Though the pain of losing her son will never heal, Elaine Hall said a law she helped pass, making tampering with a deceased body a felony, offers at least a little respite.
“The healing process is obviously day-by-day, and I’m not sure I’ll ever fully heal,” Hall said. “But ... seeing it used, I’m happy with that. It puts some meat behind the other charges.”
Thirteen-year-old Dylan Redwine went missing in November 2012, a day after he arrived in La Plata County to visit his father, Mark Redwine, in Vallecito, about 25 miles northeast of Durango, as part of a court-ordered visit.
Dylan’s remains were found in June 2013, about 10 miles from Mark Redwine’s home, in a mountainous, wooded area. Mark Redwine was arrested in 2017 on suspicion of second-degree murder and child abuse resulting in death.
Redwine’s trial, which has experienced numerous postponements, is scheduled to start Oct. 28.
Hall, however, started working around 2016 with another mother, Laura Saxton, whose child, Kelsie Schelling, was murdered and her body never found, to make tampering with a dead body a more severe crime. The two mothers would talk to state politicians and spoke at a Colorado legislative committee meeting in favor of making the punishment harsher.
In 2016, their efforts were successful, elevating tampering with a body from a misdemeanor to a Class 3 felony. The charge now carries a sentence of up to 12 years in prison, and is usually tacked onto more serious crimes, like murder.
“I couldn’t believe it wasn’t already a felony in Colorado,” Hall said. “To me, it was very common sense.”
Tampering with a body is usually charged when a person intentionally “destroys, mutilates, conceals, removes or alters” a human body to impair legal proceedings, according to the bill. It is often tacked on to high-profile cases.
The charge was used in the case of Chris Watts, who pleaded guilty in 2018 to killing his pregnant wife and two young daughters. Watts reportedly buried his wife in a shallow grave and put his daughters’ bodies in oil tanks.
Watts was sentenced to several life sentences, 48 years for unlawful termination of pregnancy and 12 years for three counts of tampering with a deceased body, according to Denver CBS.
In March, Letecia Stauch, who is accused of killing her 11-year-old stepson earlier this year, was also charged with tampering with a deceased body, according to KKTV 11 News.
A report in the Montrose Daily Press in January said there have been 34 charges and 12 convictions for tampering with a deceased body since it became a felony in 2016.
Sixth Judicial District Attorney Christian Champagne said it is important to make the crime a felony instead of a misdemeanor.
“When we see someone who is doing inappropriate things with the remains of our loved ones, I think it strikes many people as a very serious crime,” he said.
Champagne also said prosecutors can use the charge if there’s a lack of evidence for more serious crimes in a case.
“It’s a tool we can use when we don’t have the evidence ... and still get some accountability for someone who has hidden a body or moved someone’s remains to avoid detection,” he said.
Champagne said Redwine’s alleged crimes happened in 2012, before the tampering law became a felony, and prosecutors can only charge for crimes in place at the time of the incident. He doesn’t plan to add the charge at this time.
For Hall, she said she’s happy to have helped future victims get more justice.
“We knew our children were victims, and there was no severe penalty in Colorado for tampering with remains,” she said. “We felt it needed to be more severe.”