Service scheduled for former soldier killed for 'cooperating with police'

Michael Vanlandingham. (Funeral home photo)
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COPPERAS COVE, Texas (KWTX) A memorial service has been scheduled for Army veteran Michael Vanlandingham, 30, of Copperas Cove who was shot to death and then burned because his killer’s suspected “he was cooperating with police.”

Firefighters found Vanlandingham’s burned body on Sept. 17 after dousing a brush fire off FM 1670 near U.S. Highway 190/Interstate 14 just west of Belton.

He had been shot twice in the head.

A memorial service for Vanlandingham begins at 10 a.m. Oct. 11 at Crawford-Bowers funeral home at 211 West Avenue B in Copperas Cove.

Burial will follow at 1 p.m. at the Central Texas State Veterans Cemetery at 11463 State Highway 195 in Killeen.

His family is asking that donations be made for the services.

Two men are in custody in connection with what police said was a drug-related murder.

Owen Thomas Free III, 37, who’s also known as “Tommy Knocker,” and Dana Francis Walcott, 39, were arrested on warrants charging murder/intends serious bodily injured causing death in connection with the deadly shooting.

Free and Walcott remained in the Bell County Jail Friday charged now with murder.

Their bonds were set at $1 million each.

The property on which the victim's body was found is known as “The Compound” and drug activity has occurred in the area, authorities said.

According to an arrest warrant affidavit released Thursday, a resident who lived on the property told investigators that three men had come to his trailer earlier in the day on Sept. 17.

He said he knew the three only as Tommy, Dana and Mike, but through a photo lineup, the man later identified Tommy as Owen Free and Dana as Dana Walcott, the affidavit says.

He did not know Mike, the affidavit says.

“Tommy asked for his help,” the affidavit says.

The man told investigators he while he was dressing in order to assist Tommy, he heard a gunshot.

“He then left his trailer and walked to the back of the property where he observed male clothing on the road and smoke coming from a burn pit,” the affidavit says.

The resident told investigators he saw a human body in the burn pit, the affidavit says.

The man told deputies “that ‘Tommy’ had told him they had brought Mike from a local hotel to ‘the compound’ to kill him and that they did so because they suspected he was cooperating with police,” the affidavit said.

A surveillance video obtained from the hotel where Vanlandingham was staying showed Free and Walcott escorting a man from a room whose hands appeared to be restrained, the affidavit said.

Hotel records and the vehicle associated with the room showed that Vanlandingham was that man, the affidavit says.