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Iraq veteran charged with killing girlfriend found dead in Arizona

February 25, 2010 |  7:43 pm

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

Needham, 26, was free on $1-million bail posted by his family while awaiting trial. His body was found in Pima, Ariz., about 150 miles southeast of Phoenix, the Orange County district attorney’s office said. Authorities there are investigating the cause of his death.

He was charged in the September 2008 slaying of 19-year-old Jacqwelyn Joann Villagomez. She was found severely beaten at Needham’s San Clemente condo.

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

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

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

Those who knew Needham described him as easygoing surfer who liked to paint and play the guitar before he went to Iraq. Family members said they knew he was struggling since returning home, but didn’t foresee him turning violent.

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

“I’m falling apart by the seams it seems the days here bleed into each other I have to find the will to live,” Needham wrote. “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 J. Lopez

Photo: John Wylie Needham's booking photo.