Parents Bury Marine Without His Heart
(CN) - Grieving parents of a Marine sergeant "unwittingly buried their son without his heart" because the Greek government took it from his corpse after he killed himself while guarding the U.S. Embassy in Athens, the sergeant's parents claim in a lawsuit against the Pentagon - but not against Greece.
Craig and Beverly LaLoup sued the United States, the Department of Defense and the Navy, in Philadelphia Federal Court, for the "mishandling" of their son's body, and negligent and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
The LaLoups, of Coatesville, Pa., claim the Pentagon tried "to conceal that their son, Sgt. Brian LaLoup, USMC, had been illegally autopsied, which included the removal of his heart, by the Greek government. Furthermore, defendants failed to take the appropriate steps to have Sgt. LaLoup's heart returned from Greece. As a result, the plaintiffs unwittingly buried their son without his heart and have suffered severe emotional injuries."
Sgt. LaLoup shot himself in the head after attending an off-duty party at the U.S. Embassy in Athens in Aug. 12, 2012, his parents say in the lawsuit.
LaLoup was assigned to the Marine Corps Security Group guarding the Embassy.
"During the party, Sgt. LaLoup reported to a fellow service member that he was thinking about suicide," his parents say in the lawsuit. "As required by Marine Corps protocol, these comments were reported to the Detachment Commander, Staff Sgt. Martinez.
"Unfortunately, Staff Sgt. Martinez failed to follow appropriate protocols and procedures, which required him to obtain supervision and medical treatment for Sgt. LaLoup, and instead decided to take him out for more drinking. Prior to leaving and despite being visibly intoxicated and distraught, Sgt. LaLoup was allowed to pass the guard at the entry to the chancery and enter the response room. The chancery, which had been left unsecured, is where weapons were stored. Thereafter, according to military reports, Sgt. LaLoup shot himself in the head with an Embassy service weapon."
An ambulance took LaLoup's body to the General Hospital in Athens, where, "contrary to established protocols," his body was not guarded, his parents say.
"After Sgt. LaLoup was pronounced dead, the Greek government, in violation of Sgt. LaLoup's diplomatic status, autopsied his body. During the autopsy Sgt. LaLoup's heart was stolen and illegally harvested by the Greek government," the lawsuit states.
The Greek Embassy in Washington, D.C. was closed when Courthouse News sought comment Friday afternoon.
"If someone did this, he should be punished," an employee of the Greek Consulate in San Francisco said.
He said that in Greece, "Without the consent of the relatives, nothing can be removed from the body."
The consular employee referred Courthouse News to the Greek Consul in Los Angeles, whose office was closed, or not returning calls late Friday afternoon.
The LaLoups did not sue Greece or any Greek entity.
The sergeant's parents claim in the lawsuit: "It was readily known or foreseeable that Sgt. LaLoup's body would be mutilated, disfigured and illegally autopsied if left behind unguarded. Yet, defendants did nothing to insure that Sgt. LaLoup was treated with the respect owed a United States Marine. Moreover, defendants failed to take the necessary steps to have Sgt. LaLoup's heart returned from Greece. Instead, defendants worked to conceal the fact that Sgt. LaLoup's heart had been stolen.
"At the time his body was returned to the United States, plaintiffs, Sgt. LaLoup's parents, Craig and Beverly LaLoup, were given knowingly false information about Sgt. LaLoup's remains. As a result, the LaLoups unwittingly buried their son without his heart. Defendants' intentional, reckless and wanton actions of the defendants have caused Plaintiffs significant mental distress and grief."
The LaLoups are represented by Aaron Freiwald, with Payser & Freiwald, of Philadelphia, whose offices were closed when called for a comment Friday afternoon.
The LaLoups could not be reached for comment.