By Matthew Torres
MODESTO, CA – An eyewitness was on the stand here Thursday in Stanislaus County Superior Court in the continuing trial of Joseph Chapman, accused of murdering Christina Hill in 2019.
The first witness testimony following the lunch break was a gentleman who was a bystander the night of the murder. He said he was around the area looking for recyclables, and spoke with detectives around four days after the event regarding what he observed that night.
He stated he quickly glanced in the direction of a fracas, and saw a man straddling a woman near a vehicle and presumed they were having sex. Feeling embarrassed, he quickly looked away and walked across the street, he said.
At this time, he heard what believed was the man hitting the woman’s chest with his hand followed by gurgling noises coming from her. Although he did not see the man’s other hand, he believed it was around her throat.
The witness testified that it didn’t register with him until moments later that the man was potentially killing the woman.
Deputy District Attorney Erin Schwartz continued questioning the witness, this time focusing on a separate confrontation the witness had later on that night when a man approached the witness while he was smoking a cigarette outside of the Quik Stop near G Street and La Loma Avenue.
He came from the same direction where the witness saw the people he presumed to be having sex earlier.
The man, said the witness, ran around the corner shirtless with his hands covered with a button down shirt and had a mole on his face, on his cheek. He told the witness to call 911 and that there was a lot of blood.
The witness couldn’t call 911 because his phone battery had tied so he told the man to enter the Quik Stop and he could call from there.
He testified earlier that the person of interest post of Joseph Chapman is the same shirtless man who he spoke to that night. However, he did not notice any tattoos on the man he spoke with, and Chapman has multiple tattoos on his chest and arms.
The witness said he came to believe that the shirtless man who approached him outside of the Quik Shop is the same man he observed on top of the woman earlier that night because of the similar stature and short hair.
Nearly an hour into the afternoon portion of the trial, defense counsel began cross-examining the witness, and focused on the lack of description the witness provided and how the only recognizable factors were short hair and “similar stature.”
Afterwards, the defense called Dr. Brent Turvey to the stand to provide expert testimony.
Dr. Turvey is a forensic criminologist with expertise in crime reconstruction, forensic victimology, and crime scene analysis. He cited giving more than 60 lectures specifically on femicide and sexual homicide as well as testifying approximately 52 times on forensic criminology.
He was asked to be a consultant on this case and noted that officers collected a bounty of evidence that documented the crime scene.
Dr. Turvey’s first conclusion in his investigation was the brutality of this crime would have resulted in a lot of blood transfer, which the person who committed the crime would have received.
Specifically, the kind of blood transfer would have been blood spatter, like the kind seen on the passenger side of the vehicle and against the green plastic panels on the gate, said Dr. Turvey.
He added the person who committed the crime would have blood spatter on their clothing as well as blood on the bottom of their shoes from leaving the scene, neither of which were found on the defendant’s sweater or shoes after testing.
Turvey also noted the victim must have been fully clothed at the time of the attack because of how bloody her clothes were, dismissing the premise this was a sexual assault. However, DNA evidence proves there was a sexual encounter between the murderer and the victim—Dr. Turvey simply calls into question the timeline of those events.
His final conclusion from analyzing the crime scene was that this case was rageful, explaining, “A lot of anger is being expressed here, not the kind of anger that you get from a stranger. This is a sustained rage.”
Dr. Turvey said he came to that conclusion because the victim was struck in the face, alluding to interpersonal violence. He added the offender was cautious enough to relocate the body out of direct view of the street.