A photo provided by Cohasset, Mass., police shows Ana Walshe, who worked in the Washington office of a real estate investment firm and was last seen at her home in Massachusetts on New Year’s Day but wasn’t reported missing until three days later, the police said.
By MICHAEL LEVENSON
The disappearance of Ana Walshe, a real estate executive and mother of three from suburban Boston, has dominated headlines in Massachusetts and on national cable news this month as investigators have revealed gruesome evidence found in her home and reporters have dug into her husband’s criminal past.
On Tuesday, prosecutors said that police had obtained an arrest warrant charging Walshe’s husband, Brian R. Walshe, with her murder. Walshe is already in jail after he was arrested on Jan. 8 on charges that he had misled investigators in an effort to cover up or dispose of evidence.
Michael W. Morrissey, the Norfolk County district attorney, said that additional details and evidence supporting the murder charge would be disclosed Wednesday when Walshe was arraigned in court. An assistant to Walshe’s lawyer, Tracy A. Miner, said that Miner would not comment on the charges.
“Her focus is on defending Mr. Walshe in court,” the assistant wrote in an email.
Ana Walshe, 39, was last seen at her home in Cohasset, Massachusetts, an affluent seaside town southeast of Boston, in the early hours of New Year’s Day, according to police. But she was not reported missing until three days later when she did not show up for work in Washington, where she was an executive with the real estate investment firm Tishman Speyer.
Scrutiny soon focused on Brian Walshe, 47, the son of a wealthy family who pleaded guilty in 2021 to charges that he had sold fake Andy Warhol paintings to a California art dealer.
Prosecutors said that Walshe had initially told police that his wife had taken an Uber or Lyft to the airport early on New Year’s Day because of a work emergency.
But her cellphone pinged in the area of her house on Jan. 1 and Jan. 2, after Walshe said she had left, a prosecutor, Lynn Beland, said in court on Jan. 9. Investigators who executed a search warrant at the home found blood in the basement as well as a bloody knife, part of which was damaged, Beland said.
Walshe was seen on surveillance video on Jan. 2 buying $450 in cleaning supplies — including mops, a bucket, tarps, drop cloths and tape — from a Home Depot, Beland said. He had told police that the only time he had left home that day was to buy ice cream for his son, she said.
Media organizations have aggressively followed the investigation, fueling interest with a steady drip of developments — from a search of a local trash transfer station for evidence to reports about Walshe’s internet search history.
The heavy news coverage has revived criticism of the disproportionate attention journalists give to sensational cases involving victims who are white women. PBS anchor Gwen Ifill, who broke barriers as a Black woman in the Washington press corps, coined the term “missing white woman syndrome,” to describe the phenomenon nearly two decades ago.
Some drew comparisons to the case of Gabrielle Petito, who disappeared on a cross-country van trip in late 2021. Her body was eventually found in a national park in Wyoming, and the chief suspect, Brian Laundrie, her fiance, took his own life while he was a fugitive in Florida.
In The Boston Globe, which has covered the Walshe case extensively, columnist Joan Vennochi wrote that it “illustrates yet again — if you are young, white and pretty, and live in a place where horrific crime is not supposed to take place, you are very newsworthy.”
“Yet would we be just as fascinated if this couple were Black and lived in Roxbury?” Vennochi added, referring to a Boston neighborhood with a large Black population.
She noted that Cohasset is a town of about 8,400 people that is 94% white, with median home values and household income in the six figures, with a low crime rate and no murders in the past decade.
In his newsletter, Oliver Darcy, a CNN reporter who covers the news media, also explored the connection between race and the attention to this case. He quoted Martin G. Reynolds, co-executive director of the Maynard Institute for Journalism Education, which promotes diversity and anti-racism in the news media. “Journalists are making value judgments and articulating through coverage who is important and whose life has value,” Reynolds said. “That is very powerful.”
Walshe, prosecutors said, was under house arrest and awaiting sentencing in the Warhol fraud case when his wife was reported missing. In that case, federal prosecutors said, Walshe took two of Warhol’s authentic “Shadows” paintings from a friend and then sold two forged renditions to a California art dealer for $80,000.
Walshe pleaded guilty in April 2021 to one count each of wire fraud, interstate transportation for a scheme to defraud, possession of converted goods and an unlawful monetary transaction.
Prosecutors last year recommended that he serve 30 months in prison, contending that he had “orchestrated a long, complicated fraud over many years,” and had deceived his victims with “his likability, communication, his reassurance.”
Walshe’s lawyers asked that he be sentenced to one year of home confinement, writing that he had been “used as a pawn by his parents in their acrimonious marital relationship.”
Quoting Walshe’s psychiatrist, the lawyers said Walshe’s childhood left him “neglected, unloved and emotionally damaged.”
Walshe wrote to the court in September 2021 that he was “extremely sorry for my past conduct.”
“I have created a contract for myself: ‘I am an honest, courageous, loving leader,’” Walshe wrote. “I repeat this contract to myself on a daily basis. I train every day on 100% integrity, 100% of the time.”