Local Military News

Death of Parris Island drill instructor still under investigation; no foul play suspected

The death of a Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island drill instructor on June 5 is still under investigation by the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, and no cause of death has been determined, an NCIS spokesman said Wednesday.

Foul play does not appear to be a factor in the death of Staff Sgt. Hugo O. Espinoza, NCIS public affairs officer Ed Buice said. The Armed Forces Medical Examiner will determine the cause of death, Buice added.

Espinoza, 31, was found dead in base housing at Parris Island, where he had been a drill instructor for the 3rd Recruit Training Battalion since July.

The Laredo, Texas, native joined the Marine Corps in January 2001 and deployed overseas three times in support of Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom, according to a service history provided by Parris Island's public affairs office. Espinoza received a Joint Service Commendation Medal and two Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medals for his service, among other honors.

A message posted to Espinoza's Facebook page said funeral services are still pending. Two services will be held -- one in Beaufort and one in San Antonio for Espinoza's family, according to the post.

Evelyn Mercado, a mother of a Marine who was part of one of Espinoza's recruit class, said she and other Marine moms were shocked to hear about his death.

She said a Facebook page on which the mothers communicate filled up with stories about how their sons "respected and looked up to" Espinoza. At the graduation of Espinoza's first recruit class in October, one mother said Espinoza had tears in his eyes as he shook the hands of his recruits' relatives.

"We want to offer his family our deepest condolences," Mercado said.

Follow reporter Matt McNab at twitter.com/IPBG_Matt.

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