Pregnant Army Wife Asked A Facebook Friend For Help Escaping Abuse Days Before Fatal Brain Injury

Photo: Facebook
Meghan Santiago army wife

Meghan Santiago was 32 weeks pregnant before she suffered a fatal injury to her head allegedly caused by her husband — Sergeant 1st Class Joseph Santiago.

The injury left the late mother brain dead, causing the hospital to perform an emergency cesarian section in order to deliver the child she was carrying.

What happened to Meghan Santiago?

Meghan's husband was arrested after she was rushed to hospital with the brain injury that would later claim her life. 

33-year-old Meghan had been living with her husband in military housing at Fort Campbell in Kentucky for a while, where her family said it was hard to keep in contact with her.

“He basically isolated her from all of us,” said Kristin Varcak, Meghan’s cousin. “Even her mother had a hard time communicating with her. I don’t think she even had her own phone.”

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She met her husband, Joseph, when she was working at a doctor’s office in Florida with her mother.

After their now-seven-year-old son was born, Joseph was assigned to military duties in Germany for several years, taking all of them with him.

Their family friend, Sandra Budowski, shared that she had known Meghan her entire life and that she always believed she was happy.

“I’ve known Meghan since age 12,” Budowski told PIX11 News. “Right out of high school, she worked with me and her mother at the doctor’s office. And she ended up meeting the husband, having babies. She was happy-go-lucky. So full of life!”

On Friday, Sept. 24, three days before she sustained her fatal injury, Meghan had reached out to Budowski, who was a domestic violence survivor, on her preferred means of communication — Facebook Messenger.

“She talked to me that she was in an abusive relationship and would I assist her in getting out,” said Budowski. “And I said, ‘Yeah!’ I was ready to go right then.”

Meghan was waiting to escape her abusive household. 

“He was supposed to go off to training the seventh,” Budowski said, referring to Joseph. “And she wanted to wait until the seventh,” meaning October 7th.

Three days later, Joseph allegedly cause Meghan permanent damage and left her brain dead in their home on September 27th — he was arrested the very next day.

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The U.S. Army isn’t giving out much information to the public, but Fort Campbell issued a statement about the event that transpired.

“This tragic event has shaken our entire unit,” they said. “We take all allegations of domestic violence seriously, and we will provide every resource to ensure a thorough investigation.”

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The Vanderbilt University Medical Center had to notify Meghan’s next of kin using social media, because Emily Varcak didn’t answer the phone calls she believed were telemarketers.

“Finally, they had reached me through a message on Facebook, asking me to call them,” she said. “They just said she’s in grave condition, and there’s no chance of her being Meghan again.”

Meghan’s two older children were placed in foster care, while the newborn daughter, Caitlin, remained in Neonatal Intensive Care at Vanderbilt.

“We did see the baby,” Emily said, “and she was so cute. She looks just like her mother.”

The Varcak’s have set up a GoFundMe with the purpose of sending Meghan’s children home with them since she has no siblings and her cousins don’t want to see her kids go through the foster care system.

“This GoFundMe is being created to help bring the children home to family and rebuild their life instead of being in the foster care system with strangers,” says the page.

Joseph remains in custody pending the investigation of Meghan’s murder. Meghan’s organs were intact and were donated before she was taken off of life support.

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Isaac Serna-Diez is a writer who focuses on entertainment and news, social justice, and politics. Follow him on Twitter here.