Prosecutor Discusses Seeking Murder Conviction Without Body
Dakota County Attorney James Backstrom says, the case of 5 year old Corrine Erstad in 1993 changed him as a man and prosecutor.
"I will always be saddened that I was not able to obtain justice for Corrine," Backstrom said.
Erstad went missing June 1st of 1992 from her home in Inver Grove Heights. The investigation turned up clothing which had blood and semen on it. The DNA led investigators to one man.
"A lot of that evidence that was found in this case was in a storage locker of a family friend. Ultimately Robert Guevara was that family friend," Backstrom said.
Four Months of trial and the jury found Guevara not guilty. what made Backstrom's job a bit more difficult is that Corrine's body was never found. He says, advances in DNA now give prosecutors the go-ahead to charge someone for murder without a body.
"There's been many convictions, hundreds of convictions across the country," Backstrom said.
In all his years as the Dakota County Attorney, Backstrom says, he can think of only one specific case in Minnesota where someone was convicted without a body: State of Minnesota vs. Samantha Heiges in 2010.
"She, in fact, had given birth and drowned her child," Backstrom said.
Heiges was convicted of killing her newborn daughter in 2005. She got 24 years in prison. Her child's body was never found. Her case was appealed all the way to the State Supreme Court.
Backstrom says it was a victory, but the joy didn't last. He says the Corrine Erstad case sticks with him always.
"There's not a day that goes by that I don't think about Corrine. I keep her picture on the bookshelf in my office," Backstrom said.