Murder charge without body in Pabon case has a precedent in Chesterfield 

Posted at 10:11 PM, Mar 14, 2017
and last updated 2017-03-14 23:24:03-04

CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. -- On April 22 of last year, prosecutors successfully got a conviction in a Chesterfield court for the murder of Leyla Namiranian.

The body of the former Altria executive, who vanished in 2012, has never been found.

Now the Commonwealth will go at it again, this time against Dr. John Gibbs, charged with the murder of Zulma Pabon, though her body, too, has never been found.

John Gibbs (PHOTO: Chesterfield Police)

Pabon, 26, was last seen alive on June 6, 2014.

After more than two years of investigating what was initially a suspicious missing person case, investigators have concluded that Pabon is deceased, though her remains have not been recovered. This case is now classified as a death investigation, specifically a no-body homicide.

Prosecutors have built a case around circumstantial evidence.

"And circumstantial evidence can be very strong if you have the right circumstantial evidence," said CBS 6 legal expert Todd Stone.

Zulma Pabon

Cell phone records, prior statements, witness statements, along with any forensic evidence were recently put on display in front of a multi-jurisdictional grand jury.

Whatever they saw and heard was enough for them to come back with an indictment against Gibbs for first degree murder.

"Prosecutors in this case not only have to prove that the defendant committed a murder, you also have to prove the extra step that the person is actually dead, not missing, but dead," said Stone.

Chesterfield's prosecutors pulled that off last year. Michael Edwards was sentenced to 30 years in prison for the murder of Namiranian. The circumstantial evidence, including Edwards' cell records was deemed damning enough, according to the jury, even without a body.

Edwards and Namiranian

Stone said this indictment can even give the family a leg up on closure.

"If they want to find the body, they can ask the prosecutor to make an offer that ‘we want the body in exchange for it,’” said Stone. “It's something that could transpire."

Police have said that Gibbs has never been cooperative during their investigation, citing his constitutional rights.

You may recall Gibbs was convicted of child abuse last year, which is something Stone says could play into sentencing if he's convicted of murder.

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