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Family honors son during first birthday celebration since his murder

Michael VanLandingham
Posted at 8:55 PM, Jun 10, 2019
and last updated 2019-06-11 00:00:09-04

BELTON, TX — A Copperas Cove family awaits answers after their son was murdered in September.

Michael VanLandingham’s loved ones celebrated the first birthday since he was killed last year.

“We rented a big sign out on Copperas Cove put his name up there and let everyone know it’s his birthday and that he was our hero, and he is missed and loved very dearly,” said Wayne Rourke, his father.

They also brought balloons signed with special messages for Michael.

VanLandingham was found shot and burned in a pit near the FM 1670 in Belton in September 2018.

Dana Francis Walcott and Owen Free III are facing charges in connection to the shooting death.

Their trial date was slated for the day before Michael’s birthday, June 3. The trial has now been rescheduled to Nov. 4.

“We’re still trying to find out why our son was taken from us. And they keep postponing our court hearings and we’re just looking for justice for our son,” said Rourke.

While the trial will not begin until after the anniversary of Michael’s death, the family is treasuring his memory.

VanLandingham was a veteran of the army and was beloved by many. A Presidential Memorial Certificate was issued to his parents for his dedicated service.

Now, a cross near where he was killed, is surrounded by mementos that loved ones have drop off.

“It just really binds us on our hearts and everything. We just want justice for our family,” said Rourke.