Under Arrest - B is for Body

Image by Martin Moser from Pixabay 

Welcome to the letter B of the 2019 A-Z Blogging Challenge!

B is for Body, and I'll talk about the difficulties of convicting an alleged killer of being responsible of murdering a person if that person's body could never be recovered.

  • A body proves this person is in fact dead and not just missing without a trace.
  • In most cases a body tells something about the cause of death, possible murder weapons, etc.
  • DNA evidence or fingerprints leading to the culprit may be found on the body
What will you as a prosecutor need to do in order to still try and get justice or at least some sort of closure for the victim's family?

Proof that there has been no sign of the person's existence by
  • presenting friends and family members claiming it'd be totally out of character for this person to just up and leave without saying anything.
  • monitoring debit and credit cards of the missing person. They can go without money for only so long.
  • observing people who might have helped the person to escape and hide.
  • monitoring cell phone activities: not only are there no calls or texts, the phone also doesn't move (GPS)
  • putting an APB (all-points bulletin) on the missing person's car - if the car has been missing as well. 
  • monitoring the discharge of a prescription drug the missing person has to stay on.
  • alerting border control authorities by publishing a yellow notice (which would cause an alarm if the missing person's passport was used)

Eliminate the abduction scenario by
  • showing there were no signs of struggle
  • confirming there was no ransom demand
  • claiming there hasn't been any alien activities in the area ;-)

Rule out suicide by
  • Having the doctor testify that the person has never suffered from mental issues, especially depression.
  • Having family, friends and employers reveal how happy the person was, and what reasons to live for they had: stable family life, great job perspectives, the dream vacation coming up,...

Substantiate that the accused perpetrator was in fact the killer by 
  • presenting evidence of a troubled relationship: maybe there were domestic violence calls to the police, neighbors may confirm they heard the couple fighting several times, statements may have been made by text or e-mail. 
  • stating there's a new love interest for either party: if the victim had an affair, the killer's motive is jealousy and rage, if the alleged killer has a new lover, they wanted to get rid of the spouse (Hello, Chris Watts).
  • coming up with a life insurance policy that make the suspect a rich widower - bonus points if that policy was issued fairly recently.
  • showing traces of a trauma at the alleged murder scene: blood (even not visible by the naked eye, we'll talk about luminol Saturday next week), hair, fibers and the like on the floor, the mattress, the car (trunk!)
  • pointing out accessibility to murder weapon: forensic ballistic experts can determine that the alleged killer's weapon has recently been fired.
I think it's entirely possible to build - and win - a good case, it's just so much harder.

There was a case in the mid-80s that took a good 15 years to come to a conviction, but it did:

It was in July 1985, Gail Katz Bierenbaum, about to do her Ph. D. in clinical psychology, was ready to leave her husband of three years, Dr Robert Bierenbaum. He had reportedly been super controlling, and he had choked her on several occasions, once to the point of her blacking out. 

Gail's shrink had her sign a "declaration of absolution", meaning she had been urged to move out because her husband posed a great danger to her, and if she didn't, the shrink didn't want to be responsible. This letter would have ruined Bierenbaum's career, so I think this is what made him snap.

Robert was believed to have strangled and dismembered Gail's body, packed her remains into several plastic bags, which he then dumped from the airplane he rented, into the Atlantic Ocean. 

Photo by Lalo on Unsplash

Sounds like a horror movie? 

Well, Mr Bierenbaum was a not only a surgeon but also a licensed pilot. He just used his skills, and he almost got away with it. 

What finally convinced police and prosecutors they had enough evidence to make a murder case was what Bierenbaum hadn't told them that he had taken an airplane out for a two-hour flight on the day his wife disappeared. 

Moreover, although airport records later verified the trip, it appeared he had attempted to alter the flight log. 

The flight log was only found after police finally got a search warrant for Robert's apartment, thanks to a torso that washed ashore on Staten Island that was believed to be Gail's. DNA tests came back negative, however.

Thanks to the perseverance of Alyane Katz, who is the victim's sister, and a prosecutor who took interest in the case that had become cold, Bierenbaum is now serving a 25 years to life sentence in Grand Forks, N.D.

Thanks for bearing with me, this was a gruesome topic. 

Before you leave, have a chuckle:

Hope to see you tomorrow for the letter C!

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay


  1. What a fascinating case! On what grounds did they eventually convict him if they didn't have the body?

  2. i wonder if this is the case that inspired the Law and Order CI episode where the plastic surgeon murdered his wife and they went to court even though no body was ever found.


  3. What a story!! A dr with a pilots license, seems to have the perfect skills for dismembering and disposing of the body.

  4. Really interesting post - it definitely must be hard to prove a murder when you can't even prove the victim is actually dead

  5. A well penned down post but some what heavy!
    Glad to be here!

  6. now I kind of wish I haven't read this post....

    have a lovely day.

  7. I've seen a couple movies where a woman disappeared and the husband was accused of her murder. But the woman just left, she wasn't dead. One is probably a movie you've seen, but in the other, the woman was pretty sure her husband was going to kill her, so she fled. And his plans made it seem like he had done the deed. Alas, that movie wasn't all that great.

  8. My husband retired from being a narcotics officer in 2008. So many stories and you are pretty spot on in this topic of "no body, no crime". Sad but true.
    Stephanie Finnell
    @randallbychance from
    Katy Trail Creations

  9. So true it use to be no body no case but not much now days

  10. Interesting....all my books have had a body found but my next will involve a missing one.

    DB McNicol, author
    Microfiction: Bird


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