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Broward grand jury indicts Florida man for wife's murder

A grand jury in Broward County has indicted a 39-year-old Miramar man for the murder of his wife of 13 years. What makes this case somewhat unusual is that the woman's body has not been found. In many cases, the remains of the victim and the coroner's report are critical pieces of evidence in a murder case. Without a body, the defense can make the argument that there is reasonable doubt a murder took place. Nonetheless, the grand jury deliberated for only 23 minutes before returning an indictment on first-degree murder charges.

Sixteen witnesses, including family members and friends, testified before the grand jury. They spoke about the couple's rocky relationship, and the events of the last day the victim was seen alive. Prosecutors allege the missing woman had spent the night at a male co-worker's home. She has not been seen since she left to return to her own home in the morning. Using evidence from toll plazas, prosecutors traced her drive home. The police investigation concluded the man was in the couple's home when his wife arrived home. He did not report her missing until two days later.

Prosecutors are not required to submit cases to grand juries for an indictment. Grand juries are typically used to obtain indictments in high profile or controversial cases or cases in which the evidence is not entirely clear. In these cases, prosecutors may want to shield themselves from public criticism by letting the grand jury make the call whether a suspect should be charged with a crime.

The husband in this case was first held without bond. In a statement to the press, the man's defense lawyer has pointed out that prosecutors need to prove a death occurred in order to secure a conviction. It will be interesting to see if the prosecution is able to obtain a conviction based largely on circumstantial evidence.

Source: South Florida Sun-Sentinel, "Husband of missing Miramar woman indicted on first-degree murder charge," Tonya Alanez and Linda Trischitta, Dec. 6, 2012

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