89-year-old man found in suitcase in Ark. field ID'ed as WWII vet

Virginia Colvin and Michael Stiver.


LITTLE ROCK, Ark. -- An 89-year-old man whose body was discovered in a large suitcase on a rural Arkansas farm was a World War II veteran from New York, police say.

Robert Brooks died of natural causes at his home about a month before his body was discovered in a Prairie County field on March 5, Lt. David Gilbo of the Johnstown, New York, Police Department told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

“He was a war hero who could have been buried at the (Arlington) National Cemetery,” Gilbo said. “Instead, he ends up in a suitcase dumped in a field in Arkansas.” 

Gilbo said investigators are still trying to determine why his body was moved. His body was transported more than 1,000 miles from upstate New York to Arkansas.

Police said Brooks, who was 4 feet 11 inches tall, wasn’t dismembered. 

Investigators are looking at whether his caregivers hid the death to continue receiving Social Security payments.

Virginia Colvin and Michael Stivers were charged with abuse of a corpse after they allegedly drove 19 hours in a pickup truck from Johnstown, New York to Des Arc, Arkansas, where police say they dumped the elderly man’s body in a rice field, the Northwest Arkansas Democrat Gazette reported on March 10. 

The couple was living with the man in a Johnstown, New York home and acting as his caregivers, according to the paper and CBS affiliate WRGB.

In New York, abuse of a corpse is punishable by three years in prison, while in Arkansas it is punishable by 10 years. 

Brooks served in the military and was a gunner in a B-17 bomber’s ball turret.

“It’s the most dangerous assignment in war,” Prairie County Sheriff Rick Hickman said. “The 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.”