KILLEEN, Texas – A Fort Hood soldier has been charged with murder in the 2019 death of a Texas woman found slain at a Days Inn in Killeen.
Cory Grafton, 20, was arrested Tuesday by Texas Rangers, according to KCEN in Temple.
Killeen police officers were called June 3, 2019, to the hotel, where they found Chelsea Lynell Cheatham, 32, dead. An autopsy determined her death had been a homicide.
Cheatham’s killing remained unsolved until this September, when the Texas Rangers told local investigators about the Sexual Assault Kit Initiative Program, a federal grant program that aims to cut down the number of untested sexual assault kits throughout the country. KXXV in Waco reported that the Texas Department of Public Safety received two of the grants last year.
The Rangers and Killeen detectives reviewed Cheatham’s unsolved killing and identified Grafton as a potential suspect, the news station reported. They interviewed Grafton and collected a DNA sample from him.
They also talked to one of Grafton’s colleagues, who said the soldier confided that he’d killed Cheatham, authorities said.
Investigators put a rush on Grafton’s DNA sample, which ultimately matched the DNA profile on evidence found at the scene of the crime, KCEN reported.
Leadership at Fort Hood, the largest active-duty armored post in the U.S., has come under fire in recent months following a large number of soldier deaths, both on and off the installation. At least 12 soldiers have gone missing, been victims of homicide, or been killed in accidents since January.
The most high-profile case, that of Spc. Vanessa Guillen, began on April 22 when authorities allege a fellow soldier, Spc. Aaron David Robinson, bludgeoned her to death with a hammer inside an arms room on the base.
Guillen’s dismembered remains were found June 30, encased in concrete and buried in multiple shallow graves along the Leon River, 30 miles from the base.
Robinson shot and killed himself as Army investigators and Killeen police officers closed in to take him into custody.
Robinson’s civilian girlfriend, Cecily Anne Aguilar, 22, of Killeen, is charged with conspiracy to tamper with evidence, according to the U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Texas. Aguilar is accused of helping Robinson dispose of Guillen’s remains.
At least 27 Fort Hood soldiers have died this year in killings, suicides, accidental and natural deaths. The most recent death, that of 25-year-old Pvt. Corlton Chee, happened Aug. 28 as Chee ran during an early morning workout.
“Witnesses stated Pv2 Chee showed no signs of struggling and was running at the front of the group when he collapsed near the end of the run,” Fort Hood officials said in a statement.
Paramedics revived Chee, who had no pulse, and took him to a hospital, where he was in critical condition. He died five days later.
The Arizona Republic reported in September that Chee’s family suspected foul play in his death due to the number of cuts and bruises on his body. If he fell, his sister told the newspaper, only one side of his body should have been injured.
“It just don’t seem right,” Carma Johnson said. “It don’t add up.”
The Navajo Nation called for a congressional inquiry into Chee’s death, as well as the July 3 death of a second member of the tribe, Army Spc. Miguel Yazzie. According to the Navajo Times, Yazzie was hospitalized the day before his death for an apparent medical condition.
Multiple federal investigations into the command climate and culture at Fort Hood, prompted by Guillen’s death, are ongoing.