Details of Disappearance
Muns was an Ensign in the United States Navy in 1968. He is originally from New Jersey and joined the armed forces after graduating from Gettysburg College. Muns was the new payroll officer aboard the USS Cacapon, a refueling ship based at Subic Bay in the Philippines. The naval station was a forward staging area for United States forces during the Vietnam War.
Muns was last seen aboard the Cacapon on January 17, 1968. He has never been heard from again. Investigators learned that $8,600 was missing from the ship's safe shortly after Muns disappeared. Authorities believed that he stole the money, as Muns was allowed access to the funds in his capacity as paymaster. The Navy labeled Muns a deserter and closed their investigation into his case in 1968.
Muns's family never believed the authorities' determination in his disappearance. His loved ones stated that it would have been completely uncharacteristic of Muns to steal and vanish from sight. He was described as an adventurous and friendly young man.
Muns's relatives had him declared legally deceased in New Jersey in 1976, eight years after he vanished. The Navy refused to allow an American flag to be draped over an empty casket at Muns's private memorial service at that time, stating that he had been classified as a deserter and the privilege was reserved for officers who had been honorably discharged.
Muns's sister eventually turned to the Internet for assistance in her brother's disappearance in the mid-1990s. She posted a message on a Vietnam veterans' bulletin board online, asking crew members of the Cacapon in 1968 to contact her. One of the former officers responded to her plea and agreed that it was unlikely Muns stole the money and disappeared of his own accord.
Muns's sister researched his case again shortly thereafter and pointed out that $51,000 remained inside the Cacapon's safe after Muns disappeared. It made little sense for Muns to have taken only $8,600 of the full amount and vanish.
The case was reopened by the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) cold case unit in 1998, thirty years after Muns disappeared. Authorities interviewed many of the Cacapon's former crew members and learned that many of them never believed Muns left the ship of his own free will. Investigators began leaning towards the possibility that foul play was involved in Muns's case.
Michael Edward LeBrun served as a petty officer alongside Muns on the Cacapon in 1968. LeBrun was also one of the first individuals to suggest that Muns had stolen the money at the time of the initial investigation. LeBrun worked in the dispersing office with Muns in January 1968 and also had access to the ship's safe.
LeBrun was a real estate salesman in Greenwood, Missouri when authorities located him in the late 1990s. He confessed to Muns's murder during a videotaped interview session with investigators.
He said that Muns caught him stealing the $8,600 from the safe and he strangled and beat Muns to death in the dispersing office to cover up his crime. He claimed he disposed of Muns's remains and all the money in one of the Cacapon's fuel oil tanks. The tanks had been searched about a week after Muns vanished and nothing was found.
A grand jury indicted LeBrun for Muns's murder in March 2001. LeBrun spent the next four and a half years trying to keep his confession out of evidence; it was disallowed and then reinstated several times. In September 2005, shortly before jury selection in his trial was about to begin, LeBrun admitted the confession was true and pleaded guilty to manslaughter in connection with Muns's case. He was sentenced to four years in prison.
Muns was given full military honors at a memorial service in Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia in June 2001. A ceremonial casket was draped with an American flag and Muns was no longer classified as a deserter. A headstone was placed at the burial grounds in Muns's memory.
While Muns disappeared in the Philippines, the Charley Project is profiling his case due to his American citizenship and to the special circumstances involved.