View Full Version : What Authority Can Reopen "Unsolved" Cases

04-01-2004, 04:25 PM
I was reading about the serial murderess "Belle Gunness" For those who don't know basically she was a woman who used to bilk men thru Lonely Hearts Club ads. Eventually after a long time. There was a fire in her house. Her body was found. But was it her? The corpse had NO head. The body was 5 inches shorter and weighed a lot less. (Belle was a very fat woman). The authorities eventually found a lot of bodies on her farm. One of them was positively idenitfied as her daughter.

Any due to, what looks like political considerations, the prosecutor said the body was Belle and went ahead a prosecuted on man for starting the fire and killing her. The man was found GUILTY of arson but NOT GUILTY of murder.

For full details here is one site Click Here For Belle Gunness (http://www.crimelibrary.com/serial_killers/history/gunness/index_1.html)

Also many years later a women in L.A. was found to have poisoned her husband (Belle's Method). Many thought that women was Belle. But that woman died before trial.

So here's the question. All the sites say "...though the mystery of Belle will never be solved for certain..." They know where the daughter is buried. They know where the "corpse" that may or may not be Belle is. Why can't they dig them up and do DNA tests on them.

So who has the authority to authorize this? Does Anyone? Granted since this was done in the beginning of the century it doesn't matter. So any ideas who could test this.

04-01-2004, 06:50 PM
Are there any surviving relatives? Next of kin can certainly authorize an exhumation and genetic testing of the remains.

04-02-2004, 12:35 AM
They know where the daughter is buried. They know where the "corpse" that may or may not be Belle is. Why can't they dig them up and do DNA tests on them. After 96 years, is there going to be anything left to do DNA tests on? I'd think decomposition will have done it's work by now, and there wouldn't be anything but dust left.

Also, DNA tests work basically by proving matches -- the DNA from this blood on the suspects clothes matches the victims DNA. For something this long ago, where would they get verified, proveably authentic DNA from either Belle or her daughter to compare against? No doubt they had samples from an autopsy, but are they still available 96 years later?

I think it would be real hard to get useful DNA evidence at this point.

Earl Snake-Hips Tucker
04-02-2004, 04:20 PM
Reliability of DNA evidence aside, he's also asking "What controlling legal authority would be able to order it reopened?"

04-02-2004, 07:23 PM
Well I didn't want to respond to that part of it since I don't like to WAG on legal questions, but since no one else is chiming in, WAG then I shal. My WAG is that the police and the prosecutors in the jurisdictions would have the legal authority to reopen a case but would be highly unlikely to do so in this case because there is little likelihood of gain in doing so. No one's left alive to prosecute in a century-old murder case and the convicted arsonist is also dead and couldn't be tried again for the murder anyway if he were alive.