Ex­huma­tion of killers from vet ceme­ter­ies is in­fre­quent

Only few un­earthed un­der 1997 fed­eral law

The Washington Times Daily - - NATION - BY DAVE COLLINS

HART­FORD, CONN. | The re­cent ex­huma­tion of an Army Viet­nam vet­eran’s body from the Con­necti­cut State Vet­er­ans Ceme­tery was a rare in­vo­ca­tion of fed­eral laws aimed at keep­ing mur­der­ers and rapists out of vet­er­ans burial grounds, fed­eral and state of­fi­cials say.

The re­mains of Guillermo Ail­lon were dis­in­terred from the Middletown ceme­tery July 3, after state vet­er­ans’ af­fairs of­fi­cials learned that he had been serv­ing a life-in-prison sen­tence for stabbing his es­tranged wife and both her par­ents to death in North Haven in 1972. It’s un­clear where the re­mains were taken.

Only one other per­son ap­pears to have been ex­humed from a U.S. vet­er­ans’ ceme­tery un­der a 2013 fed­eral law that gave the fed­eral Depart­ment of Vet­er­ans Af­fairs the author­ity to dig up the re­mains of mur­der­ers and rapists, ac­cord­ing to the VA.

In 2014, the body of Army vet­eran Michael LeShawn Anderson was re­moved from the Fort Custer Na­tional Ceme­tery in Au­gusta, Michi­gan. Au­thor­i­ties said Anderson killed Ali­cia Koehl, wounded three other peo­ple and killed him­self in a 2012 shoot­ing in Indianapolis. The 2013 law, named after Koehl, specif­i­cally au­tho­rized the ex­huma­tion of Anderson.

Bury­ing con­victed mur­der­ers and rapists at vet­er­ans’ ceme­ter­ies was banned by a 1997 fed­eral law, which was aimed at pre­vent­ing Ok­la­homa City bomber and Army vet­eran Ti­mothy McVeigh from be­ing in­terred at Ar­ling­ton Na­tional Ceme­tery.

The law pro­hibits peo­ple sen­tenced to life in prison or death on con­vic­tions for fed­eral or state cap­i­tal crimes and cer­tain sex­ual of­fenses from be­ing buried in na­tional vet­er­ans ceme­ter­ies and other vet­er­ans burial grounds — such as the Con­necti­cut ceme­tery — that re­ceive fed­eral fund­ing.

But ex­huma­tion author­ity didn’t ex­ist un­til the 2013 law, which also was made to ap­ply to peo­ple who com­mit­ted mur­ders and rapes but were not avail­able for trial and not con­victed. The law ap­plies only to vet­er­ans buried after it took ef­fect on Dec. 23, 2013, with the ex­cep­tion for Anderson.

The re­mains of an­other vet­eran con­victed of mur­der, Rus­sell Wayne Wag­ner, were re­moved from Ar­ling­ton Na­tional Ceme­tery un­der an or­der ap­proved by Congress in 2006 as part of a vet­er­ans’ bill. Wag­ner killed an el­derly cou­ple in Hager­stown, Mary­land, in 1994.

Con­necti­cut of­fi­cials did not know about Ail­lon’s con­vic­tions be­cause he was trans­ferred from prison to a hos­pi­tal be­fore he died in 2014 and his death cer­tifi­cate listed the lo­ca­tion as the hos­pi­tal, said Thomas Saadi, spokesman for the Vet­er­ans Af­fairs Com­mis­sioner Sean Con­nolly.

“It’s a very rare oc­cur­rence,” Mr. Saadi said of ex­huma­tion. “The Ail­lon sit­u­a­tion was very unique.”

Mr. Saadi said the state has since re­quired fu­neral di­rec­tors to at­test that vet­er­ans whose fam­i­lies have ap­plied for them to be buried in the state vet­er­ans’ ceme­tery were not con­victed of mur­der or rape.

Rel­a­tives of Ail­lon did not re­turn mes­sages seek­ing com­ment. They pre­vi­ously have said they were un­aware of the burial re­stric­tions and were up­set with the ex­huma­tion plans.

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