A convicted murderer rests among heroes at Arlington National Cemetery

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Each year before Memorial Day, a Soldier from the Army’s 3rd Infantry Regiment places a small American flag next to the tomb of Navy Lt. Andrew J. Chabrol, an honor bestowed upon every grave at Arlington National Cemetery.

The thought makes Judi Farmer sick.

Prior to the burial of Chabrol’s ashes in the nation’s holiest military cemetery, he was indicted by the Commonwealth of Virginia for the kidnapping, rape and murder of Corporal 2 molestation. For those who remember Chabrol’s crimes, the knowledge of his dignified resting place is an open wound – an insult to their memory.

Farmer, herself a Navy veteran, is determined to ensure the remains are removed from Arlington, an act she believes will close a dark and shameful chapter in military history. “In the early ’90s, there was little justice” for victims of sexual assault, she said. “All the things that should have been done to get her justice while she was alive didn’t even happen.”

Although Arlington officials have said they lack the legal authority to remove Chabrol, farmers and others are unhappy with that response. She hopes the military’s senior leaders — or even the commander-in-chief — will be forced to intervene. And in support of that effort, Navy veterans who knew Harrington are telling their story for the first time in more than 30 years.

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Harrington was 27 when her lifeless body was discovered curled up in a rug at Chabrol’s Virginia Beach home. According to news reports from the time and later historical accounts, the 34-year-old harbored a grudge against Harrington for complaining to superiors about his intimidating and unwelcome behavior.

Despite the allegations, Navy leaders allowed Chabrol to leave military service without facing serious professional consequences. He immediately got to work planning what trial testimonies described in diary entries as “Operation Nemesis,” and on July 9, 1991, he took Harrington to his home and handcuffed her to a bed. She managed to free one of her hands and hit Chabrol as hard as she could in a last ditch effort to survive. He “freaked out” and strangled her.

Farmer had served as an advocate for sexual assault survivors in addition to her other military duties. She learned of Chabrol’s case in 2018, a few years after she retired from the Navy, and although they didn’t know each other, she said the case felt personal to her.

Farmer first started an online petition for the exhumation of Chabrol’s remains. When it failed to gain momentum, she wrote to Arlington National Cemetery. The army that runs the facility has never responded.

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That The 2020 killing of 20-year-old Vanessa Guillén, an Army specialist, renewed Farmer’s resolve, she said. Guillén, who reported being sexually harassed before she disappeared from Fort Hood, Texas, has become a symbol of the military’s overall failure to support victims of sexual assault and ensure their abusers are held accountable.

Earlier this year, Farmer was contacted in response to a new letter from Renea C. Yates, director of the Pentagon’s Bureau of Army Cemeteries. Yates informed her that a law allowing the Army and the Department of Veterans Affairs to reconsider burials only applies to those occurring after it was passed in 2013.

Farmer balked at the statement. “If the [defense secretary] is an advocate for sexual assault prevention, would he be able to find a solution to honor the hundreds of thousands of women who have served who have been victims of sexual assault so that the perpetrator is not buried on our premises? you said. “Because they are our Reasons.”

While Arlington National Cemetery is short of space and has burial privileges largely limited to military retirees, recipients of certain awards, and those killed in the line of duty, most veterans with at least one day of service and an honorable discharge can have their ashes interred in the graveyard.

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Historically, efforts to restrict eligibility for burial in Arlington have been narrowly limited. It was not until 1997, after the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing by Army veteran Timothy McVeigh, that legislation was passed prohibiting veterans who committed federal crimes from being buried there. The 2013 Review Act, known as the Alicia Dawn Koehl Respect for National Cemeteries Act, was passed with a special provision allowing the exhumation of Michael L. Anderson, a veteran accused of killing Koehl in 2012, but had not been sentenced prior to his burial at Fort Custer National Cemetery in Michigan.

A spokesman for Arlington National Cemetery, John David Harlow, confirmed that the army had no authority to exhume the remains of those buried there before the law was passed, saying only close relatives of the deceased could make such a request. It is not known, he added, if any of the other 250,000 people buried in Arlington before December 2013 also committed felonies.

Robert Taber, Chabrol’s brother-in-law and one of his last surviving family members, said in an interview that he had no plans to seek exhumation. “I like where he is myself,” Taber said, “and I don’t want to change anything. Because he earned it with his military service.”

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Even without a clear path forward, more people who knew Harrington – she is buried in Forest Lawn Cemetery near her home in Norfolk – now support a review of the Chabrol case. Joe Harrington, Melissa’s widower and Navy veteran, did not know the circumstances of the killer’s funeral until he was approached last year by the co-author of a forthcoming book about death row inmates.

In “Crossing the River Styx,” co-written by Todd C. Peppers, death row chaplain Russ Ford calls Chabrol “fundamentally evil and beyond redemption.” He describes watching Chabrol Beam with pride and satisfaction when, shortly before his execution in 1993, he received word from the Navy that he would be buried in Arlington.

“National honor has put the demonic in high spirits,” wrote Ford. “This monster would rest among heroes.”

yeah Harrington said he was stunned to learn where Chabrol was buried. “A good friend of mine, who was also my division officer years ago, was over in Vietnam and was shot,” said Harrington, now 63. “He was a hero. He was a warrior. And he’s in Arlington, and it just pisses me off that Chabrol could be there.”

Navy veterans who knew Melissa Harrington remain haunted by her death. Nancy Walsh, who served with her aboard the submarine service ship LY Spear before Harrington transferred to a Navy test unit in Norfolk, described how she worked in a place where sexual assault was so rampant that women often too Walked around in pairs, looking out for each other for safety. Walsh recalls the devastation she felt upon learning of Harrington’s murder.

“Gosh, she would give you the shirt off her back; she would do anything for you,” she said. “And I just couldn’t believe it.”

Walsh said she learned of Chabrol’s funeral circumstances 10 or 15 years ago. “At first I thought he was buried in the same cemetery that she was buried in — that really made me cry,” she said. “But then they told me it was Arlington and I was like, wait a minute, how can you deserve that?”

In another unit, Harrington served with Kevin Gouveia, a sailor to whom she confided her concerns about Chabrol’s intentions. Gouveia helped her report Chabrol, he said, and was dismayed when the Navy did little to address the situation, calling the Arlington funeral “a slap in the face”.

“It took me a long time to try to move on because the death of Melissa hit me really, really hard,” Gouveia said. “I was very upset at the time because I hadn’t done more to try to protect her.”

Farmer said she hopes the publication of Harrington’s story will inspire those with influence to take an interest in her cause. “Maybe there’s a rule or something standing in our way,” she said. “Usually we try to find a solution: Okay, how can we do the right thing?

“But there doesn’t seem to be an appetite here for doing the right thing.”

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