QUINCY — Brian R. Walshe’s grim searches online allegedly began just hours after he and his wife, Ana, celebrated the new year with a mutual friend in the couple’s Cohasset home.
Not five hours into 2023, Norfolk prosecutors said, Walshe grabbed his little boy’s iPad, and asked Google two disturbing questions: “How long before a body starts to smell,” and “How to stop a body from decomposing.”
Norfolk First Assistant District Attorney Lynn Beland laid out the allegations against Walshe in Quincy District Court, where he was arraigned Wednesday on charges of murder and disinterring a body. He pleaded not guilty and was ordered held without bail.
Walshe’s online queries about disposing a body and cleaning up its remains continued, off and on, over the next few days, she said, while Ana Walshe’s colleagues in Washington, D.C., grew worried when she was a no-show for work on Jan. 3, and contacted Cohasset police.
Over the next few days, investigators mounted a desperate effort to find the 39-year-old mother of three. But prosecutors said that work has led them to a single conclusion: she wasn’t missing, she had been murdered by Brian Walshe, who they said disposed of his wife’s dismembered body in the trash.
Walshe, 47, did not speak during the arraignment except to say “I do” when asked if he understood the charges against him. Walshe remained largely expressionless as Beland recited a litany of online searches he made beginning early on Jan. 1. Throughout the hearing, he appeared to flex his right hand nervously.
Days before allegedly killing his wife, Brian Walshe, who in 2021 pleaded guilty to scamming a Los Angeles art collector out of $80,000, had inquired online about divorce, Beland said.
“On Dec. 27, the defendant Googled ‘what’s the best state to divorce for a man?’ ” Beland said during the arraignment. “Rather than divorce, it is believed Brian Walshe dismembered Ana Walshe and discarded her body.”
Among the terms Walshe allegedly searched online were “how long before a body starts to smell,” “how to stop a body from decomposing,” “how to embalm a body,” and “10 ways to dispose of a dead body if you really need to,” Beland said. Those searches occurred between 4:55 a.m. and 5:47 a.m. on New Year’s Day.
At the mention of the embalming search, Walshe, clad in a tight gray sweat shirt and tan pants, shook his head.
Additional search terms included “can you throw away body parts,” “what does formaldehyde do,” “how long does DNA last,” “can identification be made from partial remains,” “dismemberment and best ways to dispose of a body,” and “what happens when you put body parts in ammonia,” Beland said to a hushed courtroom.
He also searched for “hacksaw best tool to dismember,” and “can you be charged with murder without a body,” Beland said.
Data from Ana Walshe’s phone indicated it was stationary near the house from New Year’s Eve until 3:14 a.m. on Jan. 2, when it was turned off, Beland said. There were no outgoing calls during that time.
Prosecutors did not specify when or how Walshe allegedly killed his wife, and the police report in the case was impounded. Walshe’s lawyer, Tracy Miner, didn’t respond to the allegations in court or contest the prosecution’s request that he be held without bail. Walshe was already being held on $500,000 bail for allegedly misleading investigators in the case.
In a statement after the arraignment, Miner said prosecutors had not provided her with any evidence in the case.
“In my experience, where, as here, the prosecution leaks so-called evidence to the press before they provide it to me, their case isn’t that strong,” Miner said. “When they have a strong case, they give me everything as soon as possible. We shall see what they have and what evidence is admissible in court, where the case will ultimately be decided.”
Miner criticized media coverage, which she said “has already tried and convicted Mr. Walshe.”
In court, Beland detailed Walshe’s alleged efforts to dispose of his wife’s body. On Jan. 3, Beland said, surveillance video allegedly captured Walshe at an apartment complex in Abington.
“He walks to the dumpster carrying a garbage bag,” Beland said. “He’s leaning, and it appears to be heavy, as he has to heft it into the dumpster.”
Police tried to track down bags he had allegedly disposed of in Abington but they had already been taken to another site where they were shredded and incinerated, Beland said. Investigators also have surveillance video that shows a person matching Walshe’s appearance leaving items in a dumpster about 40 minutes later at an apartment in Brockton, she said.
Police also searched dumpsters from his mother’s apartment complex in Swampscott and found trash bags containing several items with “stains consistent with blood,” including towels, rags, a Tyvek protective suit, gloves, slippers, carpets, a COVID-19 vaccine card in the name of Ana Walshe, a hacksaw, and cutting shears, Beland said.
Also found were a purse and boots that matched what Ana Walshe was last seen wearing, as well as a portion of a necklace that matched one she had worn, Beland said.
Testing showed that Ana and Brian Walshe “contributed” to DNA found on the slippers, while Ana Walshe “contributed” to the DNA found on a pant leg of a Tyvek suit, Beland said. Brian Walshe’s DNA also was found on the suit, she said.
On Jan. 2, Walshe paid $450 in cash for cleaning supplies at a Home Depot in Rockland, including mops, brushes, tape, tarp, a Tyvek suit with boot covers, a hatchet, and baking soda, Beland said. Walshe wore a mask and gloves while in the store, Beland said.
After Walshe’s wife was reported missing on Jan. 4, officers went to the couple’s home for a well-being check, Beland said. Walshe told police his wife had left early on Jan. 1 for a flight to Washington, D.C., where she worked for a real estate firm. But authorities said there was no record of a rideshare or taxi coming to their home that day and determined that she did not fly out of Logan Airport that day or any since.
Authorities then launched an expansive search of her home, the surrounding woods, and a nearby stream. Detectives traveled to Washington to search for any sign of her.
Walshe was arrested on Jan. 8 and charged with misleading investigators in the case. At Walshe’s arraignment the next day, Beland said investigators had found blood and a damaged knife with blood on it in the basement of the couple’s home.
That night, police could be seen at the Swampscott apartment complex and the Peabody transfer station.
Allegations that Walshe was murdered have left her friends reeling and deeply concerned for the couple’s three sons, the oldest of whom is 6. They have been placed in the custody of the Department of Children and Families, the state’s child protection agency.
Carrie Westbrook, who knew Ana Walshe when she first arrived in the United States from Serbia in 2005, said, “I am devastated and wish there was something I could do for her boys.”
In an Instagram post Westbrook shared with the Globe, she paid tribute to her longtime friend.
“Your smile lit up a room, your heart could fill a stadium, your generosity and passion infected everyone around you with admiration,” Westbrook wrote.
Westbrook said she is organizing a reception in D.C. in the coming weeks so friends can pay tribute to Walshe.
“My focus is on celebrating a life of a close friend,” Westbrook said.
John R. Ellement of the Globe staff contributed to this report.
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