We often discuss novel criminal charges or cases. The latest such case involves the arrest of two teenage girls in Texas after they removed a gold necklace off the chest of a dead man found in a drainage ditch. The charge is “theft from a human corpse.”The unidentified man is believed to have hung himself in the ditch near a local gas station. KSAT-TV reported that the girls spotted the body and removed the chain. They then posted images on social media. Those images of the scene before the arrival of the police proved key to the charges. One, according to FOX San Antonio, showed the 17-year-old taking a gold necklace off the dead man’s chest. She was later identified as Bethany Martin. The other girl is unidentified due to her juvenile status.
The girls surrendered the pendant to police. (The gold chain does not appear to have been recovered).
The state law states that a theft is a felony if:
(A) the value of the property stolen is $2,500 or more but less than $30,000, or the property is less than 10 head of sheep, swine, or goats or any part thereof under the value of $30,000;
(B) regardless of value, the property is stolen from the person of another or from a human corpse or grave, including property that is a military grave marker;
Thus, the item can be virtually worthless but still constitute a felony under the law. This was obviously not worthless. Moreover, the sentimental value of the pendant to the family is worth more than any market value, which is the obvious point of the law. Many objects on a corpse are likely to carry far more emotive or personal value than market value. This is an area where the criminal code recognizes such personal costs for objects that fall below the threshold felony levels for valuation.