State Department acknowledges Marine’s heart was taken in Greece

U.S. Marine Brian LaLoup
U.S. Marine Brian LaLoup

With the aid of U.S. Sen. Patrick Toomey, the Coatesville parents of a U.S. Marine who are suing the Greek and U.S. governments over the removal of their son’s heart received a letter from the former U.S. ambassador to Greece confirming some details of the story.

But Craig and Beverly LaLoup, in a response letter, say they still don’t understand how or why the heart of their son, 21-year-old U.S. Marine Sgt. Brian LaLoup, was taken out of his body after he died by suicide while stationed in Athens, Greece.

“How is any of this acceptable? How can an American Marine be treated in this fashion? And how can the Greek Government get away with not answering our Governments request for answers?” the LaLoups wrote in response to an informational letter from Sen. Toomey’s office, based on reports from former Ambassador to Greece Daniel Bennett Smith. “When the Greek government did not respond to the original protests, why did Ambassador Smith take no action to protect our son?”

Aaron Freiwald, the attorney representing the family in their lawsuit filed against the U.S. and Greek governments, said the letter was the first confirmation from the State Department to confirm that an illegal autopsy took place, but it raises new questions.

“If this Ambassador Smith and the State Department said, ‘Stop, don’t do this’ – why were they unsuccessful in protecting this Marine?” Freiwald asked.

Sgt. LaLoup, 21, committed suicide in August 2012 while stationed at the U.S. embassy in Athens, Greece. Only in September, a month after LaLoup was buried with full honors back at home did a soldier accidentally inform his mother that his heart was removed under unknown circumstances at the hospital, according to the family’s lawsuit, filed in December.

LaLoup’s parents do not know if LaLoup’s heart was destroyed or stolen in some kind of organ harvesting operation.

In a letter shared with the family through Sen. Toomey’s office, Ambassador Smith said he made every effort to prevent an autopsy and filed numerous complaints with the Greek government.

A letter shared with the family from Sen. Toomey’s office states that Smith says he made numerous efforts to protect LaLoup’s body.

Smith told the hospital not to autopsy LaLoup’s body, and also notified the Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs, according to the letter. When Smith’s staff requested the hospital release LaLoup’s body on Aug. 16, they declined and said they would autopsy the body. Smith says he called the Secretary General of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Chief of Staff of the Foreign Minister insisting there be no autopsy, and on Aug. 17 called again to say that an autopsy would violate the Vienna Convention.

The autopsy took place on Aug. 18. After the LaLoups told Smith on Sept. 18 that Sgt. LaLoup’s body was missing its heart, his staff interviewed the physician who performed the autopsy.

On Sept. 20, Smith “hand-carried” documents to the Secretary General of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Chief of Staff of the Foreign Minister asking for a full investigation into the location of LaLoup’s heart.

The embassy reportedly renewed these requests in April and August 2013, but did not receive a response. Smith left the U.S. Embassy in Athens in August 2013.

“I remain deeply saddened by the tragic death of Sgt. LaLoup and the subsequent events regarding his heart,” Smith wrote in the letter. “This matter continues to be a high priority for the Embassy in Athens, and for the U.S. Government.”

But the LaLoups are not satisfied and wrote that they believe Smith “did not do all he could.”

The U.S. and Greek governments have not yet filed papers in response to the LaLoup’s lawsuit, Freiwald said.


Follow Sam Newhouse on Twitter: @scnewhouse

Follow Metro Philadelphia on Twitter: @metrophilly

Follow Metro Philadelphia on Facebook: Metro Philadelphia


Apple says its systems not to blame for…

By Edwin Chan and Christina FarrSAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - The week before a crucial launch of its new iPhone, Apple Inc said intimate photos of…


Tallest residential building planned for lower Manhattan

A residential tower planned for lower Manhattan will soar 1,356 feet in the air -- just 12 feet shy of 1 World Trade Center. When…


Bronx man commits suicide by decapitation

A Bronx man committed suicide Monday morning in the Hunts Point area of the Bronx by decapitating himself. According to the NYPD, the 51-year-old man…


Top cops enroll in Twitter course at John…

NYPD officers are reportedly getting a lesson on the best way to use 140 characters or less. The New York Post reported Tuesday top officers…


Pop culture and prostitutes: New Toulouse-Lautrec exhibit at…

Henri Toulouse-Lautrec documented the cult of celebrity and the rise of pop entertainment in his prints, posters and lithographs — now on display at MoMA.


PHOTO: Extreme artist Eskil Ronningsbakken balances unicycle on…

Extreme artist’ Eskil Ronningsbakken balances on the edge of a cliff face at 4,600 feet – on a unicycle. The Norwegian travels across the globe, balancing over vertiginous ravines, tall…


Hear two previously unreleased Adele songs

Missing some Adele in your life? Two previously unreleased songs from the singer have appeared online.


Lincoln Center just made 'Lord of the Rings'…

Middle Earth already has sweeping vistas, a hero's journey and technology-revolutionizing special effects. But next April, the Lincoln Center will add another dimension to Peter Jackson's…


10 storylines to watch for the Giants this…

The Giants rebounded from an embarrassing 0-6 start last season, but not well enough to make the playoffs.


Michael Vick set to be weekly guest with…

Mike Francesa may need to backtrack from his harsh commentary of Michael Vick now that the Jets backup quarterback will be a weekly guest on his show.


Jets expect to make playoffs after sitting on…

The same pundits who predicted the Jets would be woeful a season ago are now eying the playoffs for this revamped team.


Antonio Allen returns to practice after concussion

Antonio Allen was cleared to practice again following his concussion two weeks ago.


In defense of making a mess during playtime

"Recipes for Play" authors Rachel Sumner and Ruth Mitchener think playtime should involve the five senses and making a mess is part of the fun.


Jason Hope helps push anti-aging efforts forward

Reporter was commissioned to write this in-depth article When it comes to age-related illness, the direction of modern medicine seems more reactive than proactive. In…


Today's Doomsday preppers: a closer look at survivalist…

Reporter was commissioned to write this in-depth article. The term “Doomsday prepper” is often associated with the paranoid, anti-government stereotype of the 1990s. The truth…


These college students think breakfast is the most…

  It should be no surprise that the city that never sleeps is also home to the most students who like to order food in…