U.S. Senator Dan Coats testified today in support of a bill he’s authoring that would give the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and the U.S. Department of the Army the authority to disinter veterans buried in national cemeteries who committed a federal or state capital crime.
The Alica Dawn Koehl Respect for National Cemeteries Act is named after Indianapolis resident Alicia Dawn Koehl, who was shot and killed by a veteran named Michael LeShawn Anderson.
Anderson committed suicide after the shooting and was buried with military honors at Fort Custer National Cemetery in Michigan.
Coats says federal law does not allow for burial of a veteran if they have committed a federal or state capital crime but have not been allowed a trial due to death, and it was a mistake to let Anderson be buried in a national cemetery.
Coats spoke before the Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs this afternoon, asking for their support for the bill.
“I think justice will be served and the family can find some closure from this tragic situation,” he says.
Coats said in talks with the Department of Veterans Affairs officials, they said they do not have the authority to disinter a body.
Representative Susan Brooks, R-5th, has introduced similar legislation in the House of Representatives and also spoke in support of the bill today during a House Committee on Veterans Affairs hearing.
“I’m encouraged to see this bipartisan effort moving forward in both Congressional Chambers,” Brooks said. “The Koehl family has been through a tremendous tragedy and it’s time to give them the closure they deserve.”