Nearly two weeks after they first found his body, authorities in two states are still trying to determine how a World War II bomber gunner wound up dead and abandoned in Arkansas, 1,300 miles from his New York home. “He was a war hero who could have ...and more »
Nearly two weeks after they first found his body, authorities in two states are still trying to determine how a World War II bomber gunner wound up dead and abandoned in Arkansas, 1,300 miles from his New York home. â€œHe was a war hero who could have been buried at the National Cemetery,â€ Johnstown Police Lt. David Gilbo told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. â€œInstead, he ends up in a suitcase dumped in a field in Arkansas.â€ On Wednesday, Gilbo identified the man as 89-year-old Robert D. Brooks, a veteran of World War II. The details of the death investigation were heartbreaking from the start. On March 5, Prairie County sheriffâ€™s deputies received a disturbing 911 call about a man and woman selling furniture from a blue pickup truck in a parking lot. â€œOne of the patrons of this sale went to the back of the truck and unzipped a larger blue suitcase and saw a body,â€ Prairie County Sheriff Rick Hickman told ABC affiliate Sky 7. But by the time sheriffâ€™s deputies arrived on scene, the man and woman were gone. Authorities eventually tracked down the truck and foundÂ Virginia â€œGingerâ€ Colvin and Michael Stivers of Johnstown, N.Y., inside. There the suitcase and the body were gone. They released Colvin but arrested Stivers, who was wanted on a warrant for failing to pay child support, Sky 7 reported. Later that night, in a field on a farm in Prairie County, they found the blue suitcase. Inside were the remains of an elderly man, just four feet 11 inches tall, stuffed inside. Colvin and Stivers, identified as the manâ€™s caregivers in Johnstown, N.Y., were bothÂ arrested and charged with abusing a corpse, a felony. Authorities believe Brooks died in January or February of natural causes. It wasnâ€™t until authorities finally tracked down his family a week later that they learned of his military service. Virginia Colvin. (Arkansas State Police via AP) Brooks was a â€œbelly gunner,â€ his family said, which means he shot from inside the ball turret of a B-17 bomber, reported the Democrat-Gazette. The B-17 â€œFlying Fortressesâ€ were primarily deployed in daylight strategic bombing campaigns against German military and industrial targets. â€œItâ€™s the most dangerous assignment in war,â€ Prairie County Sheriff Rick Hickman told the Democrat-Gazette. â€œThe belly gunner is in a small bubble on the bottom of the plane. The enemy wants to shoot at him first. Life expectancy on that job is very short.â€ Though New York authorities released the manâ€™s name, the sheriff in Arkansas has not yet publicly identified him. He wants to wait for a confirmation from testing using DNA taken from Brooksâ€™s body and his son, who lives in North Carolina, reported the Democrat-Gazette. â€œItâ€™s a sad case,â€ Hickman said. Two explosions caused by these two B-17 Flying Fortresses of U.S. Air Force on their way over Frankfurt/Main. (AP) Colvin, 56, told police she has been Brooksâ€™s caregiver since at least 2012, reported the Leader-Herald, and said that she and her boyfriend lived with Brooks in a home in Johnstown. Gilbo, the police lieutenant from Johnstown, told the Democrat-Gazette that authorities are trying to determine a motive for hauling him around. Itâ€™s possible the couple was trying to conceal Brooksâ€™s body so they could collect his social security checks, authorities speculated. â€œThey got caught early,â€ Gilbo told the newspaper. â€œWe are checking their bank statements, but they didnâ€™t have much time to collect any money if they were doing that.â€ New York authorities are still deciding whether to extradite the couple, reported the Leader Herald. If convicted of felony abuse of a corpse, the sentence is six to 10 years in Arkansas, but one to four years in New York. Gilbo called the case â€œbizarre.â€ â€œ[Brooks] was a World War II veteran,â€ he told the Democrat-Gazette. â€œHe deserved a lot better than being put in a suitcase.â€ More from Morning Mix: â€˜Senseless act of violenceâ€™: Thief steals New York City ambulance and fatally runs over EMT â€˜She wanted to be a model.â€™ Teen fatally stuck by train while posing for photos. T-Mobile â€˜ghost callsâ€™ clog Dallas 911. Families blame backlog for deaths.