‘Melody’s Law’ would explicitly criminalize necrophilia in Michigan

By Michigan Advance

April 25, 2024

BY ANNA LIZ NICHOLS, MICHIGAN ADVANCE

MICHIGAN—There is no law on the books in Michigan that expressly criminalizes engaging in sexual conduct with a dead person.

And that is an oversight by elected officials and a loophole that must be fixed in order to treat individuals with respect in every phase of their life, state Sen. Veronica Klinefelt (D-Eastpointe) told media at the state Capitol Wednesday after announcing the introduction of legislation to criminalize necrophilia.

“I was shocked to find out that necrophilia is not against the law in Michigan,” Klinefelt said. “I don’t know how common it is … even if it’s a very small amount of people, statistically, nationwide, that would do something like this, that doesn’t mean there shouldn’t be a law against it, there still should be a law against it.”

The legislation looks to create “Melody’s Law” in memory of Melody Rohrer, 64, who was murdered in 2021 by a West Michigan man who then took her body to the woods.

Investigators asserted at the time that Rohrer, a wife, grandmother and retired nurse, was struck and killed by the man driving while she was on a walk in Van Buren County. He was believed to then take her dead body to a wooded area in St. Joseph County, sexually assault her and then leave her there.

The man, Colby Martin, denied the criminal sexual conduct, according to The Associated Press and was convicted of first-degree murder and other related crimes in June 2023.

Several members of Rohrer’s family spoke during the sentencing in July of 2023 lamenting her absence from their lives. And now members of her family are working with Klinefelt to get legislation across the finish line.

“We have worked with her husband and her children to ensure that some of the things that happened to her after her death don’t ever happen again, or at least if individuals behave in that fashion, there’s punishment for it,” Klinefelt said. “We’ve had input with them every step of the way on what we’re doing. It’s extremely important to them and I think it’s fitting that we’re gonna call it Melody’s Law.”

The legislation, SBs 841, 842 and 843, assigns criminal penalties for varying degrees of sexual contact with a dead human body, with sexual penetration carrying the highest penalty of up to 15 years in prison.

Criminalization of necrophilia has been sought out in the legislature before, with representatives in the state House introducing legislation in January to enjoin laws against bestiality with necrophilia.

The Michigan Domestic & Sexual Violence Prevention and Treatment Board has also indicated its interest in the past in supporting adequate legislation to prohibit necrophilia, as well as legal recognition of the intent to murder for the purpose of then sexually assaulting a person’s dead body.

There have been indications from other lawmakers that the bills should pass fairly quickly and without pushback, Klinefelt said, adding that people she’s talked to are shocked there’s not already a law on the books.

This coverage was republished from Michigan Advance pursuant to a Creative Commons license.

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