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▣ Good a"Baby Kate" no-body murder case and no-body murder cases in general

posted by Admin on November 11th, 2016 at 12:32 PM

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Case was tried by No-Body Murder Hall of Famer Donna Pendergast.

Jessica Heeringa and Baby Kate: Why 'no body' murder cases are difficult

Muskegon County Prosecutor DJ Hilson announces charges in the homicide of Jessica Heeringa during a press conference in September. Law enforcement has not yet found Heeringa's body. (Joel Bissell | MLive file photo)
Joel Bissell | jbissell@mlive.com
Eric Gaertner | egaertne@mlive.com By Eric Gaertner | egaertne@mlive.com

on October 20, 2016 at 7:55 AM, updated October 20, 2016 at 9:50 AM

MUSKEGON, MI "No body" or missing-body homicide cases are widely considered some of the most difficult to prosecute.

First off, the prosecutor needs to convince the judge and the jury that a death has actually occurred and that a criminal act led to the death.

If he or she can't make those parts of his or her case clear with the other evidence, then the judge or jury could acquit.

Two high-profile "no body" murder cases in West Michigan are currently in the midst of the court process.

Jeffrey Willis, an accused serial killer, is charged with murder in the "no body" investigation of Jessica Heeringa, a mother who was allegedly abducted from a Norton Shores gas station on April 26, 2013. Muskegon County Prosecutor DJ Hilson recently filed murder charges against Willis in the Heeringa case, and a motion by the defense to close the preliminary examination to the public is expected to be heard soon. The motion hearing initially was scheduled for Wednesday, Oct. 19, but it has since been postponed.

Sean Phillips, 26, was found guilty of second-degree murder of his infant daughter by a jury verdict rendered Friday, Oct. 14. Katherine Phillips, or Baby Kate, was last seen at age 4 months old on June 29, 2011. Sean Phillips will be sentenced at a later date.

In these cases, which have each received national attention, investigators have yet to locate a body.

Anthony Dillof, associate professor of law at Wayne State University, said the thinking among some used to be that you couldn't have a homicide prosecution if you didn't have a body. They based that thinking on Corpus Delecti, a Latin term meaning the "body of the crime."

However, prosecutors are bringing "no body" cases to trial and winning in some cases. Dillof said the legal community now interprets Corpus Delicti to refer to proof needed that a crime took place beyond an alleged confession rather than having the actual body in a murder case.

"Other than that, there's no legal obstacle," he said.

The practical obstacles, on the other hand, provide the challenges in a "no body" murder prosecution.

For more:MLive.com

Posted by Thomas A. (Tad) DiBiase, The No Body Guy
 

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