Medical Examiner Believes Frying Pan Caused Baker Death; Defense Rests
(Photo: Richard Kennedy is escorted into the Venango County Courthouse by Venango County Sheriff’s Deputies Monday afternoon. Photo by Chris Rossetti)
The defense case seems to hinge on the testimony of Dr. Karl Williams, the Chief Medical Examiner of Allegheny County.
Williams, who was being paid as a consultant to the defense team and did his report on January 1, 2019, was the second and final witness called by the defense on Monday.
His testimony was that the most likely murder weapon in the death of Tausha Baker, who Kennedy is accused of killing on October 27, 2017, was the frying pan found in the yard at 1313 New Street in Franklin.
Williams also testified that it is his belief based on the autopsy report that was performed by Dr. Eric Vey of Erie County that Baker would have died at 1313 New Street and not at the Waterworks Road site where her body was dumped. (Williams was not present during the autopsy.)
When asked by defense counsel James Miller if the stab wounds on Baker’s body came before or after death, Williams told the jury that he believed they came after because of the lack of blood in and around the wounds.
“Blunt force trauma caused death,” Williams testified. “All stabbing was post-mortem.”
Further explaining his belief in the cause of death, Williams said there were “horrible fractures” to Baker’s skull, “bleeding” around the brain, and “swelling” around the brain. He also testified that with these injuries, death would have been in a matter of minutes.
“You can have simple fractures that won’t kill you,” Williams told the jury. “Fractures that cause whole chunks to separate, and bleeding – those are injuries that will kill you and kill you quickly.”
Miller showed Williams the frying pan that prosecutors say Kennedy used to beat Baker at the New Street house – the defense contended in its opening remarks on Saturday that Kennedy’s then-girlfriend, Amanda Cypher, was the one who beat and killed Baker, not Kennedy. In Cypher’s testimony, she stated that Kennedy hit Baker with the frying pan but that Baker was still alive when she was transported by both Kennedy and Cypher to Waterworks Road where she then claims Kennedy stabbed Baker and then dropped a basketball-size rock on her.
“Could the frying pan cause the skull fracture?” Miller asked Williams on the stand, and Williams answered, “Yes.”
Miller then asked Williams if all the skull fractures could have happened within five strikes of the frying pan, and Williams said they “easily” could have.
Continuing the line of questioning, Miller then asked Williams – if the frying pan had been used at 1313 New Street, then would it be “fair” to say that death would have occurred within one or two minutes.
“One or two minutes or a minute or two more, a very short time,” responded Williams.
Williams also explained that the lacerations on Baker’s head area could have come from the frying pan, and if a rock had been dropped on her like Cypher and the prosecution allege, that he would expect to find more damage to Baker’s skull than he saw.
He also testified that he didn’t see any debris from a rock being dropped on Baker, but upon cross-examination from Venango County District Attorney Shawn White, he also admitted that he was only going off of pictures and never examined the body.
White also asked Williams if he would be correct in saying the one major difference between Williams’ assessment of Baker’s body and Vey’s was that the two doctors disagree on the hemorrhaging seen around the wounds on Baker’s body.
“Yes,” Williams said. “He (Vey) didn’t describe any.”
White then showed Williams a copy of Vey’s autopsy report where Vey said there was both sharp force (from a stabbing) and blunt force hemorrhaging found.
“That was in one area of the scalp,” Williams retorted. “That doesn’t mean that it came from a (stab). In every other (stabbing wound), there is no hemorrhaging. You picked one.”
VENANGO COUNTY JAIL RECORDS KEEPER CALLED TO STAND
The first witness called to the stand by the defense on Monday was Don Long, the Venango County jail records’ keeper.
Defense counsel Robert Kinnear asked Long if both Joseph Ibarra and Greg Militello had been on “B” Block in the jail at the same time.
Ibarra had testified on Friday that Kennedy, who was his cellmate on at least three occasions, told him that he (Kennedy) had killed Baker.
Militello was living in the basement of Doug Baker’s house; Tausha Baker was also living in Doug Baker’s house at the time of her death. (Doug Baker was Tausha Baker’s father.)
Long testified that Ibarra was on “B” Block from July 2018 until the end of November 2018, and Militello was on “B” Block from August 2, 2018, through September 12, 2018.
Kinnear said the two were on the same cell block at the time Ibarra told police what Kennedy had told him.
Following Long’s testimony, which started at approximately 1:45 p.m. and lasted until approximately 1:50 p.m., the lawyers had a quick sidebar with Venango County Judge Oliver Lobaugh, and then Lobaugh went into his chambers.
At 2:09 p.m., the jury was excused from the room. The jury was brought back in at 2:19 p.m. and Lobaugh returned to the bench at 2:23 p.m. and Williams was called to testify.
After Williams testified, another sidebar was held by the lawyers and Lobaugh, and then the jury was again sent away this time on recess, and the courtroom was cleared of all but court personnel.
When court resumed around 4:00 p.m., the defense rested.
Closing arguments will take place starting at 9:00 a.m. on Tuesday, April 16. At that point, Lobaugh will charge the jury, and the jury will start deliberations.
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