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VFW post sets ceremony for unclaimed vet; Death ruled as homicide

By TIM HAHN | Erie Times-News, Pa. | Published: September 8, 2018

(Tribune News Service) — The Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 470 in Erie will lay U.S. Army veteran Vincent Force to rest with full military honors on Sept. 15.

The post recently stepped forward to claim the remains of Force, 85, a local man who was found buried behind a west Erie apartment house a day after he was reported missing in July, after the Erie County Coroner's Office failed to locate any family who could claim the remains. The post has now scheduled a funeral ceremony at Erie County Memorial Gardens off Route 99 in Summit Township that will begin at 10 a.m. on Sept. 15, George Tanner, Post 470's commander, said Wednesday.

The VFW post's honor guard will do the ceremony, which will include a funeral service and a 21-gun salute, Erie police Lt. Chris Crawford, the post's chaplain, said last week. If a family member is present at the ceremony, the family member will be presented with an American flag, he said.

Force served in Korea in 1953 and 1954, according to Crawford. The Coroner's Office learned of his military background during office's investigation into Force's death.

The cause of Force's death remains under investigation. Force was found buried in a shallow grave behind an apartment house in the 200 block of West Fifth Street on July 14 as law enforcement agencies were investigating his whereabouts after Force was reported missing to the Millcreek Township Police Department on July 13.

Two people who were helping to care for Force and who admitted to burying his body, 28-year-old Elizabeth D. Taylor and 33-year-old Antonio D. McLaurin, were charged by Erie police with offenses including neglect of care, aggravated assault and abuse of a corpse. They remain in the Erie County Prison awaiting their preliminary hearings on Sept. 13.

Friends of Force who knew him through The Saucery, a Millcreek Township tavern, raised funds to help pay for Force's funeral. Those funds will be used to offset the cost of the military funeral, Tanner said.

Homicide ruled in death

On Thursday Erie County Coroner Lyell Cook ruled Force's death as a homicide. Force died of malnutrition and multiple bedsores, Cook said.

Two Erie residents who were caring for Force and who admitted to burying the body, 28-year-old Elizabeth D. Taylor and 33-year-old Antonio D. McLaurin, are in prison awaiting preliminary hearings on charges of neglect of care-dependent person, aggravated assault, abuse of a corpse, conspiracy to commit aggravated assault and tampering with evidence. Charges are expected to be amended or refiled as a result of the homicide ruling.

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