November 2, 2009

Did PTSD Lead to Murder?

Trauma in Iraq leads to drama in Oregon
By Julie Sullivan, The Oregonian

[Editor's note - Details of the crime and quotes are from testimony in Grant County Circuit Court. Other reporting includes interviews with the witnesses, families, police, Oregon Department of Corrections, attorneys and Department of Veterans Affairs reports. ]

October 31, 2009, 3:00PM

LATER, after the defense attorney wept and the judge put away his robe and the jurors drove home in the fading light, the consequences of war hung over this town of 1,845 like wood smoke on an autumn eve.

Fourteen months earlier, a young woman lay down with a terrible burden. She was pregnant. Her fiancé, Jessie Bratcher, was so thrilled he kissed the home pregnancy test kit. He researched how a baby develops and what the mother should eat.

But Celena Davis was not sure the child was his.

As Bratcher sat on the foot of their bed, she told him that two months earlier, she had been raped.

The Iraq veteran dropped to his knees and cried. Bratcher went to the living room and put the barrel of an AK-47 in his mouth, then stopped. He grabbed scissors and cut off half of Celena's long dark hair. They stayed up all night. When she complained of cramps, he walked her to the hospital at 6 a.m., so tense that nurses shooed him away.

He returned for her in his pickup and drove east to Boise. They went to a movie, "The Dark Knight." He had "Celena" tattooed on his arm and they returned home late.

By 9 the next morning, Aug. 16, 2008, Bratcher shook Celena, "Get up, get up." He wanted to confront the man she identified as the rapist. Bratcher drove to Ace Hardware, paid $10 for a background check and bought a .45-caliber semiautomatic handgun with extra ammo.

He was shaking.

Back in the truck, as he jammed bullets into the magazine, Bratcher told Celena she had a choice: go to the police or confront Jose Ceja Medina.

"Police," she said.

But it was Saturday and the John Day police station was locked. Dispatchers inside saw the couple try the door, then leave. Minutes later, they stood in an open doorway of Ceja Medina's home.

His nephew, Fernando Ceja, a Prairie High ninth-grader, was inside messaging friends on MySpace. He fetched his uncle, doing laundry down the hall. Ceja Medina wore only running shorts.

The three adults stood in the yard, shouting. Celena cried uncontrollably. Ceja Medina denied knowing her. Then, he said it was sex, not rape. If there was a child, he said, he would take responsibility.

Bratcher pulled the gun from his back pocket and fired 10 times as Ceja Medina ran, hitting him in the buttocks, hip, waist, shin and, fatally, in the head.

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