HOBART, Ind. (WBBM/STMW) – The northwest Indiana man criticized for not returning the personal effects of a fallen Marine sergeant says he is trying to get hold of the sergeant’s family, but without success.

LISTEN: Newsradio 780’s Mary Frances Bragiel Reports.

Mark Perko tells Newsradio 780 that he’s ready to turn over the funeral flag, dog tags, and medals and other items on Wednesday.

“I tried reaching him numerous times last night, so I have no idea.”

Perko is talking about Matthew Winters, the brother of Marine Sgt.Jeannette Winters of Gary, Indiana.

Sgt. Winters was killed in the war in Afghanistan when a tanker plane hit a mountain in Pakistan near the Afghan border in January 2002. She was the first female Marine to die in a combat zone
Winters found out about his sister’s items being sold to Perko and asked for them back for free, only to told by Perko that he would return them for a fee.

“I would at least like to have my money back because… I felt I shouldn’t be out of the money, you know,” Perko told Newsradio 780.

The Lake Station man has since had a change of heart, and says he will now hand over the items for free and take the loss.

“I just want them to go to the right place,” Perko said. “I will take a loss on the items.”

Perko, who says he has been pressured over the belongings, had planned to cash in on the items. Perko purchased the former property of Winters from a storage unit after payments were missed on it at least four years ago.

Because of pressure over Perko’s original plan to profit off of the soldier’s collections, the businessman also had said he didn’t feel safe returning to his furniture outlet store in Lake Station after the story broke.

The Winters family said they put the items in a storage unit for safekeeping after someone broke into a family home during her funeral in 2002.

But her father became ill years later and missed payments. Its contents were purchased by Perko, who said he makes several purchases from storage units each year.

(TM and © Copyright 2010 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS Radio and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2010 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. The Sun-Times Media Wire contributed to this report.)

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