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Family doubts Bovey, Minn., soldier died by suicide in Iraq

Associated Press

MINNEAPOLIS — A soldier who lived for two years outside the northern Minnesota town of Bovey before he joined the Army and went to Iraq loved video games and comic books, his brother said Thursday evening.

Army Spc. Randy W. Pickering, 31, died Sunday in Baghdad of "injuries sustained in a non-combat related incident," the Defense Department said in a news release Monday. It said his death was under investigation.

His brother, Chris Pickering, of Mason, Mich., said the family expected to get the autopsy results soon, and said they were skeptical of initial reports they got from the military that his death might have been a suicide.

"It’s very unexpected," he said. "It’s very shocking to anybody who knew him. That isn’t something he would do."

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Randy Pickering grew up in Pleasant Hill, Mo., in the Kansas City area and later lived with his grandparents for several years in Liberty, Mo., his relatives said. Randy didn’t graduate from high school but earned his equivalency certificate and had a college degree in computer programming, Chris said.

He lived in Missouri until his mid 20s, when he moved to the Bovey area on Minnesota’s Iron Range with his father, Bruce Pickering, and other family members, Chris Pickering said.

"He lived way out in the boonies," he said.

His brother listed Bovey as his hometown with the Army when he joined about 3 1/2 years ago because he wanted to leave Missouri behind, Chris Pickering said. Their family situation there was difficult.

"He really didn’t like Missouri much," his brother said.

But he did like comics. His brother said he had been drawing a comic book for the past six to 12 years.

"He did his computer thing. He loved video games. Video games and comics were his life," he said.

Randy Pickering called himself "randymonki" on the Internet sites YouTube and MySpace and recently posted a video on YouTube of him horsing around with his buddies, his relatives said.

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On MySpace, he described himself as "A young loner on a crusade to champion the cause of the innocent, the helpless, the powerless, in a world of criminals who operate above the law."

He also loved Margaritas, his brother said. His MySpace page shows him drinking one, as does one of his videos on YouTube.

Randy Pickering joined the Army around the same time his father moved to Michigan, but never lived there himself, his brother said. He’s also survived by a half-sister, Amy Koser, of Springfield, Mo.

Funeral arrangements have not been set, but Chris Pickering said the family was planning a gathering in Mason this weekend. He said they may get his body back this weekend, too.

His cousin, Casey Coulson, said he was sure Pickering still has friends "in the nooks and crannies of Kansas City" who don’t know he died.

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