INDIANAPOLIS — Sen. Dan Coats and Rep. Susan Brooks asked their colleagues Wednesday to support legislation that would allow the federal government to dig up the remains of felons mistakenly buried with full military honors.
The two Indiana Republicans testified in Washington before the Senate and House Veterans Affairs Committee in support of the Alicia Dawn Koehl Respect for National Cemeteries Act.
The bill would give the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and the Army the authority to disinter veterans buried in national cemeteries who had committed capital crimes. The bill is named after an Indianapolis apartment manager fatally shot in a May 2012 shooting rampage by a man who then took his own life and was buried with full VA military benefits.
Coats asked the Senate panel approve the legislation "and ensure that our fallen veterans rest in peace next to loved ones and fellow service members, not criminals."
Coats said in a news release he was joined at the hearing by Frank and Carol Koehl, the parents-in-law of Alicia Koehl.
Alicia Koehl's assailant, Army veteran Michael LaShawn Anderson, is buried in Fort Custer National Cemetery in Augusta, Mich., despite current law that prohibits anyone who has "committed a Federal or State capital crime but were unavailable for trial due to death" from being buried in a national cemetery.
Brooks spoke in support of the bill at a House Veterans Affairs Committee hearing focused on oversight of the National Cemetery Administration and shared a letter from Paul Koehl, the husband of the apartment manager.
"The Koehl family has been through a tremendous tragedy and it's time to give them the closure they deserve," Brooks said.
After learning of Anderson's burial, the Koehl family contacted the VA requesting that he be disinterred. The VA notified Indiana's congressional delegation in July that it would not disinter Anderson because it did not have the authority to do so.
Police have said Alicia Koehl was shot 13 times and bled to death in her office. Three other people also were shot during the rampage.