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Iraq vet charged with killing girlfriend is found dead in Arizona

The Orange County man had been free on $1-million bail while awaiting trial in the 2008 beating death of the 19-year-old woman.

February 25, 2010|By Robert J. Lopez
  • Iraq war veteran John Needham accused of the fatal beating of his girlfriend is arraigned in Orange County Superior Court September 26. Standing next to him is defense attorney Michael Becker.
Iraq war veteran John Needham accused of the fatal beating of his girlfriend… (Mark Boster / Los Angeles…)

John Wylie Needham, an Orange County man and decorated Iraq combat veteran charged with the murder of his girlfriend, was found dead last week in Arizona, authorities said Thursday.

Needham, 26, was free on $1-million bail posted by his family while awaiting trial. His body was found in Pima, Ariz., the Orange County district attorney's office said.

Arizona authorities are investigating the cause of his death.

Needham was charged in the September 2008 slaying of 19-year-old Jacqwelyn Joann Villagomez, who was found severely beaten at his San Clemente condo.

Orange County Sheriff's Department deputies responded to a complaint about an argument at the condo and found Needham naked, authorities said. He had to be subdued with a Taser, they said.

After joining the Army in 2006, Needham was shipped to Iraq. He was awarded a Purple Heart for a combat injury that left him with shrapnel in his legs and back.

The wounds caused him to be hospitalized and medicated. He allegedly suffered from nightmares and consulted with therapists.

Those who knew Needham described him as an easygoing surfer who liked to paint and play the guitar before going to Iraq.

Family members said they knew he was struggling since returning home, but didn't foresee him turning violent.

After returning from Iraq, he left a post on his MySpace page talking about his troubles.

"I'm falling apart by the seams it seems," Needham wrote. "The days here bleed into each other. I have to find the will to live.

"These walls are caving in. My despair wraps me in its web. I feel I'm sinking in; throw me a lifesaver; throw me a life worth living."

robert.lopez@latimes.com

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