In 1981 Raymond R. Sawyer strangled his second wife, Francis Sawyer, to death in cold blood in the couple’s home. It took police 26 years to solve the case. In 2007, Sawyer, while being interviewed at his home in Arvada, Colorado, gave information only the killer could have known. He was arrested and charged with first degree murder. In 2008 as part of a plea deal, the first degree murder charges were dropped in exchange for Sawyer’s plea of guilty to second degree murder. He received a 13 year sentence.
On August 11, 2010 Sawyer died in prison at the age of 83 while serving his sentence. Yesterday his cremated remains were laid to rest at Ft. Logan National Cemetery in Colorado with full military honors. Sawyer was an ex-Marine who saw combat in the Pacific during World War II. He later made false claims of having received the Navy Cross. The Legion of Valor, chartered by Congress, refused his application to join when official records showed no evidence that he had ever been nominated for, or received, the high honor. Marine records have since confirmed the Legion of Valor’s findings.
Sawyer’s family wanted him buried with full military honors at Ft. Logan National Cemetery. The request was granted, but when the Marine Corps asked an honor guard comprised of former Marines to perform the honors ceremonies, they refused to perform or attend. Speaking for the Marine Honor Guard, Col. Bob Fischer (USMC-ret.) said, “We are not going to honor someone who has dishonored us.”
Sawyer’s honor guard instead came from American Legion Post 161 of Arvada, Colorado. When asked why they performed the honors ceremony when the Marine Honor Guard had refused, the answer was simply, “He served.”
The service included presentation of a folded flag, the playing of Taps and a 21 gun salute. Sawyer’s daughter accepted the flag.
Federal law denies military funerals, burial in a military cemetery and military honors for those convicted of a “capital crime” and receiving a sentence of death or life imprisonment. Because of the plea deal, Sawyer, though a confessed murderer, was convicted of second degree murder which is not a “capital offense” and was not sentenced to death or life imprisonment. The law was passed in 1995 after the Oklahoma City bombing to prevent Timothy McVeigh from receiving a military funeral. Congress is currently considering an amendment to the law which would add persons convicted of forcible rape to the list of those ineligible for military funerals. The proposed amendment, sponsored by Congressman John Shadegg (R-AZ), would not cover the likes of Raymond Sawyer.
Tom Richards of the California chapter of the Legion of Valor, and who opposed military honors for Sawyer, believes that American tax payers should be “irate” at having to foot the bill for Sawyer’s funeral. Both the funeral services and the headstone at the grave are paid for with federal funds.
Sources: Associated Press, Marine Corps Times, 9NEWS.com (Denver).
Cross posted at Elijah’s Sweete Spot.