In the days after his wife disappeared, Brian Walshe went on several Google searches, authorities say — asking questions about disposing of dead bodies, cleaning up blood, dismembering someone and dealing with crime scene evidence.
Though he was charged, the allegations against him have not been proved. He pleaded not guilty on Wednesday, and if the case goes to trial, a jury would hear more evidence than what prosecutors presented this week.
At a hearing Wednesday, prosecutors presented evidence, including the Google searches, which Walshe allegedly made on his child’s iPad.
Murder cases where bodies are never found are not uncommon. Though circumstantial evidence can be enough to convict someone, these cases can be harder to prove, experts said. Prosecutors have to convince a jury both that the missing person is dead and that the accused killed them, and the lack of a body provides openings for effective defenses.
But the Walshe case is an unusual example of this type of crime, experts said Thursday, because so much evidence was allegedly left behind.
“This case is different, because it’s as if he is trying to write a book of how not to commit a no-body murder,” said Thomas A. “Tad” DiBiase, a former federal attorney who tracks “no body” murder cases and trains police and prosecutors in how to deal with them. “What he has done has left so many trails behind, and … he has made it very easy for police to arrest him.”
Ana Walshe, a regional general manager in the D.C. office of real estate investment firm Tishman Speyer, was reported missing by her employer Jan. 4. The 39-year-old and her husband lived in the Boston area with their three children. Brian Walshe was charged in Norfolk County, Mass., where he is jailed.
Walshe’s lawyer, Tracy Miner, released a statement after the court appearance saying she had not seen the evidence and pledging to win the case.
Based on the prosecutors’ account, Walshe appears to have left behind nearly every type of evidence authorities normally look for in no-body cases, DiBiase told The Post.
“When I teach how to investigate these cases, these are the things we tell them to look at, and here they are wrapped almost with a bow in this case,” he said. “To have this amount of evidence in any murder case, let alone in a no-body murder case, is really quite rare.”
More than half of “no-body” cases are domestic murders, such as a husband killing a wife, said DiBiase, who keeps a database of such cases.
The case has garnered national attention, and Google saw an influx Wednesday and Thursday of people searching about it with queries like “Brian Walshe Google searches.” Experts said the searches, which Walshe allegedly made on his child’s iPad, were highly incriminating — key in adding to the circumstantial evidence.
Harvard Law professor Dehlia Umunna, who said there was a “treasure trove” of circumstantial evidence against Walshe, said the internet searches would probably convince a typical juror that Walshe killed his wife.
“The average person is not Googling how to dismember a body,” she said.
Diane Birnholz, a criminal law professor at UCLA Law, said she was amazed Walshe allegedly made such internet searches while his wife was missing, noting that most people would expect investigators to check their online activity.
“I don’t know how the defense is going to explain this,” she said.
Generally, cases in which a dead body is not found mean a defense attorney can present endless speculation about a disappearance, said Umunna. Any skilled attorney, she said, could paint a picture of an adult woman running away from her husband.
Even if a partner can be tied to their spouse’s killing, she said, the lack of physical evidence of a body provides an opening for a defense attorney to convince the jury that the accused is guilty only of lesser charges.
Nancy Gertner, a retired federal judge who teaches at Harvard Law, said she had presided over past cases argued by Miner, Walshe’s attorney.
“She’s as good as it gets,” Gertner said. “She’ll work every inch of the case.”
Miner did not respond to a request for comment from The Post on Thursday evening.
“I intend to win this case in court, not in the media, which has already tried and convicted Mr. Walshe,” Miner said in her Wednesday statement.
More information could come out at trial that provides context for the evidence presented by prosecutors so far. For instance, Gertner said, a full Google history could show that Walshe wasn’t in his right mind when he was searching online.
In addition, it’s still possible that investigators will find Ana Walshe’s remains, DiBiase said. Though investigators believe her husband disposed of evidence in trash containers whose contents were later incinerated, burning a body requires a temperature much higher than garbage, he said. Even when bodies are burned it can be possible to find bone fragments.
DiBiase said his research shows that although no-body cases are harder to prove, when such cases do go to trial, they result in convictions more often than an average case. In this instance, he said he believed police had done well investigating.
“The computer searches alone are incredibly damning,” DiBiase said. “The obvious indication, by his own words, is going to be that she must be murdered.”