Murder Conviction When a Body is Not Found

When a victim is presumed dead yet a body is not found, is a murder conviction even possible? This is a question on many southern Utah residents’ minds after a young father went missing under suspicious circumstances and has yet to turn up.

Gone, but not without a trace

Empty Room

Photo by: Brad K.

On June 27th, 2016 30 year old David Corey Heisler went missing from his Santa Clara, Utah home and many in the community are crying “murder”. When Heisler was reported missing, he and his vehicle were nowhere to be found yet his personal belongings such as a wallet and cell phone were still in the home that Heisler shared with his father, step-mother and daughter. He also had a video game on pause, alluding to the fact that he had no intention of leaving home at that time. To create more cause for concern, blood splatter was found throughout the home which indicated that a struggled likely ensued.

Extreme custody battle

During the investigation, police were able to locate three suspects in connection with Heisler’s disappearance. The first was Kelley Marie Perry, who just two weeks prior lost a custody battle for the pair’s 6 year old daughter, Mariah. The second person arrested was Francis Lee McCard, a man who witnesses said was frequently seen with Perry and is described as being strongly built and likely able of effortlessly overpowering Heisler. The third person arrested four days after Perry and McCard is Tammy Renee Freeman who is alleged to be the transportation in the case.

Planned kidnapping

All three individuals arrested have admitted involvement with the suspicious disappearance of David Heisler. Perry and McCard told authorities they surprised Heisler at his home where they physically assaulted him, tossed him in his own car, and drove him out to the desert. When Perry met up with Freeman who had previously dropped the duo off at Heisler’s home, McCard claims he drove Heisler to a secluded area south of the Utah border where he left the victim alive. He then stated to ditching the vehicle and meeting back up with Perry and Freeman. Heisler’s missing vehicle was located by authorities in Beaver Dam, Arizona which is located a mere 34 miles from Heisler’s home yet a considerable distance away from where Heisler was reported to be left. Blood splatter on the car and evidence of a discharged firearm increased concern of Heisler’s well-being, and whether or not he survived the kidnapping.

3 felonies but no murder charge

Photo by: Ian McKeller

Photo by: Ian McKeller

Perry, McCard, and Freeman are all facing charges of first degree felony aggravated burglary, first-degree felony aggravated kidnapping, and second-degree felony theft of a motor vehicle. One charge that has not been added thus far however is murder. With Heisler missing over two weeks in triple digit temperatures with no food or water and probable injuries, the public is skeptical that Heisler is alive. Heisler’s family and law enforcement officials however have told the community to not give up hope for a safe return. This hope of finding Heisler alive could be what is preventing murder charges to arise, however the possibility of not having a body may also prevent police from charging the three with murder.

Murder conviction with no body

If the trio is charged, is a murder conviction possible if a body is never located? The answer is yes, yet proving a murder without a body is not an easy thing for prosecutors to do. The reason for this is to prevent wrongful convictions, especially when it could lead to life in prison or the death penalty. In the case of David Heisler, a large majority of the public has already deemed Perry, McCard, and Freeman guilty for murder of Heisler either by a gunshot wound or by leaving him to die of exposure, yet at this time no one knows for sure if he is alive or dead. Without a body or enough circumstantial and forensic evidence to back up a murder charge, a judge or jury cannot and should not agree with a murder conviction; an experienced criminal defense attorney would help ensure that.

Utah Ex-Con Charged with Gruesome Murder in Washington

An ex-con who had served time in a Utah State Prison was charged with the gruesome murder of a Washington State woman last Monday.

Murder and dismemberment


Photo by: tdlucas5000

37 year old John Robert Charlton was charged with the murder of Ingrid Lyne of Renton, Washington after police discovered portions of the woman’s dismembered body in a recycle bin in Seattle. The 40 year old nurse and mother of three daughters had been on a date with Charlton to a Mariner’s baseball game over the weekend but hadn’t been heard of since. When police located the body parts including a head and then received information of the missing woman, they realized the cases were connected and arrested Charlton for murder. More of Lyne’s body parts were then located as well as a saw which was believed to be the tool used to dismember her body.

Was the murder preventable?

When a horrible act is committed, many people may wonder if there was any way the crime could have been prevented. Sometimes crimes catch everyone by surprise, even those closest to the accused. Regarding the murder of Ingrid Lyne however, there are various details in John Charlton’s past that may have been red flags. While these warnings were regrettably not known to Lyne, they might have been recognized by law enforcement and those who have had their own personal dealings with Charlton.

Criminal history

Photo by: Victor

Photo by: Victor

The murder of Ingrid Lyne wasn’t Charlton’s first run in with the law. Prior to Lyne’s murder, in Washington State Charlton had been charged with assault in 1997 and negligent driving in 1998. In 2006, Charlton was convicted and sentenced to 1 to 15 years in the Utah State Prison for felony attempted aggravated robbery. Of that sentence, Charlton served just shy of 2 years before he was released by the Utah Board of Pardons and Parole without the supervision of parole officer. Some claim this lack of supervision may have contributed to him being arrested again in 2009 for misdemeanor battery in Idaho and then felony theft in Montana the same year. In Montana he again served time in prison; this time no more than 5 years. There is no information available at this time regarding whether or not Charlton was under the supervision of a Montana parole officer; however some critics of the parole system are doubtful.

Mental uncertainty

Charlton not only had a history of crime, but he also showed signs of being mentally unstable and possibly dangerous as long as 10 years ago. Prior to his arrest in Utah in 2006, Charlton made unsettling threats to his parents at their home south of Seattle. He showed them a copy of the gruesome movie “Hannibal” and eerily cautioned his mom while referencing to it. He also told his parents that he was having a hard time dealing with life and he was questioning his mental stability. Charlton’s parents were so troubled by this encounter with their son that they went as far as to file a restraining order against him although they later dropped it.

Help for the troubled

Photo by: trizoultro

Photo by: trizoultro

While the thought is plausible, it will never be known for sure if the murder of Ingrid Lyne could have been prevented. While many friends or family members may be surprised when someone close to them commits a heinous act, this is one case when there was a growing concern long before multiple lives were changed forever. For those who are in and out of the court systems for various crimes or for those who have anger management issues, alcohol and drug abuse problems, or other mental health concerns, there is help available. Please seek counsel with a knowledgeable criminal defense attorney regarding criminal charges and they can also provide you with information regarding mental health services in your area.

Assisted Suicide in Utah

A Logan, Utah man was arrested for reckless endangerment and some weapon charges after he assisted with the suicide of his friend. A 20 year old man dealing with depression accompanied some friends to the home of 48 year old David Schofield and stated that he wanted to end his own life. Schofield handed the young man a gun and told him to pull the trigger. In his despair the 20 year old followed Schofield’s instructions, placed the barrel to his head, and ended his life.

Photo by: Cache County Sheriff Bookings

Photo by: Cache County Sheriff Bookings

Most likely not besties

Had Schofield been the one to pull the trigger his charges would have included homicide. Nevertheless, Schofield was not a murderer by law but just a really bad friend. Had he been a better person entirely, he may have found his depressed comrade some help or counseling. In the end though, he did not force the young man to kill himself, just supplied the weapon. Consequently he is only facing reckless endangerment charges regarding his role in the young man’s death. While assisting suicide for those facing mental illness such as depression should never be an option, what about friends or family members facing terminal illness and pain?

Watching a family member suffer

Last year an elderly man in Roy, Utah took the life of his 70 year old wife whose health had been declining following a stroke. 75 year old Dennis Vance Chamberlain was charged with first degree felony murder for killing his wife in her sleep after authorities found assisted suicide reading material in Chamberlain’s possession. Although it can be difficult to watch a loved one painfully waste away due to cancer or another terminal illness, ending their life for them is against the law and is punishable by a lengthy stay in prison. Besides ending life support for comatose victims, there are currently no laws in place allowing family members to end the suffering of their ailing loved ones. On the other hand, laws allowing doctors to perform assisted suicide are in the works.

Photo by: Derrick Tyson

Photo by: Derrick Tyson

Physician assisted suicide laws

Assisted suicide by a physician is still a touchy subject of debate nationwide. Washington, Oregon, Vermont, and Montana are the only states where assisted suicide by a physician is currently legal. Earlier this year in Utah, HB391 also known as the Death with Dignity Act was brought before lawmakers. This Utah law allowing assisted suicide by physicians is not legal yet and it being widely fought but is still under consideration.

Patient makes ultimate decision

Unlike euthanasia where the doctor is the one administering the lethal medications, assisted suicide by a physician is actually carried out by the patient themselves. The terminally ill patient first puts in a written request for assisted suicide, and then after the doctor has interviewed the patient thoroughly, he prescribes a few different types of medication to be taken together. This deadly cocktail is then available to the patient to take if and when they decide. There is a large opposition regarding this practice and the likelihood that it could glorify suicide in a state with an already high suicide rate. This concern, along with many others is being taken into consideration before HB391 is made lawful.

Dr. Kevorkian’s of Utah

Until Utah’s Death with Dignity Law is passed (if it ever is) it is unlawful for medical personnel to go above the law and prescribe death to their patients in the state of Utah. For Doctors to give their patients the means to end their life early is not a legal resolution yet. For those family members, friends, or physicians who may be facing charges by ending the suffering of the sick or afflicted, call a criminal defense attorney for legal counsel.