Part 1 of Special Report: Death at Naval Station Great Lakes
Ever since Lisa and Al Antonacci were told their son died at Naval Station Great Lakes in Illinois, they’ve been living a nightmare.
Kyle Antonacci joined the Navy in 2007 because he wanted to serve his country. Almost three years later, on the night of Feb. 1, 2010, the 22-year-old was found hanging by a belt in a closet of his barracks.
Kyle’s parents, of Hicksville, N.Y., were stunned by the news. Their anguish was made worse when military personnel couldn’t give them specific details about his death.
When Navy spokesmen arrived at the Antonaccis' home the following day, Al said they didn’t have their facts straight.
“First they told me he was dead in his bunk,” Al remembered about his original conversation with officials. But a few days later, he said, the Navy told him Kyle actually died from a car accident. “It was always a misdirection.”
Shortly after, the Antonaccis discovered how Kyle died from one of his sisters who had read Facebook posts written by other servicemen stationed at Great Lakes.
Located in Lake County, 40 miles north of Chicago on Lake Michigan, Great Lakes is the Navy’s largest training station and has a year-round population of more than 25,000 people.
Kyle’s death has been under investigation by both the Lake County Coroner’s Office and NCIS, the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, for the past 20 months. According to the Lake County Coroner’s autopsy report, Kyle died as a result of hanging, although it has yet to be ruled a homicide or suicide.
The Antonaccis say Kyle would have never committed suicide. They believe he was murdered following his involvement in a rape trial a few months earlier on the base. When Patch contacted NCIS about the death investigation, officials said they could not comment because it was still under investigation but that the assessment was near completion. However, the Antonaccis recently informed Patch that NCIS had completed its investigation and they are being flown to Great Lakes in the near future to speak with military personnel about it in person. NCIS did not return our calls for further comment. However, Patch will have an update on that meeting once it occurs.
According to the coroner’s case report, authorities at the scene had questions about Kyle’s cause of death from the start. A special agent with NCIS requested a deputy coroner “expedite” his response time to the scene of the crime because “they were not too sure that he hung himself.”
Once Lake County Deputy Coroner Jason Patt arrived at Great Lakes, he noted in his report a large area of hemorrhages around Kyle’s entire face. Patt stated that the amount of red spots and other marks on Kyle’s neck weren’t consistent with a typical hanging. He also mentioned Kyle’s nose appeared to be broken.
“I stated to NCIS agents, that I was not 100% convinced this was a self-inflicted hanging,” Patt wrote in his report. Patt declined Patch’s requests for an interview.
Three days after Kyle’s death, Patt went back to Great Lakes to speak with the seaman who initially discovered Kyle’s body. The serviceman told him that the day Kyle died he was “very down and didn’t seem like himself,” which was noted in the case report.
The Lake County Coroner’s inconclusive case report was just the beginning of the Antonaccis' heartache. What plagued the family next was the condition of his body when it arrived home.
“I think that if it wasn’t for the condition of his body, things would have been different,” Lisa said about the bruises and gashes she noticed on Kyle when his remains arrived. She knew then that something wasn’t right. She would later be told that a bone — one that could possibly shed light on how her son died — was missing from his body.
Not satisfied by the information officials were providing, the Antonaccis hired a lawyer and launched their own investigation a few months after Kyle died. Ever since, they say they’ve been shocked by what they’ve discovered surrounding Kyle’s hanging and appalled at how the base has dealt with the situation.
Next: Part 2: Rape Trial Leads to Navy Seaman’s Death on Navy Base