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Michigan necrophilia ban would criminalize sex acts with dead bodies

Man testifies next to photo of his wife in legislature
Rick Rohrer, husband of murder victim Melody Rohrer, testifies before a Senate committee in support of bills to ban necrophilia in Michigan.  (Screenshot)
  • Sexual contact with dead bodies would become a 15-year felony under necrophilia ban advancing in Michigan Senate
  • Plan is backed by family of murder victim Melody Rohrer, whose killer was not charged with necrophilia because there is no state ban
  • Rohrer’s husband, state officials say proposed changes are necessary to fill a gap in Michigan law 

Rick and Melody Rohrer’s dreams of traveling the country in their RV and making it to 75 years of marriage were violently cut short in September 2021, when 64-year-old Melody was killed while jogging in Van Buren County by a man later convicted of murdering her and hiding her body. 

As months passed and more details about her death were revealed — including evidence that her killer, Colby Martin, had sex with her corpse — Rick Rohrer kept looking for a sexual assault charge to be added to the list of counts. None came, he said, because Michigan law has no specific ban against necrophilia.

He’s trying to change that. 

“My family and I will never have closure of this horrific event, but honoring Melody with a new law that may make a difference to other victims’ families in the future would be a great step forward,” Rohrer told lawmakers during a Michigan Senate committee hearing Thursday. 


A trio of bills sponsored by Sen. Veronica Klinefelt, D-Eastpointe, would make the act of necrophilia, including sexual penetration or sexual touching of human remains, punishable by up to 15 years in prison and require perpetrators to register as a sex offender. 

The bills passed unanimously out of the Michigan Senate Civil Rights, Judiciary and Public Safety Committee Thursday. They need majority approval in both the House and Senate and a signature from Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to become law. 

Klinefelt said her goal is to get the bills fast-tracked through the Legislature and signed before lawmakers break for summer. She pointed to the Rohrer family’s desire to see the bills’ passage in person. 

There is no federal law criminalizing necrophilia, and Michigan is among a handful of states with no specific ban on the books. Disinterment, mutilation, defacement or improper removal of human remains is a 10-year felony, however.

Lawmakers in other states without bans, including New Mexico, are also calling for changes.


Angela Povilaitis, a former prosecutor who is now a staff policy attorney with the Michigan Domestic and Sexual Violence Treatment and Prevention Board, said she was personally shocked to learn that the defendant in Melody Rohrer’s case could not be charged with sexual assault despite what she called “overwhelming forensic evidence establishing his guilt to those acts.” 

“Passage of Melody's Law would fill a needed gap in Michigan law, which currently is mute related to all necrophilia-related offenses,” Povilaitis said. 

Martin, Melody Rohrer’s killer, denied having sex with her body during court proceedings. He was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole on counts of murder, failure to stop at the scene when at fault causing death and concealing the death.


Had Martin been parole-eligible and ultimately released, he wouldn’t have been required to register as a sex offender, Rick Rohrer told lawmakers, a fact that he said has been difficult for him and his daughters to endure while they mourn the loss of “the glue of our family.”  

“It is clear the only reason he murdered her was to satisfy his criminal sexual deviant desire,” Rohrer said, later noting that passage of the proposed bills would “give us peace of mind that no one else would have to endure the same injustice our family has had to endure.” 

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