Testimony unveils stark murder scene in Garcia trial

Published: Oct. 6, 2016 at 9:07 AM CDT
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The prosecution in the Anthony Garcia murder trial says once it finishes going over the Brumback murders, it will next will bring up testimony about Dr. Chhandra Bewtra.

Dr. Bewtra worked in the Creighton University Medical Center Pathology Department in 2001 and played a role in Dr. Garcia's dismissal. Her home was broken into on the same day the Brumbacks were killed in 2013.

In court Thursday, one of the themes throughout the questioning centered around a timeline on when Dr. Roger Brumback and his wife Mary were murdered. Their bodies were found on Tuesday, May 14, 2013. The prosecution argued they were killed two days earlier on Sunday. The defense, however, is looking to disprove that by bringing up temperature in the home and how that affected the bodies decomposition.

Testimony unveiled a stark murder scene where the bodies of Roger and Mary were found.

Murder Victims

Garcia is accused of four murders: Thomas Hunter and Shirlee Sherman in 2008 and Roger and Mary Brumback in 2013.

In testimony on Wednesday, OPD Detective Derek Mois said while at the Brumback home, commented about what he perceived as similarities to the Dundee homicides in 2008. On Thursday morning, testimony began with Amanda Miller, Senior Forensic Tech with the Omaha Police Department's Criminal Investigation Divisin.

Miller responded to the Brumback scene and in court described how she and another tech began documenting the exterior of the home. She further explained a diagram detailing where the bodies and evidence were located inside.

Miller said she spent 12 & 1/2 hours collecting evidence from the home on May 14, 2013 and returned on June 17 and 18 to make use of a different light source in tracking DNA evidence. She said she found a latent palm print.

Douglas County Attorney Don Kleine concluded questioning of Miller by mid-morning.

On cross-examination, Defense Attorney Jeremy Jorgenson asked Miller how many homicides she had photographed. She estimated 50 to 100 with at least half related to guns.

She explained use of the alternate light source to locate the latent prints and said her work at the Brumback home included going over everything that needs to be done before a body is released from a scene.

Jorgenson asked, "After scouring the house, you find one projectile, one shell casing, a magazine clip with nine rounds inside?"

Miller: "Yes."

Then, in a recurring line of questioning, Jorgenson asked Miller about the temperature in the Brumback house, explaining it can help in determining the time of death. He asked if photos were taken of the thermostat.

Miller: "I do not recall."

Jorgensen: "Was the temperature in the room comfortable?"

Miller: "Yes."

Bullet Trajectory Investigation

Miller was followed on the stand by Todd Petrick, a criminalist in the OPD Forensic Investigation section. He had testified on Tuesday regarding the Thomas Hunter and Shirlee Sherman murders.

Prosecutor Kleine asked him about the possible trajectory of bullets fired inside the Brumback home. An explanation of the laser technology used followed.

The defense asked if a bullet hole in a door appeared to have been an upward shot.

Petrick said, "That is what it appears."

The prosecutor asked, "As you said, bullets can also be deflected after they hit something?"

Petrick said, "Correct."

"If there is a struggle," Kleine asked, "certainly a casing that came out a semi-automatic handgun could be kicked?"

"Correct," Petrick said.

Dr. Michelle Elieff was recalled to the stand Thursday. The general forensic pathologist testified Wednesday about the autopsies of Hunter and Sherman and Thursday on those of the Brumbacks.

She explained procedural matters saying in certain situations like shootings and stabbings, x-rays are used to look for retained foreign bodies like bullets. An x-ray of Dr. Roger Brumback was shown as Elieff explained where a bullet was found in his body. She further explained the condition of the body and evidence of lividity - a settling of the blood after death.

Elieff said Dr. Brumback was shot three times and stabbed six times. She said there were facial injuries: several below the ear on the right side of the neck, six neck wounds in all. She explained that three parallel wounds to the neck nearly severed his right carotid artery but said Dr. Brumback's death was due to gunshot wounds to the torso.

Dr. Elieff also performed the autopsy on Mary Brumback. Referring to a photo, Elieff said it showed decomposition that occurs after time. Dr. Elieff referenced injuries to Mary Brumback's wrist and fingers calling them non-lethal defensive wounds.

Anthony Garcia had his eyes closed for a long period during Dr. Elieff's testimony. He appeared to be sleeping. The judge allowed a brief break.

Once testimony resumed, a picture of Mary Brumback's face was shown as Dr. Elieff explained a fairly complex area of stab wounds and cutting wounds that involved the side and back of the neck. There were also wounds on the back of Mary Brumback's head. Dr. Elieff said they were the results of a stab wound or a blunt object. The photo of a cut over four inches long on Mary Brumback's neck was shown. Dr. Elieff said it went through several important vessels in the neck. Dr. Elieff said most of the significant injuries were neck injuries. On the right side of the neck was a perforating injury on the carotid artery.

Kleine asked if Roger's stab wounds were on the right side of his neck as well. Dr. Elieff responded, "Correct." Dr. Eleiff said Mary died of multiple stab wounds, the most significant of which were the neck wounds.

Garcia lawyer Bob Motta Sr. commented about Roger Brumback's gunshot wounds, saying nothing there to show it was point blank or close? "Correct," said Dr. Eleiff. When Motta asked if she could tell the size of the caliber of weapon used, Dr. Elieff said no.

Motta asked why Mary's back looks arched in the photos. Dr. Elieff explained she was positioned that way on a block as the pictures were taken.

Motta submitted a photograph of Roger into evidence, using it to explain how Roger was in rigor mortis. He said at the time of death, do all the systems stop? Digestive system? Dr. Elieff noted that material in the digestive can start to digest itself. Dr. Elieff explained there are a lot of factors to look into to determine the time of death.

Motta said the tips of her fingers were blackish, but not wounds? Dr. Elieff said yes, it’s a part of the type of decomposition change.

Motta said the wounds did not indicate a serrated knife was used. Dr. Elieff said yes, some are consistent with a single-edged knife. Motta asked if there was anything unusual about bullet he removed from Roger's torso. Dr. Elieff said no, nothing unusual.

Motta said no knives were left in either of the Brumback's neck? Dr. Elieff said no. Motta asked if Elieff scraped underneath Mary's fingernails at the scene? Dr. Elieff said she did not, but others might have.

Motta asked if she believed these murders could have been done by two people? Dr Elieff said, "I can’t tell." Motta thne asked if she had any problems because she knew Dr. Brumback. Dr. Elieff said no, when you do an autopsy you focus on documenting injuries.

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Laser TechnologyLaser technology explained Thursday in testimony on bullet trajectory analysis