Real Names: Nurma Fay Carmichael and William Ray Hargrove
Nicknames: Mike (Nurma) and Billy (William)
Location: South Korea
Date: February 20, 1992 (Hargrove) / April 3, 1992 (Carmichael)
Details: Sgt. Billy Ray Hargrove was a soldier who served in the Gulf War. His platoon was sent from Germany to Saudi Arabia and had been active in Operation Desert Storm. However, they did not go into combat. Despite this, Billy recommended his platoon for a medal. However, his superiors declined the recommendation, determining said actions failed to merit such an award. Undeterred, Billy forged his superiors' signatures and his platoon soon got the medals. This was discovered and Billy was charged with forgery in June of 1991 when he arrived in South Korea.
In January of 1992, Billy called his father and told him that he was planning to leave the military. During this time, his marriage to his Korean wife Kim began to fall apart and he planned to divorce her. On February 20, 1992, Billy had a token assignment stateside while awaiting court-martial. At 9:20AM, a fellow soldier came to his door, telling Billy he was due for a training exercise. Although Billy seemed receptive to this admonishment, Kim said that Billy immediately afterward seemed oblivious to the fact he was needed on duty, simply telling her he was taking the dog for a walk. Shortly afterwards, Kim found Billy's body hanging from a tree in their front yard. An alleged suicide note was found in his pants pocket. It read, in part: "My life is really screwed up now. I just don't know how to fix it. I've been thinking a lot about taking my life for a long time now. Goodbye."
The Army concluded that he had committed suicide, motivated by his upcoming court-martial and divorce. However, the Hargrove family and Mike Carmichael, a fellow soldier and Billy's friend, believe he was murdered. Looking at the suicide note, Billy's mother did not believe that the writing was his. Despite ruling the death a suicide, the Army acknowledged that the note might not have been written in his handwriting. From the autopsy report, his family learned that Billy had unexplained abrasions on his face and hands. His mother believes that someone fought with him, leading up to his death.
Billy was laid to rest on March 4, 1992; Mike was one of the mourners. He told Billy's family that he would start his own investigation into the death. Mike told his Uncle Oscar that there was a large conspiracy involved in Billy's death. He also claimed that at least three other soldiers had died under mysterious circumstances in South Korea. He told his mother that he feared that he would be the next to die.
On March 22, 1992, Mike returned to South Korea and began his investigation. He and his wife Sun Hui visited Billy's widow Kim and collected his belongings. Mike learned that Billy had written a letter to his father, but it had never been sent to him. His father believes that the letter would have helped them determine what really happened to Billy. Mike took Billy's papers and stored them with his papers in a metal box. He told his Uncle Oscar that if anything would happen to him, he should try to get a hold of the box as soon as possible.
On April 3, 1992, Mike, his wife, and friends celebrated his 38th birthday. At 10PM, he received an unexpected phone call, ordering him back to the base. By the next morning, he had still not returned home. She contacted the base but they had not seen or heard from Mike. An hour later, she found his body in his barracks office. He was hanging from a locker and had been dead for several hours. Within a few days, the Army concluded their investigation. They ruled that Mike had taken his own life because he was despondent over financial matters and Billy's death.
Mike's wife has accepted the ruling; his mother and Uncle Oscar have not. Oscar believes that Mike was too happy to commit suicide, as he and his wife had just gotten married. Oscar and Billy's family have joined forces in searching for the truth behind the two deaths. They started a letter-writing campaign, asking for the official reports from the military. They then contacted congressman Jay Dickey, who helped them in receiving the reports on the cases. He suspects that a cover-up may have been involved.
The families are disturbed the similarities between the two deaths. Both men had been summoned to the Army barracks before they died. Both men were found hanging just inches from the ground. Both had been tied with parachute cord, which is highly elastic. Mike's death seemed especially bizarre, as he was sitting on the floor against the locker. It seemed to be a very odd and difficult way to commit suicide.
In a drawing of the crime scene, the metal box with Billy and Mike's papers is sitting on a desk. The box of letters later disappeared and no one knows what happened to it. Mike's family also learned that he had welts on his face and a gash on his forehead, similar to Billy. Both families now believe that both men were murdered and that their deaths were covered up by the Army.
Suspects: None known; it is suspected that the Army may have been involved in both deaths.
Extra Notes: The case was featured as a part of the February 23, 1994 episode.
Results: Unsolved. A Congressional hearing upheld the Army's finding of suicide. They found that Mike had choked himself with a rope while sitting on the ground. Both families, however, refuse to believe the ruling and are certain that Billy and Mike were murdered.
Since the segment aired, Billy Ray Hargrove's father, Harvey Hargrove, died in 2007 at the age of 72 and Michael Carmichael's uncle Oscar died in 1998 at 62.
- Carmichael and Hargrove on Unsolved.com
- Did Two Army Buddies Both Commit Suicide?
- Families accuse military of lying about deaths of 14 sailors, soldiers (Page 1) (Page 2)
- A Military Murder Coverup?
- SitcomsOnline Discussion of Case (includes articles)
- Billy Ray Hargrove and Mike Carmichael at Find a Grave