Can Brian Walshe be convicted without a body? Experts have THIS to say on missing Ana Walshe's case

Can Brian Walshe be convicted without a body? Experts have THIS to say on missing Ana Walshe's case
Brian Walshe has been charged with the murder of his wife Ana Walshe (YouTube Screenshot/CBS Boston, Facebook/Ana Walshe)

COHASSET, MASSACHUSETTS: Brian Walshe, the husband of missing Massachusetts mom Ana Walshe, has been charged by prosecutors in connection with his wife's death. Ana was last seen in the early hours of January 1. She was reported missing by her employer on January 4 after she failed to appear at work in Washington, DC.

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Evidence against Brian, including a list of Google searches he conducted, seem to suggest that he might have murdered her before dismembering her body. Some of his searches included, “How long before a body starts to smell? How to stop a body from decomposing? How to clean blood from the wooden floor? Can you be charged with murder without a body?” As investigators try to find more detail pertaining to the case, a former Washington, DC, prosecutor has reportedly said that the lack of a body is a disadvantage for prosecutors, however, they can still secure a conviction. 

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Can Brian Walshe be convicted without a body?

Thomas “Tad” DiBiase, a former federal prosecutor, who specializes in “no body” murder cases, recently told New York Post that the lack of a victim's body creates an added layer of challenge for prosecutors because “when you don’t have a body, you don’t have the best piece of evidence in a murder case.” In the case of Ana's disappearance, based on all the circumstantial evidence that has been released up till now, most experts see very little possibility of finding a body. 

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The major pieces of evidence against Brian include a hacksaw that was reportedly recovered from garbage in a dumpster near the Swampscott home of his mother, Diana, and a damaged knife with bloodstains recovered from the basement of Ana's Cohasset residence. Brian also reportedly googled 'how to dispose of a 115-pound woman's body' in the days surrounding his wife's disappearance. Additionally, video evidence showed Brian spending $450 on cleaning products at a Home Depot. 

Los Angeles Magazine quoted law enforcement sources with direct knowledge of the investigation as saying that Walshe's phone pinged at two waste and recycling facilities where incinerators are utilized, one in Abington and one in Brockton, close to the Walshe family’s estate in Cohasset. The lack of a body, as per DiBiase, creates a massive challenge for prosecutors because apart from trying to prove that the defendant committed a heinous crime, prosecutors also need to concretely prove that the victim is indeed deceased.

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However, despite the challenges in a "no body" murder case, a research by DiBiase found that “no body” murder cases have a conviction rate of 86% when they go to trial, which is higher than the 70% national conviction rate for all murder cases. In homicide cases where a body has not been found, convicting a suspect depends heavily on the legal principle of "corpus delicti," which literally translates to "body of the crime."

As per the Cornell Law School, "In modern practice, corpus delicti requires that the government have enough evidence showing that the essential parts of a crime occurred before they can even charge an individual...Much litigation arises on exactly how much corroborating evidence must show a crime actually occurred before corpus delicti is satisfied and rules vary based on the jurisdiction and the nature of the case." 

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Given the mountain of circumstantial evidence against Brian, including DNA from both Ana and Brian found on a pair of bloody slippers, the Tyvek body suit uncovered at the Peabody trash transfer site, and his incriminating Google searches, the likelihood of his conviction remains high. Noting that the evidence against Bryan is “very valuable, very damning,”  DiBiase told New York Post, “this is a strong case. This is a very difficult case for him to get out of at this point. My hope is that he would actually plead guilty.”

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