Nearly 44 years after a Lawrence Marine was reported missing from a Philadelphia hospital, private investigators and Pennsylvania State Police are asking for the public’s help in determining what led to the man’s murder.
Just before 8 a.m. on Nov. 18, 1968, 20-year-old Corporal Robert Daniel Corriveau was reported missing from the Philadelphia Naval Hospital, where he was receiving psychiatric treatment for a combat-related condition, State Police said.
“He was classified as a deserter for 44 years. For me, that was the most heartbreaking thing I had to go through because I never felt my brother just walked away,” Corriveau’s sister, Virginia Cleary, said Thursday night from her home in Conway, N.H. “He wasn’t this person who would just walk away from his military duty.”
Just hours after Corriveau was reported missing from the hospital, a man’s body was discovered about 30 miles away, along the side of the Pennsylvania Turnpike. The man had been stabbed through the heart, an autopsy revealed, but the body had no identification with it. The man, who had a Marine Corps tattoo on his arm, was considered a John Doe.
“Last October, I received phone call from the Marine Corps Absentee Collection Unit and was asked if I could supply them with information on any tattoos or scars on my brother’s body, and I was able to give them the information,” said Cleary, who was 14 years old when her brother disappeared. “On Dec. 5, I received a call from NCIS [US Naval Criminal Investigative Service] letting me know they were pretty sure that body was my brother’s.”
Corriveau’s body had been exhumed in 2009 when State Police decided to reexamine the missing person case, but a DNA sample did not turn up any matches, authorities said. In May 2012, investigators were able to match his DNA with Cleary’s and positively identify his remains.
Corriveau, who served several tours of duty in Vietnam and received multiple Purple Hearts, was buried in Lawrence after an active duty military funeral last month, Cleary said.
Now, with the help of Pennsylvania State Police and private investigators, Cleary hopes to find out exactly what happened to her brother.
“I have always felt that something happened at Philadelphia Naval Hospital,” Cleary said. “His remains were found in a sitting position, his upper torso was covered in a naval pea coat and typically a Marine does not wear a naval pea coat. His clothes were damp, but his body was dry. The crime scene was not the same location that the body was found.”
John Kelly, a retired New York City police detective lieutenant who Cleary hired to help investigate, said he hopes to find out what happened to Corriveau despite how much time has passed.
“We’re hoping someone who was a nurse or patient at the hospital will come forward, and hope someone at the scene where the body was found will come forward,” he said.
“People had to be going to work or passing by the area at the time. Hopefully someone saw something and will come forward,” he added.
For Cleary, the years of trying to find out what happened to her brother finally gave her some closure.
“On holidays you’re waiting, you don’t know where he is. You could assume he was dead but we had always hoped we would find out,” she said. “People told me I would never find out what happened to my brother but my persistence paid off, you just don’t give up.”
Colin A. Young can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @ColinAYoung.