Lisa Nicole Bryant – Second Lieutenant, United States Army

Contemporary press reports:

Age 21, of Fairfax Station was fatally shot July 10, 1993 in a residence hall at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. An ROTC instructor who worked with Lieutenant Bryant was arrested and charged with her murder, officials said.

Lieutenant Bryant graduated summa cum laude from Princeton University last month with a degree in sociology. She was voted most likely to succeed in her class at James W. Robinson Jr. Secondary School. She was scheduled to spend 6 weeks at Fort Bragg, Lieutenant Bryant was at the post in support of ROTC Advanced Camp and assigned to join the Army Corps of Engineers in Germany.

Her body was found Saturday morning in Hardy Hall, a temporary dormitory, and she was pronounced dead at 7:45 am at Womack Army Medical Center. Sergeant 1st Class Ervin Graves, assigned to the Army's 1st Region ROTC cadet command, was charged with premeditated murder over the weekend. Sergeant Graves was staying in the same dorm as Lieutenant Bryant, said a base spokesman. The probe into the shooting is being handled by the Fort Bragg Criminal Investigations Division.

At Princeton, Lieutenant Bryant earned her commission June 6 through the Army ROTC and was elected vice president of her class. She was the founder and captain of the school's cheerleading program. Lieutenant Bryant worked as a campus recruiter, visiting Washington, DC-area high schools trying to get students to attend Princeton. She was also a member of Delta Sigma Theta sorority.

She is survived by her parents, retired Colonel Wilbert and Emily Bryant, and a brother, Wilbert Jr., all of Fairfax County. Funeral services are scheduled for 9 am tomorrow at Ft Myer Chapel, followed by burial in Arlington National Cemetery.

July 22, 1994

FORT BRAGG — A military jury on Thursday convicted an Army sergeant of  premeditated murder in the killing of a female officer last summer.

Sgt. 1st Class Ervin Graves, 34, was found guilty in the shooting death July 10, 1993, of 2nd Lt. Lisa Bryant. He also was convicted of felony murder, attempted rape and assault while attempting to commit rape.

The jury deliberated for about 2 1/2 hours before returning its verdict. It will reconvene at 9 a.m. today to start hearing testimony in the sentencing phase of the trial.

Graves faces a minimum sentence of life in prison for premeditated murder. Because the verdict was not unanimous, he could not receive the death penalty. He could be eligible for parole in 10 years.

A military jury can convict a person on a two thirds vote. Results of the balloting are secret, a military official said.

Graves faces a minimum sentence of life in prison for felony murder, and maximum sentences of 20 years each for attempted rape and assault while attempting to commit rape.

Graves, who pleaded not guilty and didn't testify during the three days of evidence presentation, showed no emotion when the verdict was announced.

Members of Bryant's family said they could not comment because they may be called as witnesses in the sentencing phase.

Bryant's mother, Emily Bryant, left the courtroom in tears.

Lt. Bryant, an honors graduate of Princeton University, had been at the base for only a month when she was killed about 3 a.m. last July 10. She was a newly commissioned second lieutenant, paying back an ROTC scholarship.

Graves, who enlisted 15 years ago, rose to membership in the Old Guard, a prestigious spit-and-polish unit that provides honor guards for the White House and Arlington National Cemetery.

A prosecutor said Graves planned to rape Bryant but had to kill her when she tried to escape.

“He took his cannon and he went hunting,” Capt. Kurt Schmidt said during closing arguments Thursday. The prosecutor waved a .357-Magnum revolver in the air, holding it by the barrel.

In his closing argument, Schmidt said Bryant was talking on a pay phone in the hallway of Hardy Hall, an Army hotel for soldiers on temporary duty, when Graves hung up the phone and marched her down the hall to his room.

In room 206, Graves had tied bootlaces on the bed so he could restrain her, Schmidt said. But as they entered the room, she made a break for freedom, dropping an earring in the process, and ran into the hallway. That's where she was shot.

Gunshot residue was found on Graves' left hand and the steering wheel of the van he was driving. Graves is left-handed. But a cup found in his room had his fingerprints and no residue. He checked into the room late the night of the killing, and the cup evidence indicates he fired a weapon that night.

Some of Bryant's hair was found in Graves' shoes and socks.

Bryant's wounds were “in a kill zone” because all the shots were in the chest or above, Schmidt said.

But a defense attorney said the Army investigators botched the investigation by not thoroughly examining evidence and looking for other suspects.

“Have they shown you Sgt. Graves had a premeditated design to kill that night?” asked defense attorney Capt. Norman Allen. “The prosecutor wants you to make these leaps of logic.”

July 23, 1994: FORT BRAGG, NC. 

A former Army sergeant was given a mandatory life sentence Friday for shooting a Lieutenant to death after he tried to rape her in a dormitory they shared. Former Sergeant 1st Class Ervin Graves, who was once an honor guard in the White House, was convicted Thursday night by a military jury of killing 2nd Lieutenant Lisa Bryant with 4 blasts from his .357-caliber Magnum. Graves also was convicted of attempted rape. Graves' life sentence was automatic. The jury met Friday to decide his other punishments, which included the forfeiture of all pay and allowances, a reduction in rank to private and a dishonorable discharge.

Because the panel did not convict him unanimously, Graves avoided the death penalty. The balloting was secret. He will be eligible for parole in 2004. Bryant, 21, was a newly commissioned officer who had graduated with honors from Princeton a month before she was killed on July 10, 1993.

Bryant and Graves, 34, lived on the same floor in Hardy Hall, an Army dormitory for soldiers on temporary duty. Graves, an Omaha, Nebraska, native, enlisted 15 years ago and rose to membership in the Old Guard, a prestigious unit that provides honor guards for the White House and ANC.

People Magazine Story:

The Bryants: Two numbered lives go on hold after a daughter's murder

On many mornings at 4:30, in the comfortable colonial-style house in Fairfax Station, Va., Wilbert and Emily Bryant wake with a start. It was at that hour on July 10, 1993, that their phone shrilled, announcing the tragedy that destroyed part of their lives forever: Their daughter Lisa, 21, had been murdered. “I wake up with the thought that that call is coming in again,” says Wilbert, 54, a retired Army colonel who is now Virginia's deputy secretary of education. A man used to order and precision, Bryant remains at war with a senseless act that has plunged him and his wife of 31 years into a minefield of unresolved emotions and questions.

“It's hard to explain to anyone what losing a child means,” says Emily, 53, an assistant director in Fairfax County's Office for Children. “There's not 10 minutes in a day that I don't think about my daughter. She was the one who said, if you were dressed up, ‘You look so nice.' Or she'd tell me, `You know, you're really special.' I still have my husband and my son [Lisa's older brother Wil, 30, a sales rep, lives in Los Angeles with his wife, Gail, and 2-year-old Erika], but Lisa took a piece away that no one can fill.”

Lisa Bryant was gregarious, gifted and energetic, and her promise seemed boundless. Voted most likely to succeed at her Fairfax high school, she won an ROTC scholarship to Princeton University, where she resurrected the moribund cheerleading squad, wrote her senior thesis on life in military families and earned her second lieutenant's bars in the Army ROTC. She intended, after four years of mandatory military service, to go to law school. “Plan as if you will live forever,” she wrote in her Princeton yearbook, “live as though you will die tomorrow.” A month after graduation, in the hallway of her barracks at Fort Bragg, N.C., where she was waiting for her assignment in the Corps of Engineers, Lieutenant Bryant was shot four times in the face with a .357 Magnum pistol. She was the first of Princeton's graduating class of '93 to die.

Although there were no witnesses to the shooting, Ervin Graves, then 33, a sergeant who lived down the hall from Lisa, was convicted by a military court of attempted rape and murder. He had been drinking heavily on the night of the killing, and Lisa had declined when he asked her to dance at a post bar where enlisted and commissioned personnel were allowed to mix. (Graves, who never admitted guilt, is serving a life sentence in Leavenworth, Kans. He escaped the death penalty because the military jury was not unanimous.)

The Bryants have learned to live with memories of Lisa. Although they cannot yet bear to watch family video-tapes, Lisa's cheerleading megaphone and her beloved T-shirt collection have been saved. “I see them and my heart just dies,” says Emily. “But I can't get rid of them.” Other memories come unbidden and without warning. “When you're driving and you glance at someone, you see a dress, a hairdo, the color of lipstick,” says Emily. “It's just all there.”

Lisa was buried with military honors in Arlington National Cemetery (family friend Gen. Colin Powell, former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, attended her memorial service), yet she is alive, in a way, in the Bryants' home. “We're very comfortable talking about her, even though it makes some people uncomfortable and some people would like to forget it,” Emily says. “But as long as we have the opportunity to talk about her, to include her, we will be happy.”

Their grieving, though, is done in private. Support groups for parents who have lost children could not comfort, and social occasions, aside from those involving close friends and family, have been largely cut out — cocktail chatter is too awkward. The Bryants also avoid reading the front page of the paper, where murders are reported. Although initially sorrow strained their relationship, the couple have learned to give each other room to mourn. “If he comes in when I'm falling apart,” says Emily, “he gives me the support I need.” Wilbert has his own rituals. He visits Lisa's grave each week, and, he says, “I don't tell Emily, but I go up to Lisa's bedroom and lay across the bed for half an hour.”

The Bryants' anger too remains intense. Questions were raised at the time of Lisa's death about the Army's cost-cutting policy of allowing enlisted and commissioned personnel to share barracks and facilities. But Wilbert's emotions are more elemental. “Even when I was in Vietnam, I didn't feel the rage for the Vietcong I feel for this man,” he says. “I'm a nonviolent person, but this murder has made me into somebody I'm not. The military better keep him locked up because there are a lot of people who are angry at him.” Adds Emily: “When you're the victim, there's almost no justice. Someone has lost a loved one, and this criminal's going to come back out, to get to laugh, be happy and carry on like anybody else, when he's taken a life? It doesn't make sense.”

Although they go through the motions of everyday life, for the Bryants it seems there can be only one sure closure for their grief. “On one of my trips to Lisa's grave, I realized that we're all going to die sometime, and she just went earlier,” says Emily. “I guess what is comforting is to know that I will be right there with her one day.”


  • AR United States Army
  • DATE OF BIRTH: 03/31/1972
  • DATE OF DEATH: 07/10/1993
  • DATE OF INTERMENT: 07/16/1993

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