Friday, December 16, 2011

Grave Robbing and Faking Your Own Death

For those of you who have planned to rob a grave and/or fake your own death, please give this blog post some consideration before making that final decision.  On second thought, if you have already weighed some pros and cons of grave robbing, and are still leaning toward it, you probably aren’t capable of reading, comprehending, and taking legal advice.  So, maybe I shouldn’t waste my breath (actually, more like “typing effort”).  Just call me when you get in trouble.

Frequently, my blog posts border on the absurd.  That’s because my job borders on the absurd.  Even those of you who know me and have heard my stories have only heard what is public record – what I am allowed to tell you.  You haven’t heard the ridiculous stuff that I cannot tell you because I am bound by the ethical rule of confidentiality.

Even though the events enumerated in this blog seem farfetched, please bear in mind these laws are in place because people actually DO these things.  And as I write these posts, I’ll try to give you as many real life examples as I can within the bounds of law and ethics.

For example:  The insurance journal reports that a couple in Texas, Clayton and Molly Daniels, schemed to fake the death of Clayton for the purposes of avoiding jail and collecting a life insurance payout.  In order to fake his death, Clayton is alleged to have dug up the body of an 81 year old mentally retarded woman, placed her in his vehicle wearing his clothing, ran the car off a cliff and burn the body and the car.  According to Texas Rangers, they were first tipped off when Molly was surprisingly calm during an interview after her husband’s “death.”  Later, Rangers say that DNA results didn’t match Clayton.

Today’s conversation deals with faking your own death.  The general question for the day is “In Kentucky, is it illegal to fake your death?”  There will also be ancillary issues concerning the legal ramifications of grave robbing and insurance fraud.

The problem that most people run into when attempting to fake their own death is not the actual “faking death” part, rather, it is usually either the preparation that goes into the same, or the reasons for faking said death.  That brings us to grave robbing.

In Kentucky, grave robbing can get you into a LOT of trouble.  It has extremely serious ramifications.  Let’s talk about the slew of charges that police will throw on you if you rob a grave. 

First up is the Desecration of Venerated Objects, found in KRS 525.105.  It reads,

 (1) A person is guilty of desecration of venerated objects in the first degree when, other than authorized by law, he intentionally excavates or disinters human remains for the purpose of commercial sale or exploitation of the remains themselves or of objects buried contemporaneously with the remains.
(2) Desecration of venerated objects in the first degree is a Class C felony

So that covers digging up the actual grave with the intent to exploit the remains.  But the law doesn’t stop there.  This great Commonwealth frowns on grave robbing so much that we have multiple statutes that drown a person in felony waters.  The next statute we need to look at is KRS 525.115, which covers “violating graves.”

(1) A person is guilty of violating graves when he intentionally:
(a) Mutilates the graves, monuments, fences, shrubbery, ornaments, grounds, or buildings in or enclosing any cemetery or place of sepulture; or
(b) Violates the grave of any person by destroying, removing, or damaging the headstone or footstone, or the tomb over the enclosure protecting any grave;
(c) Digs into or plows over or removes any ornament, shrubbery, or flower placed upon any grave or lot.
(2) The provisions of subsection (1) of this section shall not apply to ordinary maintenance and care of a cemetery nor the removal and relocation of graves pursuant to procedures authorized by and in accordance with applicable statutes.
(3) Violating graves is a Class D felony.
(4) The court shall order the defendant to restore the cemetery to its pre-damage condition.

Thus, it is a completely separate crime to move the flowers placed on the grave, in order to start digging into the ground.  In fact, moving the flowers alone in this situation would constitute a Class D felony.  But it doesn’t stop there.  KRS 525.120 covers the act of removing the body and using it for other…purposes…besides…burying.  It reads:

 (1) A person is guilty of abuse of a corpse when except as authorized by law he intentionally treats a corpse in a way that would outrage ordinary family sensibilities. A person shall also be guilty of abuse of a corpse if that person enters into a contract and accepts remuneration for the preparation of a corpse for burial or the burial or cremation of a corpse and then deliberately fails to prepare, bury, or cremate that corpse in accordance with that contract.
(2) Abuse of a corpse is a Class A misdemeanor, unless the act attempted or committed involved sexual intercourse or deviate sexual intercourse with the corpse or the deliberate failure to prepare, bury, or cremate a corpse after the acceptance of remuneration in accordance with any contract negotiated, in which case it is a Class D felony.

Chances are the police would use subsection (2) supra, as a basis for charging a grave robber/death faker with an extra felony.  The rationale most likely to be employed would be that, by taking the body away from burial and burning the body, you have caused the “failure to bury” the corpse.

As you can see, the grave robbing statutes are numerous.  If a person were courageous enough to rob a grave whilst a funeral proceeding were concurrently being held, there would be several other charges to add to the list.

That brings us to Insurance Fraud.  When a person is inclined to fake their death, that person has a reason to do so.  Most frequently, that reason is money.  Insurance money.  Which isn’t “real” money, right?  But we will treat it as if it were, for the purpose of this conversation.

The statute is extremely long, and due to the extensive nature of the same, I will not post it here. Just trust me, insurance fraud is illegal under KRS 304.47-020, and in this case, it would most likely be a felony carrying a penalty of up to 5 years in prison.

All that being said, it is not illegal to fake your own death in Kentucky.  I have yet to see a Kentucky Revised Statute, Kentucky Administrative Regulation, or local ordinance which prevents it.  If all you are doing is faking a death, with no other purpose, and you don’t do anything that is illegal in the process, faking your death, alone, is not illegal in Kentucky.

If you have been charged with grave robbing or insurance fraud, you need an attorney who knows the law.  These are serious crimes with stiff penalties.  Call Gruner & Simms, PLLC at 502.618.4949 for a free consultation today. 

Results.  As fast as the law will allow.

Questions answered in this blog post:  In Kentucky, is it illegal to fake your own death; what crimes can a person be charged with if they rob a grave; what class of felony is it to dig up a body; what is desecration of a corpse; what is desecration of venerated objects; what is abuse of a corpse; where can I find a good Louisville Criminal Defense lawyer; what constitutes insurance fraud in Kentucky?

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