Fellow soldiers in Iraq called John Wiley Needham “Needhammer” for his toughness. They also saw him as somehow charmed, because the tall blond Army private from Southern California always seemed to be just far enough away from danger. People died next to Needham; Needham survived.
But “Needhammer” was not indestructible after all. He struggled with the aftereffects of the explosions he’d dodged. He survived a suicide attempt while in Iraq, and, after being shipped out of the country in 2007, was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and a brain injury. He took so many prescription meds he could barely hold his head up. According to Needham’s father, Mike, the Army’s response to the soldier’s problems was punishment rather than treatment.
Last year, just weeks after his discharge, he allegedly beat 19-year-old aspiring model Jacqwelyn Villagomez to death in his California condo.