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‘Melody’s Law’ criminalizing necrophilia in Michigan signed into law

‘Melody’s Law’ criminalizing necrophilia in Michigan signed into law

Richard Rohrer listens in the Michigan Senate Civil Rights, Judiciary, and Public Safety Committee on May, 16, 2024. (Anna Liz Nichols/Michigan Advance)

By Michigan Advance

July 10, 2024

BY ANNA LIZ NICHOLS, MICHIGAN ADVANCE

MICHIGAN—The Legislature unanimously decided a loophole in Michigan criminal law needed to be closed and now it’s been signed into law by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.

“Melody’s Law” explicitly criminalizes sexual contact with a dead human body. Previously, Michigan didn’t cover necrophilia under its sexual assault laws.

“A dead body is not a person” a 1995 Michigan Court of Appeals opinion reads, clarifying that Michigan’s state laws don’t define sexual contact with a dead human body as sexual assault as the victim needs to be a “person.”

“A dead body is not a person. It cannot allege anything. A dead body has no will to overcome. It does not have the same potential to suffer physically or mentally as a live or even an unconscious or dying victim,” the opinion reads.

Within the 1995 opinion, there is a note that says the absence of laws forbidding necrophilia is “an issue that our Legislature may wish to address.”

And three decades later, Sen. Veronica Klinefelt (D-Eastpointe) introduced “Melody’s Law” to address that matter, saying she was shocked that the law didn’t already criminalize necrophilia

“Melody’s Law” consists of SBs 841, 842 and 843, assigning misdemeanor and felony criminal charges for sexual contact with dead human bodies, carrying penalties of up to 15 years in prison and requirements to register with the state’s sexual offender registry.

The law closes a “glaring loophole in Michigan’s criminal code “and ensures that any horrifying acts of necrophilia can be properly prosecuted,” Klinefelt said in a news release when the bills were signed on Monday.

But it was the pain, courage and love of one family that made sure Michigan pursued the change, Klinefelt said ahead of the Senate vote in June.

Melody Rohrer and her family

In May, Richard Rohrer had photos of his wife of 45 years, Melody Rohrer, propped up in the Michigan Senate Civil Rights, Judiciary and Public Safety Committee as a way to introduce lawmakers to his “beautiful wife,” Melody Rohrer, who he called the “love of my life.”

Melody was as fun and loving of a mom, grandma and wife a family could hope for, Richard Rohrer said, regaling them with stories of how she spent all her adult life as a nurse who cared deeply for the welfare of others.

“Melody Rohrer truly represented what is good in this world,” Rohrer said.

But in 2021, Melody was murdered by a man who intentionally hit her with his car while she was out for a walk.

“The evil that did this put her lifeless fractured body into a vehicle going to another location where he repeatedly raped her corpse,” Rohrer told the Michigan Senate Civil Rights, Judiciary and Public Safety Committee in May.

And despite the prosecution presenting DNA evidence of sexual assault and searches on the man’s phone related to necrophilia, he did not face sexual assault charges.

Angela Povilaitis is the Michigan Domestic and Sexual Violence Prevention and Treatment Board (MDSVPTB) staff policy attorney and lead prosecutor in the state’s case against former MSU doctor Larry Nassar. During the May committee hearing, she told lawmakers that learning that there’s no criminal punishment for necrophilia compounds grief and pain for families like the Rohrers who experience loss and the desecration of their loved one’s bodies.

“These bills would help the families of those victimized after death by providing them with some recourse in the criminal justice system. Those families must already face news of a loved one’s death unexpectedly and live with the knowledge that their loved one’s body was violated for sexual gratification,” Povilaitis said.

Although there will be no more birthdays or holidays with Melody and her presence is greatly missed, Rohrer said in May that there is peace in knowing that another family could be spared from the law not protecting their loved one.

“While we are devastated that the person responsible for Melody’s death was unable to be charged for this particular crime, it will give us peace of mind that no one else will have to endure the same injustice our family has had to endure over the past two-and-a-half years,” Rohrer said.

And now that the “Melody’s Law” is law, Rohrer told Michigan Advance that he’s on a tribute trip in honor of his wife, revisiting some of their “travels during happier times.”

“My family and I are thankful that this part of our nightmare is over,” Rohrer told the Michigan Advance. “We can now spend our time with our special memories of Melody, the wife, mother, grandmother and wonderful woman that she was.”

READ MORE: Michigan lawmakers look to quash non-consensual ‘deepfake’ pornography

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

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CATEGORIES: STATE LEGISLATURE
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