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Testimony: Murder victim not drinking prior to death

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By KEVIN NEVERS

The gunshot wound which killed Amanda Bach rendered her incapable of “intelligible” speech. It also paralyzed Bach and very rapidly caused her to lapse into unconsciousness.

Those are the conclusions of the forensic pathologist who performed the autopsy on Bach on Monday, Sept. 19, in Indianapolis.

Other conclusions: what the Dustin McCowan’s defense has characterized possibly as ligature marks—on and around Bach’s knees—were post-mortem injuries; and at the time of her death Bach had consumed either no alcohol or very little.

Under direct examination, Dr. John Cavanaugh said he saw no “obvious” signs of sexual assault. He estimated that Bach had been in the actual physical position in which she was found a “minimum of 24 hours.” And he stated that, when found, she had been dead for 24 to 48 hours.

Under defense attorney Nick Barnes’ cross examination, Cavanaugh testified that the bullet wound would have caused “a noticeable amount of blood loss”—though by no means to the point of exsanguination—and that whether or not a blood trail would have been left by the body depends on what happened immediately after Bach had been shot.

Could he tell whether Bach had been sitting or standing or lying when shot? Barnes asked.

There’s no way of telling that, Cavanaugh stated.

Barnes then asked Cavanaugh where the abrasions around her knees could have been made by a ligature.

Cavanaugh first noted that there are actually “separate clusters” of injuries—behind the knees, to the sides, on the knee caps—and that those clusters are not continuous. It would be “hard to say,” on the other hand, whether a ligature caused those injuries. In any case, Cavanaugh said, if a ligature did cause them, it did so after Bach had died.

“Is there any evidence Amanda Bach had been beaten or punched or struck?” Barnes asked.

“There are no significant injuries” beyond those already discussed, Cavanaugh stated, although it’s possible that, had she been pushed and then fallen to her knees, she might have received those abrasions to her knee caps. “But there’s no clear evidence for blunt force.”

Barnes concluded the cross examination by questioning Cavanaugh about the lividity observed on Bach’s body: the places—mostly on her back, waist, and upper legs—where gravity had pulled the blood and caused it to pool.

Later, under re-direct examination, Cavanaugh testified that the lividity and blanching which he observed in Bach’s body is consistent with the position in which she was found.

Juror’s Question

A juror did submit one question, which Porter Superior Court Judge Bill Alexa put to Cavanaugh: is there evidence that Bach consumed alcohol prior to her death.

Alcohol was found in Bach’s system “at low levels,” Cavanaugh stated. It’s impossible to say, though, given those low levels, whether she had consumed that alcohol or whether it had been produced in her body as a result of decomposition.

Entomogist testifiies

A forensic entomologist testified on Wednesday that, based on his analysis of temperature data and his observation of blowfly eggs deposited on Amanda Bach’s body but not yet hatched, Bach in all likelihood had been at the site where her body was later found at least since 10:30 to 11 a.m. Friday, Sept. 16, 2011.

Under direct examination, Dr. Ralph Williams stated the following: common blowflies are attracted “to decomposing flesh by the odor of death”; adult female blowflies will deposit their eggs on cadavers but not after dark and not below the temperature of 50 degrees Fahrenheit; studies have determined that blowfly eggs on average take 267 to 300 “accumulated degree-hours” to hatch; and none of the eggs deposited on Bach—mostly in her hair and nasal cavities—had hatched into maggots when the body was found at 3:49 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 17.

Using temperature data recorded at the Porter County Regional Airport, Williams testified that no egg-laying would have occurred until 10:30 a.m. Friday, Sept. 16—probably closer to 11 a.m.—when the temperature that day finally hit 50 degrees. The temperature did not again fall below 50 degrees on Friday until after dark and by mid-afternoon Saturday, Sept. 17, had reached the mid-60s.

Williams’ calculation: by the time Bach was found at 3:49 p.m. Saturday, the eggs deposited on her body had been there a total of 89 accumulated degree-hours, well short of 267. “That’s why we did not see maggots,” he said.

Working backward from those 89 accumulated degree-hours to what he called the “post-mortem interval,” Williams testified that, in his opinion, Bach’s body was already “probably at that location” at 10:30 or 11 a.m. that Friday.

In cross-examination, defense attorney Nick Barnes pressed Williams on the particular species of blowfly but Williams testified that it’s impossible to identify species until the third growth stage, well after the eggs have hatched into maggots.

Shouldn’t investigators have collected samples of the eggs, in order to hatch them and determine their species? Barnes asked.

Williams wouldn’t speak to what the investigators should or should not have done but he did state that, “regardless of the species, nowhere near the amount of time” had elapsed, when the Bach’s body was discovered, for the eggs to have hatched.

“In this situation you don’t believe collection would have given you any other information” Barnes asked.

“I would normally advocate collection but again we’re dealing only with 89 accumulated degree-hours,” Williams replied.

Barnes asked Williams about the minimum—not the average—number of accumulated degree-hours it takes for eggs to hatch.

Williams testified that he did not consider the minimum number but, in any case and once again, “it still wouldn’t be enough.”

 

 

Posted 2/14/2013