The foremost expert on no-body prosecutions, Tad DiBiase, talks about what it takes to successfully prosecute a no-body murder case.
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Welcome to Secrets True Crime. I am your host, Amber Sitton. What is done in darkness will eventually come to light. That is the purpose of this podcast...to shine light on the story of Susan Osborne and her 14 year old son Evan Chartrand. They vanished from their home in the tiny Alabama community of Holtville on Memorial Day in 2017. They haven't been seen or heard from since and their bodies have not been found. This is episode 13 of a serial podcast and they are designed to be listened to in order. Listener discretion is advised. This episode does not contain foul language and the subject matter may involve violence, sexual content, murder and adult themes. It’s not suitable for younger listeners. If you know or have known Jerry or knew Susan after she was married to Jerry, I want to hear from you. Someone knows something. Information you may think is small or insignificant could make a difference in this case and you can remain anonymous. firstname.lastname@example.org.
This is a continuation of the last episode where we began discussing no body investigations and prosecutions. Early on in this podcast, I began researching these types of investigations and prosecutions. As I found interesting information, I would send it over to Melissa and Hollie so they could read it too. We started noticing that everything we found involved information and quotes from Tad DiBiase. Tad is often referred to as the No Body Guy and that’s how we quickly began to refer to him. We found Tad’s website nobodymurdercases.com, Melissa and I both ordered copies of his book and we got busy reading everything we could find. One of the 1st things I read was on the home page of Tad’s website. It says “I also have consulted, for free, with law enforcement agencies throughout the United States and Canada. If you know of a "no body" case, investigation, or trial, contact me and I'd be happy to add it to my table or blog about it.” Melissa and I both sent Tad an email. I’ve been periodically corresponding with him ever since. Tad offered his time and experience in no body investigations and prosecutions to assist with Susan and Evan’s case. He offered to do this for FREE. We were all excited and cautiously optimistic about it. We’d all read enough to know that no body investigations and prosecutions are harder than a murder prosecution when the bodies aren’t missing. I think we all hoped that the foremost expert in these specialized investigations and prosecutions could offer some great help. Melissa called the Elmore County Sheriff’s Office to discuss the possibility. Their response to the idea was very positive. Melissa was told that the sheriff would meet with the DA’s office to discuss. She gave it a few weeks and then called the DA’s office to personally discuss it with them. The DA’s office had concerns about it. They said it wasn’t a “hard no” but they were leaning towards rejecting the offer. This has been months ago and Melissa hasn’t had any further communication with the DA’s office so we are assuming their position hasn’t changed. I’m not sharing this story as a criticism of the DA’s office. Maybe their reasons are valid. I’m not an attorney so maybe I’m not qualified to judge the decision. Tad is one of the many reasons I’ve delayed this topic. While I really wanted to interview him for the podcast, I didn’t want to do it if he might be consulting on the case so I waited until it seemed apparent that wasn’t going to be an option. At the time Tad offered to consider consulting on the case, he asked me to send him a summary of the information I knew about the case so when I interviewed him yesterday, he was pretty well versed on the details of Susan and Evan’s disappearance.
So tell me how you became interested in nobody prosecutions.
I became interested in this because I was a homicide prosecutor in Washington, d c in the u s attorney's office here. The US Attorney's office in DC is unique because as the district of Columbia doesn't a da like a traditional jurisdiction does because we're a federal enclave. So the, the US attorney's offices in DC would handle small local crimes all the way up to the traditional us attorney crimes as well as homicides. Everything from shoplifting, simple assaults to homicide. So most of my career at the US attorney's office, I was a homicide prosecutor and near the end of my career there I was given, I'm a nobody murder investigation that a colleague of mine had that was at the very early stages. Then as I got involved in the case, I was looking for other cases in DC to determine if there had ever been the nobody prosecution.
And I determined there'd only been one that had ever happened before. And there was very little information about it, including the fact that when it went up on appeal to the DC court of appeals, it wasn't even mentioned that it was a nobody case. So that struck me as very odd. So in looking for cases in other jurisdictions, I started looking around, a colleague of mine who had a nobody murder case that didn't go to trial, gave me a memo that had maybe 50 or 60 cases from around the country. And I just started building off of that tracking, looking at other cases to see what the similarities and what the challenges might be with my case. And then after I tried my case, I just decided to keep going and find more cases because I realized these cases weren't centrally collected anywhere. And I started doing a website that was basically just a table of these cases.
And at the time I did it anonymously because I didn't want to jump through the Department of Justice hoops to sort of come out in the open and do it. And then when I left the US Attorney's office in 2007, I decided at that point I could just do it on my own and come out and say who I was. So I started doing it and just started tracking these cases and it kind of exploded from there in terms of getting a lot of calls and emails from people asking how to do these cases, how to investigate these cases. So I started consulting with police and prosecutors on the case and started talking to a lot of reporters who were now getting more cases and wanting to know what the challenges were and how to successfully do these cases. And then ultimately I started, um, lecturing to other police departments and prosecutors about these cases. And then in the fall of 2014 released the book about how to do that, how to investigate, prosecute, and win these types of cases.
it's kind of a weird thing because, you know, murder particularly now is a very popular topic. True crime is very popular. Um, and it just became this sort of niche that no one had ever examined methodically or tried to collect everything on. And that was partially my fascination. Like, Oh, this is a pretty significant difficult type of murder, or how come no one's ever done anything on it. And that's kind of the way it's remained. There are certainly prosecutors who have done multiple cases. Um, there's a handful of them who have tried more than one case. I only tried the one case, but there doesn't seem to be anyone who was sort of really interested in it and looking at it from a more systematic perspective. And that's kind of remained. Um, there used to be a fellow in Australia who used to track the cases worldwide, but I kinda lost track of him. So I don't know if he still does that or not.
let me ask you some background information. How many nobody body cases have been tried in the u s to date?
I have discovered hundred and 31 that have gone to trial. So I can't guarantee that's correct because there's obviously some I may have missed but I can say for sure it's not, you know, it's not eight or 900 it's probably not even 600 I think 531 is really pretty close. How many we've had since the early 18 hundreds because they still remain pretty uncommon. What's interesting to me though is
of those 531
cases that have gone to trial, half of them have occurred since the year 2000 so half of them basically happened in the last 20 years. So we've had amazing number of cases happening in the last 20 years. Whereas, you know, 20 years ago, 40 years ago, a hundred years ago, a lot of these cases could not be brought to trial because it was much more difficult to prove that the woman, cause that's your typical victim, that the woman was actually dead, not just missing. And to have the forensic evidence that we have now makes it much easier to prove these cases then then used to be,
Note that Tad says he has tracked 531 that have gone to trial. This figure does not include cases in which someone was charged and later accepted a plea deal. There are at least 7 no body murder convictions in the state of Alabama. The earliest no body trial Tad has been able to find occured in the mid 1800s. No body prosecutions aren’t exactly new to the state of Alabama either. The earliest case Tad found in Alabama was the murder of Christopher Coffee in 1928. He left his hunting camp and was walking alone through the woods when he was attacked and killed by 4 men. 2 of the men were tried and convicted in 1929. In July 1996 in the city of Prattville which is also located in Elmore County, a woman named Rika Schenck disappeared. Her husband told everyone she’d joined the carnival and he kept the fact that he’d murdered her a secret for 4 years. A repo agent became suspicious and alerted the Prattville Police Department. Detective Bob Furlong began investigating her disappearance and he dedicated any free time he had to continue to gather the evidence needed to charge her husband Richard Schenck. His persistence paid off. With the evidence he collected, a former assistant district attorney who is now a judge, Elmore County District Judge Glenn Goggans was able to charge Scheck. He later agreed to plead to manslaughter and he described to the court how he murdered his wife and threw her body in the Alabama River. To my knowledge, her body has never been recovered.
In 2008, Elmore County District Attorney Randall Houston did charge a man with capital murder in the death his girlfriend even though her body had yet to be found. Michael Wright was charged with the murder of Gloria Russell. He shared a home with her and their 8 year old in Millbrook. News articles indicate the 8 year old son witnessed the murder of his mother and they quoted DA Houston as saying he felt even more comfortable with the murder charged because of the evidence found in the home including blood. However, fortunately for Ms. Russell’s family, her body was found just 2 days later.
There is no doubt that prosecuting a person for murder when the body is missing is challenging. It made me wonder if the complexity of these cases would make some district attorneys shy away from them. I want to note that this was a thought and question about these cases in general and I am not suggesting that is the case with Susan and Evan. I asked Tad if there could be prosecutors who just don’t want to prosecute a case without a body. Track 6
Well, if so, then I'll be pretty frank. That's an excusable. There's no reason not to prosecute a case if you have the evidence simply because you don't have the body. There've been successful convictions in all 50 states in Washington DC and Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands everywhere. So that's not really an excuse that a prosecutor can use anymore to say, oh, I don't like prosecuting a case without a body. It's particularly been done much more frequently than in the past. So unless they don't have the evidence, which is one thing, um, that's a difference between saying I don't have the evidence and I'm not going to take a case simply because it doesn't have a body and I might lose. That's not a legitimate reason not to go forward.
I wondered how often these prosecutions are successful so I asked Tad what the conviction rate is for no body prosecutions.
Right now it's running about 88%, which is higher than the typical murder case nationwide, which is about 71%. So that seems a little counterintuitive because you think, well, if these cases are so hard, why is the conviction rate higher than even a, a normal, um, murder case? An answer I think is a couple things. One, only the strongest cases are actually taken to trial. So a prosecutor typically will not take a week, nobody murder case to trial because inevitably the defense kind of, you know, lends itself to, we don't even know if she's dead. Um, but they, a prosecutor who has a decent nobody case, we'll take it to trial. And the second reason I think is that the suspect in nobody murder cases, again, tend to be somewhat obvious because it is usually a domestic relationship between the two people as we have here, husband and wife. Um, you often have a kind of what we call triggering events, um, where there is something that leads to, um, significant tension between the two people that often leads to murder in here. Um, we seem to know that it was discovered that um, Jerry Osborn was doing a, some type of male escort service or something that I'm assuming his wife did not know about.
Tad was pretty familiar with the details of Susan and Evan’s disappearance and I wanted to know his professional opinion on the likelihood of a successful prosecution based on the information I had to provide him.
maybe they're missing some things they need for a nobody prosecution. I don't know
I do know that there was, uh, there was some blood evidence found through Luminol, um, in, in the house. It was quite a bit of um, blood evidence, but the DNA was degraded from cleaning products.
And one of the commonalities of nobody cases that you find is cleaning. And there does seem to be significant evidence of cleaning up in this case, at least based on the information you sent me, both, you know, down the burning, the furniture and remodeling the house painting and all that. That's very common. And then nobody cases.
And, and that's, you know, another reason when you look at these cases, you look for things that happen. Um, typically a nobody murder cases cleaning is a good indication. Um, the lack of cooperation or Leon is another thing that you commonly see, although sometimes you see initial cooperation and then that cooperation ends at some point here. It seems as if there was no cooperation early on because of course he got an attorney, um, and didn't, you know, didn't want to cooperate, um, immediately. Right. And that's also very common. So, you know, to me, based on just the, the information you've given me, which I know is, is certainly probably less than the police have. Um, I would put this in the category of actually a fairly strong nobody murder case. Um, because you have, first of all, two people who are three people who are in a domestic relationship, over 50% of nobody murder cases, um, that have gone trial involve
domestic relations between, uh, typically the victim and the suspects of typically husband, wife, boyfriend, girlfriend x and X. Um, and the next one,
most common category is child. Um, and in this case, interestingly, it appears the 14 year old boy Evan is actually not,
Speaker 4: (06:17)
um, Jerry Osborn's son, but the son of someone else and Susan [inaudible].
Is that correct? Correct. So, so when you start to put together these things, um, the fact that they weren't reported missing for two months is highly unusual in the case of, um, you know, a wife and a son, and then you have his story, which is basically in some ways matches what the allegations were against him. And then he turns around and uses it, um, as, as the basis for why Susan and Evan Left. Um, that's also to me, highly suspicious.
Right. And then you have cadaver dogs are learning to a spot near a storage shed. I mean you have a significant amount of evidence pointing to, um, your suspect. And of course now,
uh, it's over two years. Um, which wouldn't mean you couldn't find a body. You certainly could. So some of the reluctance may be that they're still looking for a body, um, which is fine, but the two
years also says no one has seen her in two years, I assume, or no one credible. Um, so that evidence right there is pretty powerful that she's actually dead, not just, you know, hiding or missing or something like that. Yeah, yeah.
Right. It's just not, you know, when you start to look at these things, this to me, sometimes I look at cases and say, you need more. Sometimes I say, you need one more thing. Um, sometimes I say, you know, you're, you're pretty close here and sometimes I say you absolutely are ready to go to trial. And of course, that's after examining all the police evidence, which I haven't done in this case, but I would certainly put this in the category of, this is actually a fairly decent case without looking at what the police have. Um, and if everything we know
publicly is correct, that's actually a fairly strong case.
I think police and prosecutors tend to overlook the lies, whereas in this case you'd say, why would the guy whose husband and Stepdad, his son lie about anything related to his missing wife and Stepson back just doesn't make any sense. If he's innocent, he'd do anything to get the people back. Even if he didn't even, he wasn't crazy about the stepson or wasn't crazy about the wife. He'd know, well, shit, it looked like I'm going to get in trouble if I look like I'm suspicious. So I'm going to be totally open and honest about what happened. So then we start pointing out lies. It's like, well, why would you lie? You lie, because you did it.
So I wish, you know, I wish the sheriff would contact me even if the DA is not willing to go forward because I could at least walk them through and say, here's a way to pitch it to the DA and show them some other cases. Cause I just think if this is what we know publicly, the police usually know more. That's even better.
so how many no body murderers have you seen where the killer and the victim have no preexisting relationship?
There are some, but they're not very common. Um, the ones you see tend to fall in the category of serial killers, um, that, you know, it's just one of their victims or people that they don't typically know or they have a relationship for a very short time. Maybe it's a sex worker that they picked up or whatever, things like that. Um, but even those aren't, aren't that common. And the reason for that is, you know, to do a no body murder, it takes a significant amount of time and effort to get rid of the body. So typically in your typical murder case, even when there's a preexisting relationship between the two people, they're not going to take the time to do that. A burglar is not going to break into someone's house, realize someone's home, kill the homeowner, and then say, well, I think I'm going to stay around and bury the body.
They're not going to do that. They're going to get out of the house and hope that they're never, you know, caught. And I haven't left enough evidence behind. So in order to get rid of the body, it's typically because the person who committed the murder knows they are going to be in the most logical suspect. If a wife is found dead, the first person, everyone is going to look at it, it's of course going to be the husband. So the husband has a real motivation to say I yeah, like I got to get rid of this body so it's not tied to me. So while there are cases of stranger and stranger, the vast majority are or between people who know each other in some type of preexisting relationship.
what are the more common methods of hiding a body?
Okay. The most common is actually disposal and water. The second most common is I'm actually now putting in a dumpster, putting somehow in the garbage. And the third most common is burying, followed very closely behind by just dumping it, disposing it in the woods or remote area. Um, water is the most popular because it's the most difficult to recover a body for water from water, particularly if you wait it down so it doesn't float up to the top. And of course, water has its own, um, deleterious effect on a body. Well, we'll break down a body, um, probably more quickly than being out in the open, although I'm not sure that's totally true. I'd have to like go to the body farm in Nashville and see or tendency to see whether that's true or not, but it's also makes it much harder for someone to kind of stumble across it as they might if it's in buried in woods or in a dumpster or something like that. So water still remains the most popular. Okay. Oh,
that's what we believe actually happened in the case that I try. He ultimately confessed to the police that that's what he had done. He'd put the body in either one or several large bags. I don't think in my case, he actually cut her up and put it in a dumpster behind, um, a popular high traffic restaurant, um, kind of in the middle of, of, of DC and disposed of it that way. And of course we, we got the confession probably two years after this. So there was really no way for us to ever determine. Um, and there was actually another case in DC where a body ended up in a landfill, um, and the defense actually wanted to have a search of the landfill because they believe that would prove they didn't, that their client was not responsible for the murder. And the prosecution actually said we can't possibly search a landfill completely. It's actually very dangerous to search a landfill because a lot of chemicals that are released when you start digging through a landfill. And so ultimately the court rule that the prosecution did not have to dig through the landfill to try and find the body.
As I’ve mentioned before, Susan and Evan aren’t the only missing people in Elmore County where foul play is very likely. Starr Mulder has been missing since 2016 and as we’ve discussed in prior episodes, her ex husband, Thomas Whitehurst, is currently the only person of interest. Traci Pittman Kegley has been missing since April 26, 1998. Her car was found abandoned on the side of a rural road in Elmore County. The doors were open, her belongings were left behind and her 2 year old daughter was found strapped in a car seat in the back seat. She’s never been found despite countless search efforts. To date, there have been no charges in any of these cases. Tad and I briefly discussed these other cases and I wondered aloud if there is a lack of evidence in all these cases or if there is just a preference by the district attorney to have a body before prosecuting.
Yeah, that's interesting. I mean it's, it does seem to speak of is there some reluctance to do it without a body and what, I always encourage prosecutors because typically the challenge for me when speaking to police and prosecutors is convincing the prosecutor to go forward. Not Typically the police. I mean, there are occasions where the police aren't interested or haven't done enough work. But typically in the cases that I've been involved in, it's the prosecutor who was reluctant and has to be, you know, convinced. And it's usually showing them you do have enough evidence showing then some of the common elements of successful nobody cases that maybe they have such as the cleaning that we talked about and then maybe pointing out other cases in their jurisdiction or other cases that are similar. That was a big part of why I wrote the book. So I could give summaries of other similar cases in other cases. And folks has jurisdiction to say, this case is just like your case. And you know, here's some other cases in Alabama, which I didn't look to see how many other cases
there are an Alabama. Um, although if you bear with me for one second, I can tell you pretty quickly.
Bam. Scroll to the end. So Alabama has and to California, one, two, three, four, five, six, seven cases. And those are defendants. So I'd have to double check to see whether there were any codefendant cases, but at least seven people have been convicted for no body, uh, murdered in Alabama.
Okay. And that's actual trials, not plea deals.
Correct. Doesn't include plea deals or could be more with plea deals, but those are people who actually went to trial. So it's clearly not unheard of there. You know, that's, I don't know where that falls in terms of Alabama state population and all that, but it's clearly not something that has been done, you know, once or twice.
I want to be clear here that my questions aren’t intended to be a criticism of the district attorneys office. They obviously have information that is unavailable to us and we all have to consider that maybe they haven’t filed charges in Susan and Evan’s case and other cases for a very valid reason. The district attorney is elected by the people and those people who have voted for him have placed their trust in him. But that doesn’t mean blind trust without ever any questions and asking questions isn’t a criticism. The thoughts and questions I’ve expressed have been verbalized to me by Susan and Evan’s families, Starr Mulder’s friends and some loved ones of Traci Pittman Kegley too. They certainly have the right to have these questions. These same questions have been asked of me by countless residents of Elmore County. I did reach out to the district attorney’s office and was referred to Chief Assistant District Attorney Mandy Johnson. Mandy told me that they are not an investigative agency. They are a prosecutory agency so since there are no charges filed, there really isn’t anything they can comment on. She also said something that makes perfect sense to me. I’m paraphrasing here but she said they are not in a position to comment now because they aren’t going to do anything that could jeapordize any future case.
I had one last question for Tad.
So in your book you state that in murder cases, the bodies of the victims are most often found in locations or familiar to the murderer. How do you recommend that we go about identifying these potential locations?
Well, what you need to do is you need to figure out if you were the suspect, where would you most likely get rid of the body? Is the suspect a hunter? Is there someone, are they a, you know, someone who does stuff on the water? He was unscarred sorry. Likes to fish. Okay. Then you'd think, okay, where are his fishing spots? Where, um, because typically as I mentioned earlier, it's really hard to get rid of a body there. Difficult to cut up. It's messy. It's Smelly, it's, you know, bulky. It's physical work. Um, and even if you take the body as a whole and get rid of it, what you find is that, uh, suspects want to get rid of it in a place familiar to them because the last thing they want to do is, for example, would be bearing a body on someone else's property.
And all of a sudden the homeowner comes, the land owner comes in there, some guy digging a big hole, he's got a dead body next door. So most of your suspects and defendants are smart enough to realize there's gotta be a place that I'm comfortable in doing this, which often means putting it up inside the home. Um, and then cleaning up, you know, that mess and then, you know, transporting it out of the house to somewhere. So where would that place be? Would I weigh it down and toss it in a fishing hole because no one would think anything of seeing me in that location or seeing anyone in that location. But that's what you have to do is try and figure out what's a location familiar to this person? Do they have family that has property somewhere else? And make sure you know, you checked that out. So that's what I counsel people because what I say is, can you make a case without a body? Absolutely. Are you better off having the body? Absolutely. So you still need to try and find the body. And certainly at two years, even in a hot climate like Alabama, I would still counsel someone to be looking for the body. If the case was five, six, 10 years old, I'd probably tell them, don't, don't waste your time. You're not going to find much.
I want to take a minute to thank Tad for taking time to speak with me for the podcast. He provided some fantastic insight and advice that we plan to take and put into action.
Thank you for listening to Secrets True Crime. If you have any information that could help in solving the disappearance of Susan Osborne and Evan Chartrand, please call the Elmore County Sheriffs Office at 334-567-5546. You may also email me at email@example.com. You can stay anonymous. I want to say thank you to those who have contacted me with information and those who’ve reached out to encourage me. Each of you has provided a tremendous amount of help and you are making a difference in this case. Not only am I appreciative but Susan and Evan’s families are so thankful as well. If you are enjoying this podcast, please let us know by giving us a 5-star rating and review in Apple Podcasts. I’m active on social media and often share photos of Susan and Evan. Follow Secrets True Crime on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. @secretscrime.