Army private charged in sexual assault of 19-year-old NC soldier who later died

Joe Marusak, Hayley Fowler
·2 min read

A fellow soldier was charged Thursday in the sexual assault of Asia Graham, the 19-year-old from North Carolina who was found dead at Fort Bliss, Texas, military investigators said.

A military judge at Fort Bliss arraigned Christian Alvarado, an Army private first class, on three counts of sexual assault, two counts of making a false official statement and one count of aggravated assault, according to a Fort Bliss news release. Officials did not release the name of his hometown.

Graham was impaired by alcohol and unconscious when she was assaulted, according to a charge sheet made public by the military during Alvarado’s arraignment and first reported by The Charlotte Observer.

Graham notified military officials on June 1 that she’d been sexually assaulted, launching a months-long military investigation, Fort Bliss spokeswoman Lt. Col. Allie Payne previously told The Observer.

Graham, who was also a private first class, reported being sexually assaulted before she was found dead in her barracks on New Year’s Eve, McClatchy News previously reported, citing family members and Army officials.

Graham was a human resource specialist from Cherryville, about an hour west of Charlotte.

Fort Bliss, referred to on its website as “Home of America’s Tank Division,” is a U.S. Army post headquartered in El Paso, Texas.

On Jan. 8, Maj. Gen. Sean Bernabe, commander of the 1st Armored Division at Fort Bliss, “personally ordered” the charge be referred to trial, according to a Fort Bliss news release that day.

Graham’s family previously told media outlets she’d been sexually assaulted by another soldier shortly after arriving at Fort Bliss in December 2019 and reported it to her superiors.

“I was with the military life. I spoke very highly about the military,” her mother, Nicole Graham, told The Observer’s news partner, WBTV. “But in her situation, I think the leadership failed her.”

“Maj. Gen. Bernabe is committed to maintaining the integrity and impartiality of the military justice system,” Payne, the Fort Bliss spokeswoman, said in the Jan. 8 news release. “As a reminder to the Fort Bliss community, charges are merely accusations, and all Americans are presumed innocent until proven guilty.”

A military judge has yet to set Alvarado’s trial date, Fort Bliss officials said Thursday.