The three-star admiral found dead in his home last year in Bahrain took his own life, according to a copy of the service’s preliminary inquiry into his death.

The body of Vice Adm. Scott Stearney, the 58-year-old commander of U.S. 5th Fleet, was found on the afternoon of Dec. 1 in his residence in Janabiya, according to the three-page preliminary inquiry obtained by Navy Times.

The heavily redacted document cites a Naval Criminal Investigative Service probe and concludes that a “timeline of events and witness statements” revealed “his intent to commit suicide.”

“No information uncovered during the subsequent NCIS investigation, including multiple interviews and forensic analysis of VADM Stearney’s electronic devices, contradicted this finding.”

The inquiry determined that Stearney’s death occurred in the line of duty and was not due to his own misconduct.

“Suicide creates a strong inference of a lack of mental responsibility which has not been overcome by any of the facts uncovered from this investigation,” the inquiry states. “Therefore, no adverse line of duty determination is recommended.”

Vice Adm. James Malloy, Stearney’s successor at 5th Fleet, said in a statement Tuesday that he and his team continue to “mourn the loss of an incredible Navy leader.”

“I miss the camaraderie and wise counsel of my friend,” Malloy said. “VADM Stearney was a superb Officer, respected by so many and revered by me. His leadership as the 5th Fleet Commander, and the initiatives that he put in motion enhanced our readiness, expanded partnerships across the region, and set a course for this command that remains our way ahead — we continue to reap the benefits of that leadership and vision.”

A Chicago native, Stearney was commissioned in 1982 and was designated a naval aviator two years later, according to his command biography.

A career strike fighter pilot with the call sign “Sterno,” he flew more than 4,500 hours and notched more than 1,000 arrested landings on the aircraft carriers Theodore Roosevelt, George Washington and Dwight D. Eisenhower.

He also served as a tactics instructor and readiness officer at Navy Fighter Weapons School, better known as “TOPGUN.”

The former commander of the Wildcats of Strike Fighter Squadron 131 and Carrier Air Wing 7, he took the helm of 5th Fleet in May 2018 after a stint directing operations for U.S. Central Command.

Editor’s Note: If you or someone you know is dealing with thoughts of suicide, the Veterans Crisis Hotline is there 24 hours a day. Call 800-273-8255 and press 1. The deaf or hard of hearing can call 800-799-4889. You can also text 838255 or go to

Geoff is the editor of Navy Times, but he still loves writing stories. He covered Iraq and Afghanistan extensively and was a reporter at the Chicago Tribune. He welcomes any and all kinds of tips at

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