Domestic violence is an issue in every state, including Alaska, and police officers are always aware that seemingly benevolent claims of missing people could well be more than they appear. Everyone could be a suspect when foul play is a concern. Investigations often begin with the report and continue until the missing person is finally physically located, which many times results in the missing person being found deceased. This is apparently the case with one particular missing persons report in Alaska.
Subsequent murder charges filed
Prosecutors must have supporting evidence when filing charges against any particular individual who is a criminal suspect. In the case of this missing woman, it was the person who actually reported her missing who was eventually accused of murder. This is not an unusual step for prosecutors because police often handle a missing persons report as a potential criminal case in many situations. Investigations begin with evaluating the actions of those who live in the home first and then branch out to others who they have interacted with on a specific timeline.
Evaluating the charges
An interesting element regarding this case is that the prosecutor filed both Murder I and Murder II charges against the victim’s husband after her body was found and identified by Alaska law enforcement. An autopsy revealed the possible cause of death in addition to positive identification. Additional information must also exist supporting an additional charge of tampering with physical evidence. From a criminal defense perspective, this is an indication that prosecutors believe they can prove the lesser Murder II charge, but will take the case to trial for a jury to determine if Murder I can be justified.
This case is a prime example of how prosecutors develop cases over time before filing charges based on what they have found. It is still vital for the state to have a solid case when meeting the proof burden of beyond a reasonable doubt, and taking a case to trial is often the only method of obtaining a conviction. It is not always the defendant who wants to invoke all rights to a criminal defense by forcing a case to a jury trial.