In Fond du Lac County, Wisconsin, 46-year-old Robert Diamentis has entered a plea deal in a case that involved concealing the corpse of his brother.
Earlier this year, on May 2, Diamentis’ brother was found in a plastic container at their shared residence. Diamentis’ brother had been ill and bed-ridden, and Diamentis was supposedly serving as his brother’s full time caregiver. According to court reports, the dead body had been hidden in the house for “several months because [Diamentis] didn’t want people to think he was neglecting his brother.”
Diamentis was originally charged with “hiding a corpse, obstructing an officer, failing to report a death in unusual circumstances,” and “negligently subjecting an individual at risk to abuse causing death.” In accordance with his plea agreement, Diamentis pled guilty to the charge of “negligently subjecting an individual at risk to abuse causing death” and his other charges were dismissed by the court. Prior to entering this plea, Diamentis had been found competent to stand trial.
In Wisconsin, there are specific laws mandating when an individual has an affirmative duty to report the death of another individual. Wisconsin Statute §979.01 requires that “…persons having knowledge of the death of any person who has died under any of the following circumstances, shall immediately report the death to the sheriff, police chief, or medical examiner or coroner of the county where the death took place…” Included in the first subsection of this statute are “All deaths in which there are unexplained, unusual or suspicious circumstances.” A person found in violation of this statute could be fined up to $1,000 or imprisoned up to 90 days.
Despite being originally charged with “hiding a corpse,” the facts in this case remain unclear to whether this charge could have been proved in court. Wisconsin Statute §940.11 provides that (1) “Whoever mutilates, disfigures or dismembers a corpse, with intent to conceal a crime or avoid apprehension, prosecution or conviction for a crime, is guilty of a Class F felony.” Alternatively, (2) “Whoever hides or buries a corpse, with intent to conceal a crime or avoid apprehension, prosecution or conviction for a crime … with intent to collect benefits under one of those sections, is guilty of a Class G felony.” The law makes a distinction between someone “mutilating” a corpse and simply “hiding” a corpse, as was the case here with Diamentis. It is clear that Diamentis did in fact hide his brother’s corpse to avoid detection, but it is unknown whether he did so with the intent to continue collecting state benefits. If Diamentis was not collecting benefits on behalf of his brother, the state cannot charge the second offense. Therefore, the state must make a case that Diamentis did in fact “mutilate” or “disfigure” his brother’s body by concealing it in a plastic container for several months. Depending on the degree of decomposition, the state may have a viable argument that the brother’s corpse was adequately “disfigured” to pass scrutiny under this statute’s first section. However, given the clear distinction in the statute’s language between “mutilating” and “hiding” a corpse, and the different felony levels ascribed to each offense, Diamentis should have been charged under §940.11 only if he was collecting benefits on behalf of his brother during the months he concealed his brother’s body.