November 9, 2005
Contact: Jeff Schrade (202)224-9093

(Washington, DC) Legislation which will prevent those who commit murder from being buried in military cemeteries and from receiving military honors at their funerals was unanimously adopted Wednesday by the U.S. Senate, and is now part of the Senate's Defense Authorization Bill (S. 1042).

"With Veterans Day to be celebrated this week, I'm pleased to report that the Senate has unanimously agreed to protect the dignity of our nation's cemeteries," said U.S. Senator Larry Craig, Chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs


Craig's bill would prohibit the military from playing Taps or presenting an American flag at the funeral of those who have, or who could been, sentenced to death or life in prison. The legislation applies to both national cemeteries run by the federal government and cemeteries for veterans run by state governments which were funded with VA grants.

The legislation was offered as amendment to the Defense Authorization Bill. It is nearly identical to legislation Sen. Craig introduced in October (S. 1813). The new legislative language, which the Senate has adopted, allows for a person whose sentence is overturned, commuted by the President or a state governor, to retain burial benefits.

Because the Senate and House-passed versions of the Defense Authorization Bill are different, a joint House-Senate committee will have to approve a final bill which both houses will then vote to ratify. "I am confident that this prohibition on murderers will be agreed to by the House. It has had complete support in the Senate, and, frankly, from everyone I've spoken with," Craig said.

Craig began the drive to protect the nation's cemeteries after listening to testimony offered by Vernon Davis, whose elderly parents were brutally murdered in Maryland by Russell Wagner, a military veteran. The killer's remains are now inurned at Arlington National Cemetery.

During his investigation, Craig asked the Congressional Research Service (CRS) whether or not current federal law would prohibit serial killer Dennis Rader from being buried or inurned at Arlington or any cemetery for veterans. Rader, who served in the Air Force for four years and was honorably discharged in 1972 with the rank of sergeant, is known as the BTK killer for the techniques he used ? "Bind, Torture and Kill." He was recently convicted in Kansas of murdering ten people between 1974 through 1991.

Although sentenced to 175 years in prison, Dennis Rader is technically eligible for parole. According to CRS, because Rader could be paroled in 2180, he is presently eligible for burial and honors at a military cemetery.