One of the many disturbing questions prosecutors said Brian Walshe searched the internet in the days after he reported last seeing his wife, Ana Walshe, was: «Can they charge him with murder without a body?»

History shows that, yes, a defendant can be charged and convicted of murder even in the absence of a body, as long as there is enough circumstantial evidence for a jury to infer that the victim is dead and the defendant is guilty.

Without a body, «the prosecution can present a theory and line up all the circumstantial evidence to support that theory, and the defense doesn’t get the benefit of all the evidence that you get with a body, which is blood, DNA, where it was located, everything.» what comes with the evidence that comes with the body,» said Danny Cevallos, legal analyst for NBC News.

If prosecutors couldn’t win murder convictions without the evidence that a dead body offers, «you would be encouraging people to hide bodies and rewarding people who are successful at that,» added Cevallos, a defense attorney who once represented a customer. convicted of murder in a case where no body was recovered.

Image: Brian Walshe, center, listens during his arraignment on January 18, 2023, in Quincy District Court, in Quincy, Massachusetts, on the charge of murdering his wife Ana Walshe.
Brian Walshe, center, listens to his arraignment Wednesday in Quincy District Court in Quincy, Massachusetts, on the charge of murdering his wife, Ana Walshe.Craig F. Walker/The Boston Globe via AP, Pool

The remains of 39-year-old Ana Walshe, who was last seen around New Year’s Day, have not been recovered.

Brian Walshe has been charged in her death and has pleaded not guilty. He is being held without bail.

More about the disappearance of Ana Walshe

Norfolk County Assistant District Attorney Lynn Beland said in Quincy District Court on Wednesday that investigators found the couple’s DNA, along with a covid vaccination card from Ana Walshe and a hacksaw. , shears, and an axe, in garbage bags in a dumpster at the home of Brian Walshe’s mother. apartment complex in Swampscott, about 40 miles north of Cohasset, where they lived.

Investigators have said they found blood and a blood-damaged knife in the basement of Walshe’s home.

In court, the prosecutor also revealed the Google searches Walshe is accused of running on his son’s iPad, including: «how long before a body starts to smell», «how to prevent a body from decomposing «, «how to bandage a body,» «10 ways to dispose of a dead body if you really need it,» «how long until someone is left to inherit» and «can you throw away the body parts?»

Anna Walshe.
Anna Walshe.via Cohasset Police

Prosecutors also said that Brian Walshe sought on December 27 “what is the best state to divorce a man” and that “instead of divorcing, Brian Walshe is believed to have dismembered Ana Walshe and disposed of her body,” they said. Beland.

Brian Walshe’s attorney, Tracy Miner, said in a statement that the media «has already tried and convicted Mr. Walshe.»

“It is easy to accuse a crime and even easier to say that a person committed that crime. It is a much more difficult thing to prove, that we will see if the prosecution can do it. I am not going to comment on the evidence, first because I am going to deal with this case in court and not in the media. Secondly, because the prosecution has not provided me with any evidence,» the statement said.

Conviction history for murder of ‘nobody’

History appears to be on the side of the prosecution, too: The district attorney’s office that prosecuted Walshe also obtained the first manless murder conviction in state history, according to a spokesperson for the Norfolk District Attorney’s Office and reports. news of the time.

In that 2002 case, which appears to bear similarities to the Walshe case, Joseph Romano was found guilty of fatally beating and dismembering his wife, Katherine Romano. The Associated Press reported.

Katherine Romano’s body was never found, but physical evidence was discovered in the saw that prosecutors say was used to dismember her, the AP reported.

Joseph Romano suggested that his wife was murdered by drug dealers to whom he owed money. He was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. He is 65 and remains incarcerated, a spokesman for the prosecutor’s office said.

Lawyers for Joseph Romano filed an appeal of the conviction in 2006, but it was denied based on the strength of circumstantial evidence, court records show.

«Although the wife’s body was never found, forensic evidence provided a broad basis from which a jury could conclude that she suffered a violent death in the couple’s home,» the court wrote, citing blood fragments, bones and tissues, DNA evidence and the statement of Joseph Romano. «lack of medical help».

The country’s first murder conviction without a body came decades earlier, in California in 1957, at the trial of Leonard Ewing Scott, who was convicted of killing his wife, Evelyn Throsby Scott. according to an AP report published after his death in 1987.

Evelyn Throsby Scott’s body was never found, but her false teeth, glasses and other personal items were found near an incinerator in the couple’s backyard.

Leonard Ewing Scott denied killing his wife and was sentenced to life in prison before being released in 1978 after serving 21 years. Diane Wagner, author of a book on the case, «Corpus Delicti,» named after a legal principle who holds that no one should be convicted of a crime without evidence that it occurred—claimed that Leonard Ewing Scott confessed to the murder and that he buried his wife in the Nevada desert.

In another high-profile «nobody» case, Tom Capano, a prominent Delaware businessman, was found guilty in 1999 and sentenced to death for murdering an aide to the then-governor. Tom Carper, according to the daily news of Wilmington. Although his death sentence was later overturned, he died in jail.

Challenges remain for the prosecution

The prosecution still has to make and prove its case.

In terms of evidence, an Internet search history «can be controversial,» Cevallos said, since it requires prosecutors to pick examples that fit their theory of the circumstances surrounding the murder.

The defense could also argue, Cevallos said, that “no matter how much circumstantial evidence the state has, how can they prove beyond a reasonable doubt how this happened when they can’t even prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the person is dead? ”.

But Cevallos predicted that if a defense team tries to suggest that Ana Walshe may not be dead, that’s not «going to fly with a jury, they’re going to get mad.»

“A mother and her wife vanish into thin air, they don’t take any of their stuff, and a ton of blood is found? You are going to get a conviction,” she added.

The Walshes have three children, ages 2, 4 and 6.

And the lack of a body most likely won’t serve as a mitigating factor in sentencing, Cevallos said: «A murder conviction is a murder conviction.»

Brian Walshe’s lawyer asked the court Wednesday to release him from custody, where he has been since his arrest on January 8 on charges of misleading an investigation, which the judge denied.

A status hearing via Zoom has been scheduled for February 9.