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Plant City Courier

Family of mutilated Marine calls experience 'pure hell'

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Published:   |   Updated: March 18, 2013 at 04:19 PM
TAMPA -

The one time William and Kathy Angus and their daughter, Tracy Maiville, wanted a visit from the military, it never came.

The first visit was in January 2010, when Marines showed up at their Thonotosassa home to tell them their son, Marine Sgt. Daniel Angus, 28, was killed along with two other Marines by an improvised explosive device in Helmand province.

The second visit was 22 months later, when officials showed up at their door informing them stories were about to surface about how their son's body was mutilated at the Dover Air Force Base mortuary.

Sitting Thursday in their attorney's office, wearing gold-star lapel pins indicating the death of a loved one in uniform, the couple and their daughter fought back tears and said the one visit they wanted should have come last week.

That's when Air Force officials announced the results of their investigation into charges that, after Sgt. Angus' left arm bone was sawed off without family permission so he could fit into his uniform, mortuary officials retaliated against whistleblowers who had come forward to complain about the incident.

But no one told the family, who only found out because the media contacted their lawyer, Mark O'Brien. Thursday afternoon, after speaking only through O'Brien, the family said they had enough and could remain silent no longer.

The family said it was not appropriate for the Air Force to review itself, and the family is mulling what, if any, action to take.

"We do not feel justice was served," said Kathy Angus, 58, reading from a prepared statement. "More than anything, we deserve an apology that doesn't start with 'sorry, but … .' And everyone needs to have real consequences for what they did."

The Air Force found that Col. Robert Edmondson, Trevor Dean and Quinton Keel engaged in reprisal against the whistleblowers. All three had previously been found responsible for gross mismanagement of the mortuary, where bodies of the fallen are taken for processing before being released to the families.

For the retaliation, Edmondson was reprimanded and ordered to forfeit $7,000. Dean received a 20-day suspension without pay. Keel had resigned before he could be disciplined, but the Air Force issued him a letter of censure after his resignation.

For the gross mismanagement, which included what happened to Sgt. Angus and other remains, Edmondson received a letter of reprimand and was denied further command opportunity. Keel received an involuntary downgrade to a nonsupervisory position. Dean voluntarily took a downgrade to a nonsupervisory position outside the mortuary.

Kathy Angus criticized the penalties as a "slap on the wrist."

"I would have lost my medical license if I did those kinds of things," said Maiville, a licensed occupational therapist.

"We want to make sure this never happens to another family," Kathy Angus said. "This has been sheer hell. Twice."

The Air Force on Thursday evening issued a statement via email saying officials are "truly saddened that lapses in our standards at Dover caused additional grief for the Angus family and other families of our Fallen."

The statement said that point was made to the Angus family by a general who first contacted the family.

"The Air Force has made many changes at the Dover Port Mortuary, and will continue to implement the recommendations" of a panel created to look into problems at the mortuary "to assure that we care for our Fallen with dignity, honor and respect. They and their families who have sacrificed so much deserve nothing less," the statement said.

Kathy Angus said none of this would have happened if mortuary officials heeded the family's wishes and placed her son's remains in the urn the family picked out.

"We never intended to see him," she said. "That is the main thing I am so angry about. He was to be cremated. We did not know about his arm being fused. He made it from Afghanistan in that coffin and he could make it to Tampa in that coffin."


haltman@tampatrib.com (813) 259-7629

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