Beverly McCallum gets max sentence in Fugitive Wife Murder Trial

Posted at 3:32 PM, May 23, 2024

CHARLOTTE, Mich. (Court TV) — A judge sentenced a Michigan mother convicted of killing her husband to 40-60 years in prison.

In April, a jury found Beverly McCallum guilty of second-degree murder and disinterment/mutilation of a body in the 2002 death of Robert Caraballo. At trial, prosecutors argued McCallum pushed Caraballo down the basement stairs of the couple’s Michigan home, beat him with a hammer and suffocated him.

Beverly McCallum

Beverley McCallum listens to the judge at her May 23, 2024, sentencing hearing. (Court TV)

McCallum, who is now 63, sat in a wheelchair as the judge called her a “threat to anyone” who gets in her way at McCallum’s May 23, 2024, sentencing hearing. The judge also called attention to a moment during McCallum’s murder trial when the judge said she leaned into the courtroom monitors to see her dead husband’s autopsy photos more closely.

McCallum’s daughter, Sicily Caraballo, spoke on behalf of her father, who was “ripped” from his family. “His legacy will live on through us. Your legacy will end with you, Beverly,” Sicily said through tears.

Caraballo’s fate was a mystery for decades, as his charred remains were discovered in 2002 in a metal box in a blueberry patch in western Michigan. The body was not positively identified as belonging to Caraballo until 2015.

McCallum wasn’t arrested until Feb. 13, 2020, when she was apprehended at a hotel on the outskirts of Rome. She and her teenage son had been hotel guests. Italian hotels are required to register their guests using an online system that connects to a police database. The database flagged an Interpol arrest warrant. The extradition process began there, and McCallum was returned to the U.S. on July 11, 2022, when local authorities picked her up at a Grand Rapids, Mich. airport.

U.S. authorities initially tried to extradite McCallum from Pakistan, where they thought she had been living. She arrived in Italy from Pakistan. Italian authorities said McCallum, who has Italian heritage, was attempting to arrange to live permanently in Italy.

Following her return to the U.S., McCallum was ordered held on a $10 million bond.

mccallum mugshot

Beverly Ann McCallum (Eaton County Sheriff’s Office)

In a plea agreement, McMillan testified against Ducharme and McCallum. He told authorities the killing had been planned and that he had participated in a “test run.” According to McMillan’s testimony, McCallum pushed Caraballo down the basement steps, beat him with a hammer, which became lodged in his skull, then wrapped a plastic bag around his head while he was still breathing.

Ducharme, who was 21 at the time of the killing, admitted to helping her mother dispose of her stepfather’s body.


DAY 5 – 4/1/24

  • A panel of 8 women and 4 men deliberated for less than two hours before finding Beverly McCallum guilty of second-degree murder and disinterment and mutilation of a corpse. McCallum is the third defendant to be convicted in the death of her long-term boyfriend, Robert Caraballo.
  • McCallum blinked and remained expressionless while the verdicts were announced and jurors polled, each announced their agreement with the verdicts.
  • Prosecuting Attorney Doug Lloyd told Court TV that it was a satisfying end to the more than two-decade-long pursuit of justice for the Caraballo family. The discovery of Caraballo’s burned body in a blueberry patch in 2002 marked the beginning of a mystery that dogged detectives for 13 years. The case was dubbed the Jack-in-the-Box murder until McCallum’s daughter, Dineane Ducharme, tipped off police in 2015 that the body was that of Robert Caraballo. Ducharme was sentenced to life in prison in 2022 for her role in Caraballo’s murder.
  • Prosecutor Doug Lloyd argued in closing argument Monday that McCallum orchestrated the murder, recruited her daughter Ducharme and her friend Christopher McMillan to help her bludgeon him to death with a hammer before dumping him in the woods and setting him on fire.
  • Lloyd ridiculed Beverly McCallum’s testimony that she heard nothing while Caraballo was violently attacked in the basement of their home.
  • “Chris told you that he hit Robert as well as the defendant. If a person were struck in the head, how much noise would they make? What pain would you be in?” he asked. “And she hears nothing?”
  • He also mocked her contention that she did not know Caraballo had been stuffed into a trunk and placed in the back of the van before she was asked to drive her codefendants to a blueberry patch that was more than an hour and half away from her residence. Lloyd suggested to jurors that if McCallum had indeed been fearful of the lives of her daughters who were in the van, she could have driven away once McMillan and Ducharme had left.
  • Lloyd argued that McCallum wanted to be rid of Caraballo because he was prepared to leave his criminal past behind him, while she wanted to continue a lifestyle that included drugs and crime.
  • McCallum’s attorney Timothy Havis argued that Chris McMillan could not be trusted to be truthful.
  • “Take a long look at his credibility,” Havis urged, noting the inconsistences in his testimony compared to the testimony of Sicily Caraballo. “He’s the only one in the basement.”
  • “Dineane had told her they killed Rober. How would you process that?” he asked.

DAY 4 – 3/29/24

  • Defendant Beverly McCallum took the witness stand and testified that her daughter, Diane Ducharme and Chris McMillan killed Robert Caraballo – she denied taking part in the planning or execution of his murder
    • McCallum said when Ducharme and McMillan went down to the basement, she thought they were going to talk – she said Caraballo had insisted the two move out that day because he did not approve of Ducharme’s gay lifestyle, and he said McMillan had to go because he was a freeloader.
    • She testified that she had gone downstairs briefly to tell them about dinner, but Caraballo had grabbed her ankle, and she reacted by hitting him in the face with a tool. He became angry and told her to go back upstairs.
    • WATCH: ‘I Didn’t Know What To Think’: Beverly McCallum Testifies To Night Of Murder
    • She stayed upstairs until Ducharme came up distressed and told her they had killed Caraballo
    • McCallum said they asked her to drive them to the blueberry field, where they burned his body. She agreed to drive because her 2 younger daughters were already in the van, and she feared for their safety. She stayed in the van and did not get out of the van to help move the body. She claims she did not know Caraballo was in the van until she heard the explosion.
    • McCallum did not call the police because she was afraid and could not process what happened. She claimed she told her mother and her sister about the events of that night, but they are not alive to corroborate her testimony.
    • McCallum denied ever orchestrating or taking part in a plan to kill Caraballo – and told the jury she had nothing to gain from his death.
    • WATCH: ‘I Never Killed Robert’: McCallum Faces Contentious Cross-Examination
    • McCallum denied that the trunk used to carry Caraballo’s body into the field was hers and said she did not know where the trunk came from.
    • McCallum fumbled and had no explanation for why she let McMillan come with her to Jamaica after he killed Caraballo or why Dineane served as ‘best woman’ at her wedding to another man in Jamaica just weeks after Caraballo was murdered.
    • McCallum struggled to explain what she used to strike Caraballo – she described it as a tool but did not agree it was a crowbar—which is what her daughter said she said she used.
    • Prosecuting Attorney Doug Lloyd asked her about her husband in Jamaica who is reportedly missing — she explained he was not missing – but unreachable in the wilderness.

DAY 3 – 3/27/24

  • Beverly McCallum broke her silence today responding to questions from the judge about her right to testify. Her lawyers informed the court that they would discuss the decision with her on Thursday and inform the judge Friday when the court is back in session.
  • A DNA expert from the Michigan State Police Crime lab testified that items removed from the crime scenes and tested for DNA did not match the DNA of Beverly McCallum or her codefendants Dineane Ducharme and Christopher McMillan.
  • Joni Johnson suggested that the lack of DNA could have meant the suspects wore gloves. Among the items she was given to test was a box of gloves. DNA on the box was compared to the three suspects in this case – and they were ruled out as contributors. She also compared their DNA to DNA on the rope around the victim’s neck, a cushion from the crime scene, and a hair on the cushion and concluded no match.
  • Johnson went to the defendant’s house in the summer of 2015 to test for the presence of blood.  On their first trip, they focused on the first floor, which did not yield any results. On their second trip, they sprayed the basement with luminal, a presumptive test for blood and another chemical test that confirmed the presence of blood in the area where McMillan says the victim was fatally bludgeoned. A portion of the concrete with a blood stain could not be examined at the Michigan State Crime lab and was sent to an independent Lab. An analyst from Cybergenetics was able to determine from the sample that one of the contributors was victim Robert Caraballo.

DAY 2 – 3/26/24

  • Gordon Devries, the owner of a property located an hour and a half from the defendant’s home, testifies he discovered a body in a trunk in his blueberry field.
  • Detective Robert Donker who responded to the scene, found a rope around the victim’s neck and a hammer in the debris– which was later linked to the bludgeoning death of the victim.
    • Donker would spend the next 13 years trying to identify the victim, following up on countless tips and seeking the help of area dentists and odontologists looking for a match to the victim’s dental records.
    • Leads dry up, case grows cold and becomes known as ‘Jack-in-the-Box’, murder. It is the title of a documentary produced in an effort to learn the victim’s identity.
    • The break in the case comes in April of 2015, when Dineane Ducharme, the defendant’s daughter, contacts Donker and tells him the victim could be her stepfather Robert Caraballo and points the finger at her mother.
    • Donker collaborates with Eaton County Detective James Maltby – and they travel to Houston where they interview Dineane Ducharme, her cousin Tanya and Sicily Caraballo.
    • The interviews eventually help them uncover evidence in the basement of the home where the defendant, victim and their family lived in Charlotte, Michigan. The interview with Sicily generates their most important lead in the investigation – identifying Chris McMillan as a witness and suspect.
    • Ducharme and McMillan offer details about the murder of Caraballo. Detectives return to the house where they test for blood spatter and DNA.
  • Michigan State Crime Lab aid in the processing of the Horatio Street home and will testify about the forensic results when they testify Wednesday.

DAY 1 – 3/25/24

  • Prosecutor Doug Lloyd gives the State’s opening statement and tells the jury that Robert Caraballo was murdered by 3 people – his wife – the defendant and two coconspirators who helped bludgeon and suffocate him before dumping his body in the woods and setting him on fire.
  • Defense Attorney John Finley cautioned jurors to be wary of the State’s witnesses who would be asked to testify about events that were more than two decades old.
  • Codefendant Christopher McMillan gave chilling details about the plot driven by the defendant to murder Robert Caraballo.
    • WATCH: Codefendant Details Plotting Robert Caraballo’s Murder
    • McMillan described Beverly McMillan’s role which included pushing him down the stairs, using a hammer to crush his skull then pulling a bag over his head until he stopped breathing.
    • McMillan said they then placed Caraballo’s body into the defendant’s trunk and drove it – with the defendant’s two minor daughters in tow- to a blueberry field where they set him on fire.
    • After dumping their shoes and changing the tires so they could not be traced to the prints and tracks they left in the field – McMillan and the defendant’s daughter cleaned up the bloody mess in the basement where Caraballo had been killed.
    • McMillan testified that before they left the field the defendant wanted a ring from her husband when he and the defendant’s daughter failed to remove the ring – the defendant took it upon herself to loosen it with her saliva and removed the ring from her husband’s dead hand.
    • WATCH: Codefendant Testifies To Robert Caraballo’s Murder, Aftermath
  • The defendant’s daughter – Sicily Caraballo took the stand to testify about her memory of the night her father disappeared. She was 9 years old, and recalled being rousted out of bed for a van ride. She was awakened by an explosion.
    • She missed her father and when she asked about him her mother told her he had returned to his old life of selling drugs in Canada.
    •  When she reached out to her father’s family in the Dominican Republic and heard that he had not been in touch with them she confronted her mother.
    • She said the defendant told her she struck her husband with a crowbar and he bled profusely from his head. Her mother blamed her half sister Dineane and her friends for Caraballo’s death.
    • WATCH: Defendant’s Daughter Testifies in Fugitive Wife Murder Trial

Court TV’s Grace Wong, Katie McLaughlin and Beth Hemphill contributed to this story.