For his heroic service as a B-17 tail-gunner during World War II, this combat veteran should have received full honors and been buried with the thanks of a grateful nation.
Instead, authorities suspect his two caregivers stuffed his body into a suitcase and left it to rot in the middle of a field.
After 89-year-old Robert Brooks, a World War II veteran from New York, died of natural causes, police say his body was left in a large suitcase on a rural Arkansas farm.
Robert Brooks died of natural causes at his home about a month before his body was discovered in a Prairie County field on March 5, Lt. David Gilbo of the Johnstown, New York, Police Department told The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.
“He was a war hero who could have been buried at [Arlington] National Cemetery,” Gilbo said. “Instead, he ends up in a suitcase dumped in a field in Arkansas.”
Police said Brooks, who was 4 feet 11 inches tall, wasn’t dismembered.
Gilbo said investigators are still trying to determine why his body was moved. Investigators are looking at whether his caregivers hid the death to continue receiving Social Security payments.
Police arrested Brooks’ two caregivers, Virginia “Ginger” Colvin and Michael Stivers, on charges of abusing a corpse. Brooks had been left to rot for a month before being found.
Gilbo said authorities will not be extraditing them to New York because of Arkansas’ strict laws on abuse of a corpse. In New York, the offense is punishable by three years in prison, while in Arkansas it is punishable by 10 years.
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Brooks served in the military and was a gunner in a B-17 bomber’s ball turret.
“It’s the most dangerous assignment in war,” Prairie County Sheriff Rick Hickman said. “The belly gunner is in a small bubble on the bottom of the plane. The enemy wants to shoot at him first. Life expectancy on that job is very short.”
“[Brooks] was a World War II veteran,” Gilbo said. “He deserved a lot better than being put in a suitcase.”
The Associated Press contributed to this article