By Leslie Acevedo and Talia Kruger
RIVERSIDE, CA – A murder trial proceeded here in Riverside County Superior Court/Larson Justice Center Wednesday, in a case where the two victims died in a car collision after receiving gunshot wounds.
A doctor who examined the victims’ bodies said the toxicology report found traces of Fentanyl and Norfentanyl, as well as cannabinoids within the male victim’s body. He testified the cause of death for the male victim, “John Doe,” was a gunshot wound to the head.
The witness said drugs found in the victim’s system did not factor into the cause of death, and explained the victim was shot once in the head and the shot would have killed him immediately.
The witness also explained she believed the victim was shot twice—in the head and arm—given the extreme unlikeliness that the bullet would travel up his arm to his brain.
The defense established the doctor wasn’t a crime scene reconstructionist and that her testimony was solely based on her experience as a forensic pathologist, and that the witness had previously stated the gunshot wounds were fired from up to 2.5 ft away.
The defense also asked about the hole in the female victim’s sweater and whether it was caused by a gunshot—the doctor said the damage to the sweater is consistent with a gunshot.
Based on the doctor’s experience, she determined the wounds could have been inflicted two feet away or closer, and determined it was an exit wound, consistent with the gun being behind the female victim’s head.
The doctor added the female’s arm wound was not related to the wound on the shoulder, and said her wounds were consistent with a traffic collision.
The female victim’s death was instantaneous and the injuries were more consistent with a traffic collision, noted the witness.
Still on the stand, the doctor said “two or three” bullets hit the female victim and she was killed with at least one bullet that went toward her brain.
The doctor determined the male victim had three wounds and sustained three gunshots, where one bullet probably caused one of three wounds. There were two entry wounds and one exit wound, most likely being shot twice caused by the projectile at the male victim’s back.
The doctor clarified that the female victim sustained two to three gunshots and the male victim sustained two gunshots.
On redirect by prosecution, the doctor explained that while she can’t rule out that some of the injuries weren’t sustained in a fight before the traffic collision, given the manner and scene in which the bodies were found, she believed that the injuries were consistent with a car crash.
The defense then went back on cross and asked whether the doctor was aware that John Doe had gotten into an altercation before the car collision.
The prosecution promptly objected to this question, which was sustained.
The defense then asked if the doctor witness had received a report from the coroner, to which Hunt responded yes.
The judge asked the defense to rephrase his question about the attack because it was vague, and the defense then asked, “Did you know that [Doe] was shot before the traffic collision, sometime before it, would that change your views on whether or not the abrasions on [Ms. Doe’s] could have been caused by an altercation?”
The doctor took a long pause before responding, “No.”
The defense then questioned if John Doe’s wounds could have been consistent with a fight, to which the doctor admitted it was a possibility. When questioned if the same thing could have been said about Jane Doe’s abrasions, the doctor said they believed they were caused as a result of the crash.
The doctor explained wounds sustained while a victim was alive or soon after death would have been red and purple with a hemorrhagic base, whereas if they were sustained long after death they would have been yellow in coloring.
The doctor noted that after death the body would go limp, and rigor mortis wouldn’t stiffen the body for another four hours—and that rigor mortis could not be an indicator in this case, because, said the doctor, she “thinks we found everyone pretty soon.”