Family Adds Greek Government to Lawsuit Over Missing U.S. Marine's Heart

By Vince Lattanzio
|  Wednesday, Dec 11, 2013  |  Updated 4:38 PM EDT
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U.S. Marine Sgt. Brian LaLoup, 22, had his heart removed following an autopsy in Greece. His family says the heart was illegally removed and has now gone missing.

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The parents of a U.S. Marine who claim their son's heart was "harvested" during an illegal autopsy in Greece have added the Greek government to a lawsuit filed in the wake of his death.

Craig and Beverly LaLoup, of Coatesville, Pa., filed a lawsuit in federal court last Friday against the U.S. Department of Defense, U.S. Navy and U.S. government for negligence, emotional distress and alleged mistreatment of their son’s body.

The Greek government was added to the suit in an amended filing on Wednesday morning.

The family contends that an illegal autopsy was conducted on U.S. Marine Sgt. Brian LaLoup following his suicide inside the U.S. Embassy in Athens, Greece in 2012. During that autopsy, his heart was removed and never replaced.

Sgt. LaLoup's body was returned to the U.S. and buried without a heart. His parents claim they weren't told about the missing organ until after their son was laid to rest.

According to the lawsuit, the Greek government then allegedly sent a heart to the family, they claimed was Sgt. LaLoup's. However, the suit states that DNA testing showed it was not his heart.

"We have been concerned about the role of the Greek authorities and the hospital since these proceedings began," Aaron Freiwald, the family's attorney, said of the suit's amendment.

Freiwald said comments from Greek authorities about the case also played into the decision to add the foreign entity to the suit.

Christos Falidais, press secretary for the Greece Embassy in Washington, D.C., tells NBC10 that Sgt. LaLoup's heart was removed for toxicology testing, but would not say what happened to the heart after the tests were performed.

Faildais said the autopsy was done in accordance with Greek law and that the Greek Ambassador in Washington offered his condolences to the soldier's mother a "long time ago."

Questions about whether the wrong heart was sent to the family were not answered. The heart remains missing.

Faildais offered no comment on the Greek government's addition to the lawsuit.

Freiwald says Sgt. LaLoup enjoyed diplomatic immunity, meaning that Greek law shouldn't apply in this case.

The family also makes a bevy of claims against the U.S. government, service members and defense officials in the lawsuit. Among them, the family says officials failed to act on the Marine's warnings of suicide, guard his body once it was transported to the Athens hospital and lied to them about the missing heart, according to the filing.

The attorney says filing suit against governments, which typically are immune from lawsuits, is not easy, but he believes the facts in the case support the suit.

"We hope that both governments come forward and resolve this and answers the many questions the family have about what happened," he said.

The Department of Defense offered no comment on the case citing the pending litigation. The U.S.  Attorney's General's Office offered no comment.


Contact Vince Lattanzio at 610.668.5532, vince.lattanzio@nbcuni.com or follow @VinceLattanzio on Twitter.

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