A bill calling for the body of a convicted murderer to be removed from a national cemetery passed the House on Wednesday with a 398 to 1 vote.
The bill, sponsored by Sen. Dan Coats, R-Indiana, unanimously passed the Senate last month and gives the federal government the authority disinter veterans buried with military honors, despite having committed a capital offense.
Sen. Coats said in a statement: “This bill protects the integrity of our national cemeteries, enforces current law and ensures that the families of our veterans can bury their loved ones among heroes.”
Federal law already prohibited military burials for veterans who committed capital crimes, but Coats introduced the bill after the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs said it lacked the authority to remove the body of Michael LeShawn Anderson from Fort Custer Cemetery.
Anderson was accidentally buried there after police say he shot three people, and killed Alicia Dawn Koehl, in Indianapolis last year. Anderson turned the gun on himself as police arrived.
In a statement, Paul Koehl, widower of Alicia Koehl, said the bill’s passage shows his wife’s death has become an “instrument for justice and peace for our family, as well as the families of future victims.”
The bill was cosponsored in the Senate by Sen. Joe Donnelly, D-Indiana, and backed by the entire Indiana delegation.