When two soldiers are found hanged, the Army concludes suicide, but the men’s families suspect a cover-up.

Billy Ray Hargrove & Michael Carmichael

Billy was found hanging from a tree

CASE DETAILS

The National Cemetery in Little Rock, Arkansas, is the final resting place for hundreds of soldiers, sailors, and pilots. Two men buried here are at the center of a mystery that has no easy answers. Their names are Sergeant Billy Ray Hargrove and Sergeant Mike Carmichael. The Army says both men killed themselves, but their families say the army is dead wrong. Harvey Hargrove is Billy Ray’s father:

“Mike didn’t have anything to die for, no more than Billy had anything to die for.  Neither one of them committed suicide. They didn’t do it.”

Michael vowed to find the truth

Billy Ray Hargrove and Mike Carmichael led similar lives. Both had planned careers in the military since they were kids. Both joined the Army in their teens. And both married Korean women while stationed in the Far East. They became best buddies as they climbed through the ranks.

During the first Gulf War, Billy and his outfit were sent to Saudi Arabia. However, according to Billy Ray’s mother, Sue Nunnally, the conflict ended before their platoon saw any action:

“When Billy finished Desert Storm, he was disappointed because his men did not get a merit award, a medal that he felt like they deserved. And he set about trying to get the medal for them, and no matter what direction he went in, he just couldn’t accomplish it.”

Billy just couldn’t accept the Army’s decision and made a questionable decision of his own. He forged his superior’s signature on the appropriate documents. A short time later, his men received their medals. In June of 1991, he arrived in Korea for another tour of duty and was arrested at the airport by military police for forgery.

Michael was found hanging from a tall locker

Billy’s court martial was not his only problem. His marriage was also falling apart. Billy Ray’s mother, Sue Nunnally, said Billy and his wife were fighting frequently:

“There was a lot of jealousy. She was constantly accusing him of having a girlfriend and having a child somewhere that she didn’t know anything about. And it wasn’t true at all.”

On February 20, 1992, Billy missed a summons to report to duty. Even after one of his fellow sergeants informed him that he was late, Billy never reported. Instead, he took his dog for a walk. Twenty minutes later, Billy’s wife heard the dog barking. When she went to see what was going on, she found Billy hanging from a tree by an elastic parachute string.

A suicide note was found in his pants pocket. It read, in part:  “My life is really screwed up now. And I just don’t know how to fix it.  I’ve been thinking a lot about taking my life for a long time now.”  Sue Nunnally had doubts that her son wrote the note:

“I looked at the writing and I did not believe it was his writing. It did not look to me like his writing.”

The Army acknowledged that the note might not have been in Billy’s handwriting. Even so, they ruled his death a suicide. According to Billy’s mother, they concluded that he had been depressed about his upcoming court martial and divorce:

“He was not the type of person to commit suicide, no matter what. Especially putting a rope around his neck.  I just could not believe it and I still don’t believe it.  Something happened to him, but he did not commit suicide.”

What happened to the box of papers?

The autopsy report also contained evidence that it might not be suicide. Billy had cuts and abrasions on his face, hands, and knuckles. Billy’s mother thinks Billy may have been involved in a fight before he died:

“But the military, in their report, didn’t question anyone or ask where the scratches came from. They just ignored them.”

When Billy Ray Hargrove was laid to rest on March 4, 1992, one of the mourners at his funeral was his friend, Mike Carmichael. Billy’s father recalled a conversation he and Mike had:

“When I finally met Mike, it was at Billy’s funeral when he brought Billy’s body back home. And he told me, he said, ‘We’ll give ‘em hell. We’re gonna make ‘em pay, the SOBs pay, for what they done.”

After the service, Mike returned to the Hargroves’ house with Billy’s family. Billy’s mother also spoke to Mike Carmichael:

“He looked at me and he promised and he told me that if it was the last thing he ever did, he was going to find out what happened to Billy Ray.”

But six weeks later, Mike was also found dead. Mike’s uncle, Oscar Carmichael, served in the Marines for 20 years. He said Mike believed there was a larger conspiracy involved:

“There had been three other Army personnel there in Korea that had supposedly committed suicide, and my nephew told his birth mother, he said, ‘Don’t be surprised if I’m next.’”

Mike Carmichael returned to Korea and began his own investigation. He and his wife, Sun Hui, visited Billy Ray’s widow and collected his personal papers. Included was a letter Billy wrote to his father a few days before the hanging. But that letter never made it home to Harvey:

“He was supposed to have written me a letter sometimes in February. And I’m sure if I could  find that letter, it would explain everything.”

Mike continued to collect Billy’s papers and stored them with his own papers in a metal box. Mike told his Uncle Oscar that if anything were to happen to him, Oscar should immediately open the box. But Mike never said what was in it.

Then, on April 3, 1992 — Mike Carmichael’s 38th birthday — he received an unexpected phone call, ordering him back to the base. According to his wife, Sun Hui, by the next morning, Mike had still not returned home:

“On Sunday morning, I called the Army base to find out where my husband was. I talked to a security guard. I was told that he did not see my husband. So I asked him to try to knock on the door of his barracks room. He said that there was no response and the door was locked.”

An hour later, Sun Hui found Mike Carmichael’s body in his barracks’ office. He was hanging by parachute cord and was leaning in an odd position against his locker. Like Billy, he had abrasions on his face and a gash on his forehead. He had been dead for several hours.

The Army’s investigation concluded that Mike Carmichael had taken his own life because he was depressed over financial matters and Billy’s death. His uncle, Oscar, doesn’t believe it:

“There was no way that Mike would take his life and take the chicken way out. He was happier than I had seen him in a long time, due to the fact that he and Sun Hui had just gotten married in July. They were like couple of overgrown kids, really. And he had his retirement to look forward to. I think he was angry and I think he was going to direct his anger towards finding out the reason why or who caused his friend or killed his friend.”

The Carmichael and the Hargrove families absolutely refuse to believe the deaths were suicides. They launched a letter writing campaign asking for the official reports from the military. Unsatisfied with the Army’s response, they contacted the office of U.S. Congressman Jay Dickey. Greg Stein was Congressman Dickey’s legislative assistant:

“Even the reports that I could get were lacking in the photos of the crime scene. Other things were withheld or whited-out for certain reasons. And after looking at it, I don’t think that they took into account all of the different aspects of the case.”

Congressman Jay Dickey says he believes there’s been a cover-up:

“I don’t want to accuse anybody at this time, but the reason why there would be a cover-up, I don’t know. That’s one of the things we want to find out. But I happen to think that if we open this thing up, that we will find an answer.”

The two families are especially troubled by the many similarities of the two deaths. Both Billy and Mike died just after they were summoned to the Army barracks. Both were tied with parachute cord. Both had cuts and abrasions on their faces and hands. And both men were found hanging just inches from the ground.

Congressman Dickey thinks the position Mike Carmichael’s body was found in raises questions:

“The question marks that come up about Sergeant Carmichael start with the fact that he was found in a sitting position some three inches from the floor. Even the natural instincts of a person would have your hands falling down, or pushing against it.”

The metal box that contained Mike and Billy’s personal papers was sitting on a desk, across the room from Mike’s body. The box of letters later disappeared. No one knows what happened to it and military personnel deny its existence. The men’s families suspect a cover-up. Billy Ray’s mother, Sue Nunnally:

“I believe that in Billy Ray’s case, and in Mike’s case too, something had to be going on that wasn’t right. Something that they found out about, or knew about, or maybe something that they were going to expose:

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. Billy’s mother says the hearing was just a formality, put on for show. She insists the two buddies were murdered.


Watch this case now on Amazon Prime in season six with Robert Stack and in season three with Dennis Farina. Also available on YouTube with Dennis Farina. Various seasons available now on Hulu.

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29 Comments

  1. Daniela Carmichael

    My father Mike did not kill himself. My mother claimed he cheated on her and beat her, but none of his 3 daughter’s ever seen any violence. Not to say it didn’t happen. What we knew of our father was not violence. My mom and him separated when I was 6. He remarried to a Korean woman when I was 9 and on his Birthday was found dead. I believe my father knew some things he shouldn’t and was murdered for it. And I believe his new wife help cover it up. When this originally went on unsolved mysteries she stated she didn’t want any further investigation. Why wouldn’t you?

    Reply

  2. Hadel Toma

    Army murdered them plain and simple and they will get away with it because America is run by criminals and thugs.

    Reply

  3. Anonymous

    If I were the detective, I would find out if there were people or nations against it and hold everyone of that nation or against it and would question them. The army had all these resources yet they never used it, the only one not proved innocent or not having an alibi is the ARMY!!!

    Reply

  4. Anonymous

    If all else fails, go back to the beginning. I was reading the sentence in which “Billy missed a summons to report for duty” even after one of his fellow sergeants informed he was late”. Who was this “sergeant”? If he took his dog for a walk, where was the dog when they found the body? How long between the dog walk and finding the body?

    A point by point timeframe needs to be done on both parties. Time frames, known associates….Where did they meet these women? How long did they know them before they married? What was their MOS? Did they have access to supplies, secret information?

    What did the autopsy report reveal? Was it death by hanging? Was there mention of the cuts, and abrasions? I am former military and would love to help in getting the family closure. Did the family get any medical evidence?

    Who else knew about the metal box? Sun Hui

    How did she know to go right to the barracks? Don’t you think that she would have called the commandants office to see if her husband was still on base? The other widow is suspect as well.

    Comments anyone?

    Reply

  5. Collieowner

    If the recreation is precise and he owned a collie, that dog would be making a ruckus far before he was dead if someone else was involved. It must have been someone he knew – and someone the dog knew.

    You can’t tie up a collie and walk off – especially under duress, without it raising all hell. Any investigator should establish a timeline for the dog. Determine how that dog was distracted enough to allow it’s owner to fistfight and be hung. How nothing was heard until the dog barking brought his wife outside? Very odd.

    Reply

  6. Detectives

    Two possibilities:-
    The two men had family issues and they killed both of them, Billy had fights with his wife, and why did Michael give the box to his Uncle, not his father or mother? Because he has family issues.
    Both had committed suicides Billy had fights with his wife, and court issues and commits suicide, and Mike lost his great friend so he went, that’s why he gave the box to his uncle.

    Reply

    • ok

      Family issues…. ok. That doesn’t explain the condition of the bodies, where it looked as though both put up a decent fight before their suicides. Guy flat warns his uncle, don’t be surprised if I am next! The uncle did not get the papers, so I don’t understand that at all. Lots of people have issues, but the fact that they are both taken out the same way doesn’t make sense. Seems like they pissed off airborne – both hanging with parachute cord. Really an odd case. Sorry for the families.

      Reply

    • Hadel Toma

      Do you work for the crooks called the ARMY???

      Reply

    • Daniela Carmichael

      What the reports don’t say is his my father “Mike” had 3 daughter’s. I dont believe he committed suicide.

      Reply

      • Michael

        I’m a soldier as well and I’m curious they mentioned your father had an abrasion across his forehead is it possible to exhume him and have a proper autopsy done I know it will be terrible and I couldn’t imagine unearthing my brothers who passed but if there’s been military corruption than it needs to be uncovered your father seems like a great man and if he died for our country he needs to be remembered for it again I’m sorry for your loss ma’am

        Reply

  7. A Suffering Army Gulf War Vet.

    The Army and DOD are definitely covering stuff up about exposures during the gulf war 1990-1991. Vaccines, PB pills, Insecticides and Nerve Agents. No clue if This has anything with this case, but they’re service during this time should not be overlooked or taken lightly.

    Reply

  8. Blue bird

    What In The Hell? Those Men Did Not Kill Them selves That’s A cover Up I Dont Know Why U Military People Are Neglecting These families! All Of U Need To Get Out There And Do Your Damn Jobs! AND Help These Poor Families! Get The Justice They Deserve!

    Reply

  9. LUIS FREEH

    “I” THINK “U” NEED HIM TO POST ON THE SITE! NOT YOUR PRIVATE EMAIL. HOW DID “U BUY” THREE ABUSED SISTER’S “GORRILLAS” & “MEDIC” ( PUN INTENDED) WHEN DID U JOIN GORRILLAS? AFTER DEATH HE! HE! “CAN I GET YOUR MUMMA’S JAGUARS TOO? ANOTHER EXCUSE FOR UNKNOWING PEOPLE TO “CRY FOR POLICE” (ONLY TO END UP DEAD) ON SN ARMY BASE. SERIOUSLY! GET “IT” TO POST ON THE SITE.

    Reply

  10. Ty

    It’s a shame that after all this time no one has come forward with anything, not even 1 lead. Something more needs to be done. This is UNACCEPTABLE!

    Reply

  11. dont matter

    Your finally going finally going down 😉

    Reply

  12. Depraved.

    If the government doesn’t want something found out, it won’t be found. Case in point: JFK, RFK, and JFK Jr. I wonder what our founding father’s would think of how Amercia turned out nearly 240 years after many happily gave their lives for freedom? Ashamed, and disgusted is my guess.

    Reply

  13. Anonymous

    Wow of course the army’s trying to cover up something

    Reply

  14. Sky

    They were murdered. Army covered it up.

    Reply

  15. Rebecca

    These men enlisted in the army to protect their own country from the enemy, only to find out their enemy is their own country, who inflicted such pain on both of these men and countless others, which lead to their untimely demise. They knew something, that would have brought down some powerful people or some conspiracy that was going on, they were silenced by the army, the army covered up their death by claiming suicide. It is a shame, so sad for these families to lose their love one in such a horrifying way. They need to bring those responsible up on charges. Then they wonder why people don’t want to enlist in the army.

    Reply

  16. J. Watkins

    I remember this like it happy today. I was station at camp casey, S. Korea. as a 91 B ( medic) back in 1992, Work at main hospital on post and was on duty the day call came that a soldier had commit suicide. Am one of medic that went out and assit in removing Carmichael body from living quaters and am soldier who prepare his body to be tranport to souel.I wish i had a way to contact his family and tell them what i observed.

    Reply

  17. Sleuther

    Of all the similarities listed between the two men, I find it interesting that both men had Korean wives who found their husbands hanging.

    Reply