Army Staff Sgt. Logan Melgar had been in Mali for four months and was close to coming home the last time he spoke to his wife, Michelle.
It was June 4, 2017. Melgar, a Special Forces soldier, had just left a party at the French Embassy in Bamako, the Malian capital, and returned to a safe house he shared with three members of his six-man team, part of an intelligence operation supporting counterterrorism efforts against al Qaeda.
Once inside, Logan jumped on FaceTime. Michelle was suffering from a migraine, and he wanted to check on her before he went to sleep. He told her to get some rest and feel better. They said, “I love you,” and she took a screenshot—she always did—before they signed off.
“When Logan was gone, unless I knew he was going on a mission, I never woke up to an empty phone,” Michelle told The Daily Beast in an exclusive interview. “I always had a text message.”
But the next morning there was no message. She picked up her phone and sent Logan a text.
“Hey, good morning,” she wrote. “Good morning, handsome.”
It was Sunday. Logan and the team usually took the day off. It was odd he wasn’t responding. She texted him again an hour later.
“I hope you’re okay.”
He was far from OK. After hanging up with Michelle, Logan went to sleep. Hours later, his teammates—two SEALs and two Marine Raiders—broke into his room to haze him. By morning, he was dead.
Michelle has declined interviews since her husband was killed and his teammates were charged with murder. She agreed to talk with The Daily Beast about her husband and the day she found out he was dead, but declined to discuss specifics of the investigation because cases against two of Logan’s teammates—Chief Special Warfare Operator Anthony DeDolph and Marine Raider Gunnery Sgt. Mario Madera-Rodriguez—are still pending.
Michelle said that even before her husband went silent, she knew there was something amiss in the safe house. There was tension with a couple of the SEALs, and Logan wasn’t getting along with the other Special Forces soldier either. Weeks earlier, he got into a physical altercation at the safe house with DeDolph. Logan told his wife about it, though she would not share the details.
While Michelle waited for Logan to send a response that June morning, she took a shower. She checked her phone after she got out. Nothing. She picked up her phone and sent Logan an emoji—a yellow face shedding a single tear. When no response came, she braced herself.
Something was wrong.“I knew, immediately,” she said. “Logan doesn’t not respond to me.”
She lay in bed and looked at the pictures and videos of her and Logan. She reread the text chain to see if she missed something. His final message:
“I’ll talk to you in the morning. I love you. Can’t live without you. Get good sleep. I know you’re hurting.”
Ever since their first text message 12 years before, Logan had always answered.
The story of what happened to Logan Melgar became big news. But lost in the coverage of his death was the story of his life, and his relationship with his wife.
“Life with Logan was my favorite,” she said. “Everyday life. Everything. All of it. Even being mad at him was fun because he loved me, and I knew that, and no matter what, he was always there for me.”
She remembers him as a man with simple tastes. How he loved a hot dog on the Fourth of July. How he used to grab her while she made dinner so they could have a moment, even if it meant burning the food.
“I don’t care,” he used to tell her. “It’s worth it. It’s a moment with you and I have forever. You don’t know how many we’re going to have.”
Just 34 years old when he died, Logan, a Texan, was an Afghanistan veteran twice over. His hometown paper, the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal, reported that he was a 2006 graduate of Texas Tech. He enlisted in 2012 and joined the Army as an infantryman before being recruited into the 18X—an off-the-street Special Forces recruit. He graduated from the Special Forces Qualification course in 2014.
They met by chance in 2006. Michelle—a slim blonde with a passing resemblance to actress Margot Robbie—had a date and needed new jeans. She went to Buckle, a store in Lubbock, around closing time. A good-looking guy named Logan approached and helped her find jeans. She tried them on and decided to wear them home.
At the register, Michelle asked Logan his age.
“Is that too old for you?” he said.
“No, it’s too young.”
Logan was confused.
“Well, how old are the guys you date?”
“Well, usually older than you,” she said.
“How old are you?” he asked, curious because she didn’t look old.
Logan was shocked.
“Girl, I thought you’re like 19.”
She left the store, but when she got to her Jeep she stopped. There was something about the guy. His easy smile. His dark hair and eyes. But she didn’t remember his name. She fished out her receipt and called the store.
“Hey, I was just in there and a guy named Luke helped me,” she said.
The woman on the line said no one by that name worked at the store.
“I was just in there,” she said. “I bought a pair of jeans. It’s this tall, dark and handsome dude.”
The woman went to get Logan and Michelle asked him if he wanted to go out sometime. Logan pulled the receiver away from his mouth and spoke in a loud voice.
“Yes, I would love to go out with you some time,” he announced to the store.
She picked him up.
“He was worth it,” she said, smiling as she recalled the memory. “I’m glad I did. Best choice of my life.”
She gave him her number and he called her that night. She ditched her date for a beer with Logan. He texted her the next day, and every day—until June 2017.
It was around lunch time on June 4 when Michelle heard the doorbell ring at her Fort Bragg home. She thought her youngest son had forgotten his keys when he went to the PX for lunch with friends. But deep down, she knew it wasn’t him. She walked to the door. Before she looked out the peephole, she closed her eyes and begged for it to be her son. She looked at her phone. No text message from Logan. She looked out the door, and saw two men in dress uniforms.
When she opened the door, they asked for her name and started the speech no military wife wants to hear.
“The United States Army regrets to inform you...”
The notification officer told Michelle that Logan had been sick. His teammates heard him convulsing and found him dead in his bed.
“No, you’re lying to me,” she told them. “I talked to Logan three hours before you’re telling me this happened. You’re lying to me. He wasn’t sick.”
The notification officer—his hands shaking—kept reading the statement, but Michelle didn’t want to hear it. She yelled at him to stop over and over again.
“You’re fucking lying to me,” she said. “Stop fucking lying to me. Those little fuckers did this to him.”
Finally, the chaplain told the notification officer to stop.
“Michelle, tell me who the little fuckers are,” the chaplain said. “Who are the little fuckers? I need to know.”
Michelle told the chaplain about the SEALs and the Special Forces soldier living in the safe house. The chaplain excused himself and got on his phone. Over the next several days, Michelle tried to find out what really happened.
“Nobody would listen to me that I had talked to him before he died, just a few hours before he died,” she said. “Nobody knew the things he was telling me, and what I was told was drastically different from the story Logan had told me. And Logan’s emotion behind what he was telling me made it accurate for me. It wasn’t a lie. You don’t get that upset over a lie. You don’t. He was very, very upset. He became more and more sad throughout this deployment.”
U.S. Army Special Operations Command spokesman Lt. Col. Loren Bymer said “it would be inappropriate” for the command to comment on an ongoing court proceeding.
Michelle, who would not divulge what Logan told her, said that the SEALs’ story of what happened to her husband soon changed. Logan wasn’t sick. He died accidentally practicing combatives—hand-to-hand fighting exercises. DeDolph was a mixed-martial arts pro, according to the Intercept.
Both men were drunk, Michelle was told. She said she knew it wasn’t true.
“I knew they were lying about that,” she said.
But it wasn’t until Michelle showed the text messages from Logan to the 3rd Special Forces Group commander that things changed. A former Africa Command official told The Daily Beast that in 2017, Brig. Gen. Donald Bolduc, then commander of Special Operations Command-Africa, was skeptical of the initial reports from the outset. As The Daily Beast has previously reported, a source said SEALs in Mali filed at least one false operational report about the incident, possibly two. After hearing about Melgar’s meeting with the 3rd Special Forces Group commander, Bolduc alerted Army Criminal Investigation Command and told commanders in Mali to preserve evidence, Michelle said.
Eventually, a new story of what happened to Logan Melgar came out.
Marine Raider Staff Sgt. Kevin Maxwell, who was based at Camp Lejeune, N.C., and was part of the joint operation, testified in June that when Logan ditched the team on his way to the party at the French Embassy, they hatched a plan to haze him. Chief Special Warfare Operator Adam Matthews said he, along with DeDolph, Maxwell, and Madera-Rodriguez, broke into Logan’s room and taped his arms and legs. At one point, Matthews said, DeDolph applied a choke hold and Logan became unresponsive.
The SEALs tried to resuscitate Melgar with CPR and opened a hole in his throat. They then took Melgar, along with another Fort Bragg-based Green Beret, to a French medical facility, where he was pronounced dead. At the clinic, DeDolph admitted to an embassy official he choked Melgar, according to NBC News and subsequent reports.
Two years later, two of the four men charged in Logan’s death are in jail. Matthews, 33, pleaded guilty to hazing and assault charges and attempts to cover up what happened to Logan and was sentenced in May to one year in military prison. Earlier this month, Maxwell, 29, was sentenced to four years of confinement after pleading guilty in connection with Logan’s death.
Michelle agreed to Matthews’ and Maxwell’s plea deals in exchange for the truth, she said.“I was just thankful that somebody had come forward to talk and tell the truth about what happened, which meant nobody was getting away with his murder, or with his death,” she said.
The incident has created a rift between the Special Forces and SEALs and Marine Raiders. But Michelle has been outspoken about repairing it and wants to forgive.
“Because it’s the right thing to do,” she said. “And if I don’t, then they’re taking who I am, too. If they change me, then evil wins. And they don’t get to do that.”