Soldier charged with killing husband, death previously ruled suicide

Editor’s note: This article discusses suicide. If you or a loved one is experiencing thoughts of self-harm or suicide, you can confidentially seek assistance via the Military/Veterans Crisis Line by calling 988 and dialing 1, via text at 838255 or chat at http://VeteransCrisisLine.net. You don’t need to be a VA beneficiary to use the service.

A sergeant stationed at Fort Bliss, Texas, faces a murder court-martial after investigators reversed an earlier determination that her husband died by suicide on Christmas Day, Dec. 25, 2019.

Authorities thought Sgt. Hector A. Cervantes, an infantryman assigned to Company C, 1st Battalion, 77th Armor at the El Paso installation, died by suicide when he was found with a gunshot wound to his head at an undisclosed on-post location.

His El Paso Times obituary listed his then-surviving relatives, including his “loving wife,” Sgt. Carmen J. Iron Hawk.

Cervantes was a father of three, his obituary said, and one of his daughters is named for Iron Hawk’s older brother who died in 2014.

But now Iron Hawk is charged with murder in Cervantes’ death.

A redacted charge sheet for Iron Hawk says she shot a male sergeant on-post “on or around 22 December 2019.” Fort Bliss officials did not address the date discrepancy, but Iron Hawk’s charge sheet bears apparent hand-written corrections from a previous mistake in Cervantes’ name, which is redacted in the document.

“The charges referred against SGT Ironhawk are merely allegations and she is presumed innocent until proven guilty,” said 1st Armored Division spokesperson Lt. Col. Kimbia Rey in a statement accompanying the charge sheet.

Iron Hawk’s civilian defense attorney did not respond to emailed requests for comment. Her social media pages located by Army Times do not allow messages.

It’s not clear when or why the Army’s Criminal Investigation Division reconsidered Cervantes’ manner of death and began investigating the shooting as a murder. Rey referred questions to CID, whose spokesperson Jeff Castro said the probe remains “ongoing.”

“It would be inappropriate for us to provide any further information at this time due to the ongoing legal proceedings,” Castro added.

Cervantes’ sister, Danielle Saldana, told Army Times that the two-and-a-half years since he died have been “extremely difficult for our family.” She declined to discuss the case’s details ahead of Iron Hawk’s court-martial.

Iron Hawk, a member of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe from South Dakota, was previously stationed at Joint Base Lewis-McChord and is a signal support systems specialist, according to a 2018 story in the tribe’s century-old newspaper, the West River Eagle.

The accused’s next court appearance is tentatively scheduled for June, with her trial planned for late October, according to the Army’s online court docket.

Davis Winkie is a senior reporter covering the Army, specializing in accountability reporting, personnel issues and military justice. He joined Military Times in 2020. Davis studied history at Vanderbilt University and UNC-Chapel Hill, writing a master’s thesis about how the Cold War-era Defense Department influenced Hollywood’s WWII movies.

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