It took more than four decades for U.S. military officials to finally locate Marine Cpl. Robert Daniel Corriveau of Lawrence and determine he was a murder victim and not a deserter.
Corriveau was less than a month shy of his 21st birthday back on Nov. 18, 1968 when he vanished from a locked psychiatric ward at the Philadelphia Naval Hospital. Officials declared him as A.W.O.L. (absent without official leave).
The deserter classification stuck for 43 years until DNA testing positively identified Cpl. Corriveau as the “John Doe,” whose body was discovered by a state trooper along the Pennsylvania Turnpike about three hours after hospital officials noticed he was missing.
This week, the Pennsylvania State Police announced they have opened a criminal investigation into the unsolved cold case and are looking for the public’s help. They want to talk with Marines or sailors who may have served with Cpl. Corriveau, and Naval personnel or patients who were present at the Philadelphia Naval Hospital in October and November of 1968.
“He was a war hero — not a deserter,” Virginia Cleary, 58, of North Conway, N.H., said in a telephone interview yesterday.
“My brother survived being wounded in Vietnam three times only to come home and be murdered on the streets of Pennsylvania. He wasn’t a draft dodger. He wasn’t somebody who burned his draft card,” Cleary said.
“He volunteered. He went into the Marines at 17 1/2. He had to get a consensual signature in order to join. I never believed my brother was a deserter,” said Cleary, whose persistent efforts to search for her brother and clear his name were actually motivated 20 years ago, when she went on a website only to find her brother listed as a deserter.
“I explained to them that he had been gone since 1968 and I wanted to get some records so I would be able to go forward and try to determine what happened to my brother,” she said. “Some tried to be cooperative. But they didn’t want to release any information without a death certificate.”