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Victim's family wants Army vet's body exhumed, moved from military cemetery

May. 31, 2013 - 09:56AM   |  
Michael LeShawn Anderson went on a shooting spree on May 30, 2012, at an Indianapolis apartment complex. He shot four people, killing Alicia Koehl, before turning the gun on himself as police arrived.
Michael LeShawn Anderson went on a shooting spree on May 30, 2012, at an Indianapolis apartment complex. He shot four people, killing Alicia Koehl, before turning the gun on himself as police arrived. (Courtesy of the Indianapolis Police Department)
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INDIANAPOLIS — Just weeks after his daughter-in-law was brutally gunned down during a shooting spree, Frank Koehl learned that her killer, who had committed suicide, was buried with military honors.

The remains of Michael LeShawn Anderson are resting beside other military veterans — many of them decorated heroes — at Fort Custer National Cemetery in Augusta, Mich.

That’s a violation of federal law, and as the first anniversary of the tragic killing arrives Thursday, Koehl is on a mission to have Anderson’s remains dug up and removed.

“It was just a total insult,” said Koehl. “It just rips at your heart.”

The shooting spree shocked Indianapolis and residents of an apartment complex on the northeast side of the city where the shooting took place. Anderson shot four people and a dog that day before shooting himself. There was no known motive, no evidence of drugs in his system and no signs that he was suffering from any mental disorder.

While family members were still in shock over the sudden loss of Alicia Koehl, 45, a wife and mother of two who was shot 13 times and bled to death in her office, her killer’s body had been claimed by his family members and taken back to his hometown of Albion, Mich.

His obituary noted that Anderson “passed away suddenly,” but apparently nobody knew the circumstances. All they knew was Anderson had served in the Army.

At Fort Custer National Cemetery, on June 6, 2012, his remains were saluted with rifles, the sounds of taps on a trumpet and a presentation of the flag given to the next of kin. And then he was buried with a simple headstone — all paid for by the government.

None of that should have happened. According to U.S. Code, the Veterans Administration is not permitted to provide burial services in any of the nation’s 131 national cemeteries for someone who has “committed a federal or state capital crime” including anyone who was never formally convicted due to “death or flight to avoid prosecution.”

Typically, when a veteran’s family makes an application for burial benefits, that application is funneled through a national VA clearinghouse that is supposed to conduct an investigation into the matter and declare eligibility.

National cemeteries are not permitted to conduct burials if that eligibility is denied by the VA.

For the past several months, Koehl has been writing to the VA in Washington but has not been given an explanation as to how the burial was permitted to take place. He also has written to a handful of Indiana congressmen and senators in Washington, but they have not been able to get answers, either.

“(Our) office first heard from the Koehl family in April,” said Elizabeth Shappell, spokeswoman for Sen. Joe Donnelly’s office. “Since that time, his staff has been in touch with the VA to determine the proper course of action to address the family’s serious concerns.

“(We) have received periodic updates from the VA since inquiring about the Koehl family’s request. As of May 28, the VA reported that the case is still under review.”

Koehl, who lives in Fort Wayne, Ind., but frequently visits his son and grandchildren in Indianapolis, is frustrated by the delays.

“Nobody seems to want to do the right thing,” he said. “(Anderson’s) parents understandably lied, or covered up the facts, so he could get buried there.

“We called the cemetery, which told us they rely on the funeral home, which is total ‘BS.’ It’s just ridiculous.”

Attempts to reach the VA for comment were not successful.

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