Body of Navy sailor from South Deerfield killed in Virginia returns home

Franklin County

SOUTH DEERFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – It was a sad and somber homecoming on Tuesday for a woman from South Deerfield who was killed in a double murder-suicide in Virginia on May 4. 

Family, friends, and community members gathered as Meaghan Burns’ casket was carried off a plane, then escorted back home to South Deerfield.  

Deerfield, Longmeadow, and Whately police departments helped bring the 23-year-old back to her hometown in South Deerfield, though not the way her family ever imagined. Burns’ escort back home began at 8 p.m.  

“The whole thing has me very speechless – all of us,” said Tiffany Burns-Gherlone, Meaghan’s cousin. 

Burns-Gherlone and other family members rode in the procession that started at Bradley International Airport and then took the 45-minute drive up I-91 to South Deerfield.  

Born in Springfield on August 25, 1995, Burns moved with her family to South Deerfield in 2004. She attended Deerfield Elementary and was a graduate of Frontier Regional High School. 

Burns was serving as a corpsman at the Portsmouth Naval Medical Center in Virginia, when she and 19-year-old Shianne Soles of Verdale, Washington, were killed on May 4. 

Police were called to a 7-Eleven on Effingham Street around 11:30 p.m. that Saturday, for a shooting involving the two women. Burns and Soles were both found with gunshot wounds to the torso. Police also found a man dead inside a vehicle in the parking lot of a nearby Dollar General store. 

The young Navy corpsman is survived by her parents, Carolyn and Mathew. She also leaves behind a younger sister. 

“Thankful for people who standing on the side of the in cold tonight for my cousin,” Burns-Gherlone told 22News. 

Many of the people who came out to show their respect came holding signs and American flags, including one of Meaghan’s former school teachers, who brought her family. 

“I think you don’t realize how many lives you touch when something like this [happens and people] come out to support you,” said Burns-Gherlone. 

Meaghan’s cousin said community support is helping them through their grief. “It’s been the only comfort.” 

A vigil has been scheduled for Wednesday night at St. James and St. Andrew’s Church in Greenfield. 

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