Family seeking heart of dead Marine son loses round in court
PHILADELPHIA — A Coatesville, Pennsylvania, family seeking to learn how their son's heart went missing after his death in Greece two years ago will have to find answers outside of a courtroom, a federal judge has ruled.
U.S. District Judge Stewart Dalzell tossed out the family's claims against the Greek government and an Athens hospital, saying they had not met the high burden required to sue a foreign government in American courts.
In a ruling Thursday, the judge did, however, clear the way for the parents of Marine Sgt. Brian LaLoup to pursue a claim of negligent infliction of emotional distress against the U.S. government, which the family says withheld information about their son's incomplete remains.
The LaLoups filed their suit last year against Greece and Evangelismos General Hospital in Athens, alleging the autopsy in which their son's heart went missing was conducted over objections from U.S. military and diplomatic officials.
LaLoup, who was stationed as an embassy security officer in Athens, fatally shot himself Aug. 12, 2012, after a night of heavy drinking.
His family claimed the U.S. military never informed them, either, that his remains were incomplete.
They only learned the truth after his burial — and even then only when an officer let the fact slip in conversation.
The hospital and the Defense Department later claimed to have located LaLoup's missing heart and sent it back to the United States. But testing revealed that the organ sent to the LaLoup family did not match the dead Marine's DNA.
Since the LaLoups filed suit, Greek officials have said that the heart was removed for toxicology testing.
In a typical step in autopsies there, it was held at a pathology lab at the medical school of the University of Athens for at least three months, the Greek government said in court filings.
What happened to it afterward remains unclear.