General Assembly Debates Definition of "Dead Body"

Feb 14, 2020

Lawmakers are considering a bill that would change the definition of dead body.

House Bill 666 proposes a change to Virginia’s grave robber statute, making a slight adjustment to the language in response to a gruesome crime in Hampton.

Delegate Mike Mullin introduced the bill after a 2015 case that involved a woman who had killed her son and kept the body in the trunk of her car for more than a decade.   “When we went to prosecute that case, she was not able to be prosecuted for desecration of a body because the code said recently deceased,” Mullin explained.

Virginia code currently defines dead body as a human body or such parts of such human body from the condition of which it reasonably may be concluded that death recently occurred.

“The whole problem is the word recently,” according to Delegate Bobby Orrock. Orrock  worked with Mullin to tweak the language of the bill.

During a hearing, subcommitee chairman Patrick Hope noted the coincidence of the topic and the bill number. “Anyone to speak in favor of House Bill, dare I say, 666. Anyone to speak in opposition to this evil bill?”

Nobody spoke in favor of the bill or in opposition. It sailed through the House of Delegates and is now on its way to the Senate.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.