FORT WAYNE – Sen. Dan Coats, R-Ind., is asking his colleagues to help a slain Hoosiers family find closure and peace of mind.
Coats testified Wednesday before the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee on his legislation that would grant federal officials the authority to remove from national cemeteries the remains of military veterans who committed capital crimes.
His was among many veterans-related bills the panel heard testimony on and that will be voted on later.
Coats bill stems from the May 30, 2012, shooting death of Alicia Dawn Koehl at an Indianapolis apartment complex where she worked. Koehl, 45, was slain by Army veteran Michael LaShawn Anderson, who wounded three other people, killed himself and later was buried with military honors at Fort Custer National Cemetery in Augusta, Mich.
Federal law prohibits the burial in national cemeteries of veterans who have committed capital crimes. Coats called Andersons burial a mistake that needs to be corrected. The family is simply asking for closure and peace of mind that those remains be disinterred.
The Department of Veterans Affairs has basically said they dont have the legal authority to do that, Coats said in remarks broadcast online by the committee.
Koehl, the mother of two, was married to Fort Wayne native Paul Koehl. His parents, Frank and Carol Koehl of Fort Wayne, sat behind Coats during his testimony.
The families have had to go through an excruciatingly lengthy and unproductive process in trying to right a wrong, Coats told the committee about their efforts to have Andersons remains disinterred.
Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders, an independent from Vermont, said the panel will certainly take a very hard look at Coats bill, the Alicia Dawn Koehl Respect for National Cemeteries Act.
Sen. Joe Donnelly, D-Ind., a co-sponsor of the bill, said Wednesday in a statement, We must address this injustice for the Koehl family and preserve the honor of being buried in a veterans cemetery.