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What Is the Penalty for Dismembering a Human Body?

By Lisa M. Schaffer, Esq. | Last updated on

There has been a lot of talk recently about murder and dismemberment, and not solely because it is almost Halloween. Taking politics out of the equation, what is the penalty for a crime like this, both domestically and abroad?

Sweden: Life in Prison

In April 2018, Danish submarine inventor Peter Madsen was found guilty of murdering and dismembering Swedish freelance journalist Kim Wall, and of indecent handling of her corpse. Wall boarded Madsen's submarine with the intent to do a story about Madsen's scientific and entrepreneurial career, but it appears Madsen developed different intentions.

Madsen denied murdering Wall, claiming she died of carbon monoxide poisoning. Madsen did, however, admit to dismembering her, claiming it was easier to get smaller parts out of the submarine. Madsen was given life in prison; Sweden does not have the death penalty.

United States: Pennsylvania Gives Life in Prison or Death Penalty

In 2016, James Britton and his wife, Stacy Britton, were found guilty of murdering and dismembering Robert Roudebush in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. Stacy actually administered the lethal blow, with a hammer. Though James pleaded guilty to third degree murder and was given 15 to 30 years in prison, Stacy went to trial, where she was found guilty of first degree murder and dismemberment. Stacy was sentenced to life in prison.

However, in 2015, Charles Hicks was found guilty of murdering and dismembering Deanna Null in Poconos, Pennsylvania, and given the death penalty. It is unclear why Hicks received the death penalty and Stacy Britton did not. Perhaps it is because Hicks confessed to at least five other murders in Texas. Or perhaps it was because Hicks is a black male.

Dismemberment Alone Can You Get Life In Prison or Just Probation

In California, Aggravated Mayhem, Penal Code 205, is when someone unlawfully uses extreme indifference to another's well-being, and intentionally causes permanent disability or disfigurement, or deprives someone of a limb, organ, or "member of his or her body". To prove Aggravated Mayhem, a prosecutor need not prove intent to kill. If found guilty, a defendant could face life in prison, though could also end up with merely a probation sentence, depending on the facts of the case and the defendant's criminal history. In Illinois, however, dismemberment, regardless of murder, is considered a Felony Class X charge, and the penalty is 6-30 years in prison, and a fine of up to $25,000.

If you have been charged with either murder or dismemberment, contact a local criminal defense attorney. If this is your first dismemberment charge, you may be able to merely face probation, depending on the facts of your case and local laws. If however, you killed and dismembered a journalist overseas, your fate may be different. Or then again, maybe not.

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