Psychiatrist Robert Browne, Hawaii, might get kicked out of cemetary

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Hawaii News
He sexually abused dozens of Hawaii boys over decades. And he’s buried at Punchbowl
July 6th 2018
By HNN Staff

Psychiatrist Robert Brown

Psychiatrist Robert Brown

Among the 55,000 service members laid to rest at the National Cemetery of the Pacific at Punchbowl is a child predator: Dr. Robert McCormick Browne.

Those who were abused by the prominent psychiatrist, take issue that Punchbowl is his final resting place.

“For me, I don’t think he belongs there,” said Alika Bajo, who was sexually abused by Browne in the 1970s at the age of 13. “That’s where true heroes get buried.”

Browne’s body rests in plot S-977, next to his parents. He was an Army captain during World War II, and became a prominent psychiatrist.

Over 30 years, between the 1950s and 1980s, Browne treated boys who were referred to him by Kamehameha Schools. Dozens of them were molested in Browne’s office, which was downhill from the Alewa Heights campus.

Earlier this year, an $80 million settlement was reached between the school and 32 plaintiffs, including Bajo.

“He’s not a hero, he’s not my hero,” he said.

Laws currently in place could have prevented his honorable burial at Punchbowl. Those laws were meant to keep suspected murderers and rapists out of veterans cemeteries, even if they were never convicted of a crime.

But they weren’t in place after Browne committed suicide in 1991, when he found out his crimes were going to be made public.

“I hold a lot of anger towards him. That’s not going to go away,” said Malia Marquez, whose late brother was also sexually abused by Dr. Browne while at Kamehameha.

Marquez said her brother, Tony Lum, never told anyone until just months before his death. That’s when she knew that his years of substance abuse and homelessness was the result of the secret he kept for decades.

Marquez said Browne doesn’t deserve the honor of being in such a prestigious burial ground. A place where Boy Scouts place lei to honor the dead and where American flags wave above each gravesite on Memorial Day.

But there are only two ways Dr. Browne’s remains can be removed from Punchbowl to make room for another, more deserving veteran: His own family would have to request it, or an act of Congress, which has happened before.

In 2013, The Alicia Dawn Koehl Respect for National Cemeteries Act was passed. It was named after the Indiana woman who was killed by an Army veteran, who committed suicide before he could be convicted.

The law, introduced by congressional leaders in Koehl’s home state, allowed the Department of Veterans Affairs to disinter her killer.

Hawaii News Now did contact Hawaii’s congressional delegation. All four declined comment.