Jury deliberates whether former cop lied about Purple Heart

A Cherokee County jury is trying to decide whether a former cop who claimed to have a Purple Heart battle medal is really telling the truth.

The jury deliberations come four years after a FOX 5 I-Team investigation poked holes in Shane Ladner’s original war wound story.

Ladner faces one count of lying to investigators and six counts of lying to the county tax commissioner so he could get a tax free license plate for his pickup. The total amount of money he saved was not significant, about $500, but it was the idea of publicly pretending to be a war hero for years, and getting a free, yet tragic, hunting trip to Texas, that authorities say justifies his prosecution.

In April 2013, the FOX 5 I-Team revealed Ladner was still in high school when he claimed to be injured in battle. After that, his story changed. Instead of being wounded in the Invasion of Panama, Ladner insisted he was hit by grenade shrapnel in January 1991 during a top secret jungle mission. He even produced a 2004 document that appeared to be a military record listing a Purple Heart.

But an Army records specialist testified that Purple Heart document does not exist anywhere in Ladner’s official military files, no record of a Purple Heart anywhere she looked. And a series of Army doctors and the former base commander testified there were no battle wounds or Purple Hearts for anyone at the Cano Soto Air Base in Honduras where Ladner was stationed.

Medical records at the time noted nothing about a shrapnel wound, just minor, routine ailments.

“You know Shane Ladner is both a liar and a conman,” chief assistant district attorney Rachelle Carnesale pointedly told the jury, calling Ladner a liar several times during her closing argument.

Ladner used that Purple Heart document to get a tax free license plate for five years, and showed it to investigators when they asked him about his war story.

Prosecutors played his interview with Cherokee County sheriff’s investigators, describing how his shrapnel wound left him unconscious.

“A few days later I woke up and there was a Purple Heart pinned to my pillow,” he explained.

Yet, during the trial, Ladner produced no witnesses who remembered seeing his Purple Heart medal, lost he insisted when Hurricane Katrina hit his mother’s Mississippi home. Even Ladner’s wife Meg admitted she never saw the medal.

“I believe everything he said,” she testified last week, still confined to a wheelchair after losing a leg in the train accident. “I didn’t spent 10 years married to a man that was a lie.”

Many of Meg’s family members blame Ladner for the injuries she still suffers today. They testified if he had not lied about his war story, he would never have been chosen for that free Texas hunting trip, the couple would not have been on that parade float when train struck it head on, traveling 68 miles an hour.

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