The body of a Marine who committed suicide in Greece was sent back to his family without a heart in August 2012 and now his family is planning to sue.
Marine Sgt. Brian LaLoup, 21, of Coatesville, Pa., shot himself in the head during a party at the U.S. Embassy compound in Athens, where he worked a security detail, the Associated Press reported. LaLoup
was reportedly distressed after recently breaking up with his girlfriend back home.
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On Friday, LaLoup's parents, Craig and Beverly LaLoup, filed a lawsuit in federal court against the U.S. Department of Defense, U.S. Navy and U.S. government for negligence, emotional distress and mistreatment of their son’s body.
The parents accused the government of performing an illegal autopsy on LaLoup's body during which time they claim his organ had been "harvested." The suit, which also asks why the 21-year-old Marine was permitted access to a firearm while intoxicated, seeks a minimum $75,000 in damages.
"This is his heart. This is his soul. This is what made Brian who he is," Beverly LaLoup told the AP in a phone interview Tuesday.
"I was absolutely devastated," Beverly said after first learning that her son was missing his heart. "I was hysterical. I was running around the house, hyperventilating."
The family was made aware of the missing heart several weeks after their son's funeral, after a a military official let it slip during a conversation with Beverly.
The government initially responded to the controversy by sending the family a heart it claimed was their son's organ. DNA testing, however, revealed that the heart, which both the Department of Defense and Greek authorities said belonged to their son, was in fact not their son's organ.
Having served in Afghanistan before being selected for the embassy detail in 2011, LaLoup was buried with full military honors.
Government immunity prevents the family from filing a wrongful-death lawsuit. The lawsuit instead seeks damages for emotional distress over the missing heart, however the primary purpose for the suit is for the family to get answers as to what happened to their son's heart, the AP noted.
The Department of Defense would not comment on the matter as it is still pending litigation.
On Tuesday, a Greek Embassy spokesman in Washington, D.C., offered his condolences to the soldier's mother on behalf of the ambassador and said the heart had been removed during the autopsy. The spokesman however declined to answer any questions about the whereabouts of LaLoup's heart or why the family received a heart belonging to someone else.
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