A man accused of murder in April 2019 led the House Judiciary Committee in the Pledge of Allegiance on Wednesday, raising the ire of the family of the man who died.

Corey Ryan Beekman, a retired staff sergeant for the Michigan Army National Guard, led the pledge while wearing his military dress clothes during the committee’s hearing at the invitation of U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Florida.

Beekman was accused of the murder of Billy Buchanan on April 16, 2019, in Free Soil Township. He was also accused of shooting Katlin Buck at that time. Then-Mason County Prosecuting Attorney Paul Spaniola tried in vain to get Buck to testify in the circuit court trial of Beekman, but she refused. Without her testimony, both Spaniola and his successor, Lauren Kreinbrink, did not want to move forward because they felt they would not get a conviction. The charges were dismissed.

The family of Billy Buchanan learned that Beekman led the pledge on Thursday, and they began to contact each other and authorities about how much it hurt to see Beekman — now a resident of Pensacola, Florida — honored in the video posted by Gaetz’s office.

“Several months ago, I noticed someone on the representative’s staff presented (Beekman) with (a medal),” said Hannah Buchanan, who married Billy Buchanan’s nephew. “That’s when it kind of started.

“Thursday, we noticed two videos (go) up. There is one of Matt Gaetz talking about the Pledge of Allegiance and having Corey lead it,” Hannah Buchanan of LaPorte, Indiana, said. “There’s another video, and it’s Matt Gaetz asking (Beekman) say what freedom means to him. It’s in the video. Matt explains Corey’s whole life and he mentions specific years.

“He skips 2019. He talks all about the amazing things Corey did.

“Disgusting, honestly.”

Denita Buchanan of Mears, Bill’s mother, learned about the videos from Hannah.

“Nobody wanted us to actually see it,” she said.

But she did — finding the videos on social media — and then she began reaching out via social media to Gaetz’s office.

The videos were shared by Gaetz’s office on YouTube and Twitter.

“I was pretty much defending us and putting him down and sending messages to Matt the Rat,” Denita Buchanan said. “I put it right on his Facebook. He should have done more investigating before pulling some idiot off the street.”

The Daily News reached out to Gaetz’s office via telephone for comment and left a message Friday afternoon. It was not returned.

Both Buchanans say they left multiple messages with Gaetz’s office, but they were not returned.

“I have left message after message,” Hannah Buchanan said. “At first, I told him you didn’t do your research. … Then I told him we’re going to the media with it. I’ve been in contact with a ton of news stations in Chicago and Pensacola (where Gaetz’s district is).

“Because I’m an avid supporter of our military, I think there’s plenty of true American heroes who can do it and not someone who has an open murder charge hanging over their head at any minute.”

The Buchanans, though, reached out to several officials, from the Mason County Sheriff’s Office to federal legislators to the governor’s office in Florida.

“Obviously, my opinion is a bit jaded,” Mason County Sheriff Kim Cole said. It was Cole’s office that led the investigation into the murder of Buchanan. “I wish the representative had done a Google search or background check.

“It would be a huge honor to give the Pledge of Allegiance. I think there are far more veterans deserving than Corey Beekman.

“The family has a right to be upset.”

Hannah Buchanan said she was asked to email a complaint to the Office for Congressional Ethics, and she plans to compile the various news reports about the death of her husband’s uncle to submit.

The Managing Editor for the Ludington Daily News since June 2018 and on the staff since Oct. 2011, taking over for legendary Lloyd Wallace. Previously with The Chippewa Herald in Chippewa Falls, Wis., and the Tuscola County Advertiser in Caro.