BUTTE COUNTY (CBS13) – Murder charges were filed against two Butte County men after two Alabama men went missing in California last month.
The bodies of the victims — Ladexter Pelt, 25, and John Dubose, 20 — have not yet been found.READ MORE: Electra Fire: Firefighters Gain Significant Containment, Some Amador County Evacuation Warnings Downgraded
But how can murder charges be filed without a body? And how likely is a conviction?
UC Hastings Law Professor John Myers says it’s uncommon but not impossible.
“There has to be evidence beyond a reasonable doubt that the person is dead and that the defendant killed them, but you don’t have to have a body,” Myers told CBS13.
He explained that without a body, the case has to be airtight.
“There’s no question that if you do not have a body, that it’s more difficult to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that a murder has occurred,” he said. “You can’t have an autopsy, you don’t have an obvious victim, you don’t have wounds.”
Investigators will have to rely on crime scene evidence and possibly cellphones to determine charges.
Alabama residents Pelt and Dubose vanished in early November after traveling to California.
Their concerned families called the Gridley Police Department in Butte County to report their loved ones missing. Investigators began their search, piecing together a timeline of events.READ MORE: Nearly 10K Pounds Of Illegal Fireworks Seized In San Joaquin County In May, June
That began on November 4 at the Sacramento International Airport where John Dubose and Ladexter Pelt were last seen.
On November 8, Dubose’s cellphone was discovered in the Sutter Bypass Wildlife Area.
“Then they’ll find out what’s on that phone,” Myers said. “That’s often a gold mine of evidence.”
One day later, Pelt’s cellphone provider led investigators to the Wyndham Hotel in Sacramento.
By November 13, the Butte County Sheriff’s Office determined Pelt and Dubose were murdered at a home in the Gridley area.
The following day, Ricardo Banuelos-Villarreal, 30, and Alfredo Banuelos-Villarreal, 35, both of Gridley, had arrest warrants out for murder charges.
See photos of both men below.
Ricardo was arrested in Yuba City and is being held in the Butte County Jail. Alfredo is still missing.MORE NEWS: VIDEO: Coyote Leaves Dead Cat On East Sacramento Lawn
Butte County sheriff’s deputies are asking anyone who knows of the whereabouts of Alfredo or a 2008 Nissan Altima with a California license plate number 6VAR204 to contact them immediately.