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Process of disinterring killer from military cemetery moving along

Friday, January 17, 2014 - 8:34 am

Michael Anderson's permanent headstone has been replaced with a temporary paper marker – a sign the man who killed a woman with deep Fort Wayne ties will soon be removed from hallowed ground in a Michigan national cemetery.

But at least for now, the Veterans Administration – which is acting only after a new federal law forced it to do so – is not revealing the precise date disinterment for fear of creating a “media event.”

And that does not sit well with Fort Wayne resident Frank Koehl, who successfully lobbied for passage of the Alicia Dawn Koehl Respect for National Cemeteries Act after Anderson shot and killed his 45-year-old daughter-in-law in 2012 while she worked in an Indianapolis apartment office. As The News-Sentinel reported that October, Anderson shot himself after police arrived and was buried in Fort Custer National Cemetery near Battle Creek despite a federal law that bars people who have committed capital crimes from receiving such an honor. Koehl's husband, Paul, was from Fort Wayne, and her parents-in-law, Frank and Carol Koehl, and sister-in-law Becky Moher, live here.

Family members asked the VA to remove Anderson's body, but when it failed to act they worked with Indiana Sens. Dan Coats , Joe Donnelly and others to pass the legislation late last year.

In a Jan. 14 letter to Frank Koehl, Coats staffer Viraj Mirani stated that, in addition to removing the marker, the VA has “at last completed the letter to the Anderson family informing them of the disinterment plans and requesting information on what the family would like to do with the remains. . . and includes a deadline for them to respond. If they do not respond within this window, the disinterment will occur regardless and VA will determine what to do with the remains in a non-military cemetery.

“The VA will not tell me how long they gave the family to respond, but said it is a short window . . . They are concerned about the disinterment becoming a media event, and are unlikely to tell us when the disinterment will occur – although I have asked that they at least give us notice when it is imminent.” Several other news organizations have covered the story since The News-Sentinel account.

Koehl responded by e-mail: “I understand the VA's reluctance to give us a precise date, but I feel that we and the public have a right to be able to verify that the disinterment has actually taken place. I don't feel we are asking too much . . . given that they have already removed the permanent maker, how difficult would it be for them to simply 'lose' the paper marker and say they carried out the disinterment without actually doing so? I would guess not too difficult. I think we and you have earned the right of verification.”

Koehl said Friday that he doesn't necessarily want to be present when Anderson is disinterred. “Maybe I'm a little paranoid, but after all this work, and everything that has happened, I just

want to make sure it is carried out.”

“While we still do not have the resolution desired, I do believe we are on a path to concluding it, even if not as fast as it should be achieved,” Mirani's letter concluded.