Navy ensign, once thought to be a deserter, finally honored as hero

Navy ensign, once thought to be a deserter, finally honored as hero

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Associated Press

ARLINGTON, Va. - The Navy honored a missing ensign once branded a deserter after his sister in Wisconsin helped discover he may have been murdered.

Andrew Muns was remembered with full military honors Friday at Arlington National Cemetery.

"Andy, we always knew you were a man of honor - and today everybody else knows it, too," his brother, Thomas Muns, told nearly 200 family members and friends who attended the ceremony.

Muns, a 24-year-old ensign on the USS Cacapon, vanished while the ship was moored in Subic Bay in the Philippines during the Vietnam War in 1968.

The Navy considered Muns a deserter. A New Jersey court declared him dead in 1976.

But his sister, Mary Lou Taylor of Whitefish Bay, didn't buy the story.

"He was a nice, responsible 24-year-old man," said Taylor, 51. "He had never been in trouble. He had never done anything wrong."

With the help of the Internet, she tracked down one of her brother's shipmates. He supplied a crew roster for the Cacapon.

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She later located one of the original investigators, who also felt Muns didn't walk away.

At the prodding of U.S. Senator Herb Kohl, the Navy reopened the case in 1998.

Pete Hughes, who spearheaded the new probe, said investigators began to deduce Muns had been killed.

He didn't fit a deserter's profile, Hughes said. Muns was a college and Officer Candidate School graduate with aspirations to attend Harvard.

Investigators interviewed Michael Edwards LeBrun of Greenwood, Mo., then the Cacapon's senior petty officer, thought to be the last person to see Muns alive.

They said LeBrun confessed to killing Muns after he walked in on him as he was stealing $8,600 from the ship's safe.

LeBrun pleaded not guilty in connection with Muns' death. He is awaiting trial in Missouri.

A judge is mulling whether to allow his videotaped confession as evidence. LeBrun said in court documents investigators coerced him into confessing.

Taylor, an associate professor at the Medical College of Wisconsin, stopped short of saying the Navy made a mistake in its initial investigation.

"They had no body. And there were no clues," she said.

Hughes was among several people who saluted Taylor at the ceremony.

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