sexual abuse victims outside of the service member’s chain of command. After receiving a complaint of sexual or domestic abuse, leaders in the unit would be required to forward those allegations to the Inspector General’s Office. The IG would be required to assign an officer not associated with, and not a member of, the accused service member’s chain of command to investigate and, when appropriate, prosecute the offender.
“I believe this process might have averted the tragic death of my daughter,” James said. “I can not know for sure for it’s difficult to stop a person bent on committing murder.”