Senate panel votes to make not reporting a dead body a crime

LANSING—Michigan residents who fail to report the discovery of a deceased person for the purpose of hiding or concealing that death or cause thereof would face a year in prison and a $1,000 fine under legislation approved by the state Senate Judiciary Committee this week.

“Cases of not reporting a dead body have shocked the public’s conscience that there is no crime for failing to report one and it is important that we fix that,” said Tonya Schuitmaker, R-Lawton, who sponsored the Senate Bill 231. “These measures would make it a misdemeanor to fail to report a death, and a felony if the person not reporting it did so while committing another crime, like cashing the deceased's checks, for example.”

The legislation stems in part from a case in Grand Rapids where, after being unable to contact her mother for several days, a claimant arrived at their mother’s residence to discover the woman’s boyfriend at the premises. The man had locked the mother’s dead body in an adjacent room and concealed the knowledge of her death for many days.

Sen. Dave Hildenbrand, who represents the district where the incident occurred, introduced Senate Bill 380, which establishes the sentencing guidelines for those convicted.

“It is illegal in Michigan to hide or dispose of a dead body, but it isn’t illegal to not report one,” said Hildenbrand, R-Lowell. “This legislation corrects that oversight by making those who fail to report a dead body criminally responsible.”

Kent County Assistant Prosecutor Tim McMorrow testified in support of the measures during the committee hearing.

SBs 231 and 380 were reported with full committee support and now go before the Senate for consideration.