Editor’s note: This story was updated at 6:40 p.m. on Sept. 16, 2022, with further comment from the Army regarding the status of the investigation.
Weeks before a soldier was found dead in her barracks room in Germany this summer, she sent a video to her parents showing her crying and covered in bruises following an alleged assault from other U.S. troops, according to new footage released by her family, who believe foul play was involved in their loved one’s death.
Spc. Denisha Montgomery’s Aug. 9 death was announced in a press release from U.S. Army Europe and Africa after the soldier was found unresponsive in her barracks room on Lucious Clay Kaserne in Wiesbaden.
The 27-year-old mother and wife was pronounced dead at the scene, and her family says they were told by Army officials that the cause of death was believed to be suicide by suffocation, according to a report by NewsNation, which included a video Montgomery recorded after the alleged assault.
“While we are yet to have a final determination of the cause or manner of death, we can say that there were no signs of foul play,” Army spokeswoman Cynthia O. Smith told Army Times. “We extend our heartfelt condolences to Spc. Montgomery’s family, and will provide them a comprehensive update once the investigation is complete.”
In the July 19 video that family provided to NewsNation, Montgomery can be seen crying while talking to her mother. Montgomery asked her mother to record the call, her family told NewsNation.
“Mom, this is all I wanted to do,” Montgomery cries as she holds up her flak jacket with her military police patch emblazoned across the front. At the time, Montgomery was assigned to the 139th Military Police Company, and was slated to return home in September.
Clearly distressed in the video, Montgomery says, “I just want to come home, look what they did to me.” She then shows her family large and colorful bruises on her inner and outer thighs and arms, the video shows. She also reveals what looks like a small puncture wound near her shoulder.
Montgomery’s aunt, Michelle Lynn Espinoza, made Facebook posts days after her niece’s death, claiming that her niece was attacked by three other soldiers in a car a few weeks before she died. But the phone call obtained by NewsNation revealed more details.
Montgomery had gone to a waterpark with four of her fellow soldiers, and had been drinking. In the car ride back, they allegedly turned on her.
“I kept telling them ‘I can’t breathe, I can’t breathe,’ and I was gasping for air,” she says in the video. “I have never been so scared in my life, I legit thought I was going to die in that car.”
Montgomery’s family reported the incident to the Red Cross, according to NewsNation, while Montgomery promised to make a report to the Army’s Criminal Investigation Division.
“I can’t be here no more,” Montgomery says in the video. “I don’t trust them, I don’t trust my leadership, I don’t want to be here with none of them no more,” she adds, wiping a tear.
But a text message her family says she sent the following day to her uncle shows that her conversation with CID did not go well.
“They told me if I report an assault I’ll be charged too because I mushed the female and bit the male that was choking me,” the text said, according to NewsNation.
She was found dead in her barracks 21 days later.
Montgomery’s family continues to stand by claims that the soldier never would have killed herself. Family members, including Montgomery’s father, Rodney Montgomery, post pictures of Montgomery almost daily with #justicefordenishamontgomery and #iamdenishamontgomery.
“She never in a million years would have killed herself,” her father said in the NewsNation report. “No doubt in my mind; I know my kid.”
The family also claims that no one from the Army has asked them any questions about the assault she may have faced. The Army did, however, give the family a conflicting story about what could have happened to Montgomery when she was attacked weeks before her death.
“CID told us on the phone that, that night at the water park, two individuals that were not with her tried to sexually assault her in a restroom,” Montgomery’s sister, Jada, said. The family was then told that the people who were with Montgomery — the ones who the soldier herself claimed attacked her — tried to chase down the two anonymous individuals and that they were trying to help her.
The family is continuing their own investigation into her death, they said.
“How dare you allow my niece’s death to be in vain,” her aunt, Tomeka Light, told NewsNation. “How dare you prematurely tell us that this strong, beautiful individual, took her life when we know better? We want the truth, the whole truth and nothing but.”
Rachel is a Marine Corps veteran and a master's candidate at New York University's Business & Economic Reporting program.