Experts: No Bedford DNA evidence found

CNJ staff photo: Kevin Wilson Shoeprint analyst Shirley Garcia shows jurors pictures of shoeprints while District Attorney Matt Chandler asks questions during Thursday’s session of the Stanley Bedford trial in Albuquerque.

By Kevin Wilson: CNJ staff writer

ALBUQUERQUE — Expert witnesses testified Thursday there was no DNA, fingerprint or shoeprint evidence at various crime scenes to tie capital murder defendant Stanley Bedford to the 2005 deaths of an elderly Portales couple.

Prosecutors walked Noreen Purcell, a DNA analyst with the New Mexico Department of Public Safety, through various crime scene items tested for DNA. They did the same with Shirley Garcia, a fingerprint, shoeprint and tire analyst with the state’s DPS crime lab in Santa Fe.
In both cases, witnesses said few pieces of evidence submitted returned positive results for anybody, and said in cross-examination that nothing matched with Bedford.

Bedford is accused of kidnapping and killing Doris and Odis Newman.

Purcell and Garcia said they never saw the crime scenes and only worked with what was sent in for analysis.

In some cases, Purcell was able to get partial profiles from evidence and match them with full DNA profiles of the Newmans and possible suspects in their deaths. Since a person has to meet 16 of 16 criteria for a full DNA match, it’s easier to eliminate a person from DNA evidence than it is to include them.

Blood from Odis Newman was identified at three crime scenes. The first was a pipe left at the scene of the car fire at Roosevelt Road N 1/2 where the Newmans were locked in the trunk and burned March 3, 2005. The pipe was believed to be used in an attack on Odis Newman at other locations. His blood was also found in the laundry room of his home, his 1997 Ford pickup and a stretch of road along Roosevelt Road Z.

A sweater inside the Newman home had DNA from Jerry Fuller, who has pleaded guilty to murder in the case and previously testified Bedford was an accomplice.

Tests were inconclusive for other items at crime scene investigations, including Fuller’s home, Bedford’s home and a Dodge Neon used by residents at Bedford’s home. Prosecutors allege the Neon was present at the Newmans’ home on the night of March 2 and was used to drive Bedford and Fuller away from the car fire the morning of March 3.

Prosecutor Michael Cox intimated to the jury that absence of evidence wasn’t the evidence of absence, and asked Purcell about the lack of Bedford’s DNA found at his home.

Cox asked, “Does that mean he didn’t live there?” Purcell said it didn’t mean that.

The same logic was used with Garcia later in the day. Fingerprints for Bedford were never found. However, prosecutors pointed out Garcia analyzed 17 items and only found usable prints on two items. Many of those items were items Odis Newman would have handled (e.g., eyeglasses, vehicle registration, receipts and credit cards).

Garcia said few tire tracks could be found at the scene of the car fire, but the inconsistency and composition of the road would have made for less than ideal evidence gathering.

Others testifying Thursday in the capital murder trial of Stanley Bedford:

Thomas Van Valkenburgh
Relationship to case: Retired forensic document examiner. Designated as expert witness in handwriting analysis.

Testimony: Examined notes recovered as evidence. Jerry Fuller has admitted to writing most of the notes in the planning of the events of March 2-3. Van Valkenburgh said all of the samples except for two were definitely written by one person – Fuller. The two other samples, which included the words “gloves, pantyhose, duck tape” and the phone number to the Newman residence, could have been written by a different person. He has no evidence to make a proper handwriting comparison with Stanley Bedford. “After the fact, if the person knows they’re … a suspect, there’s more of an effort to disguise or distort their writing.” Previous items of writing seized from Bedford didn’t have words Van Valkenburgh said he could use for comparison.

Cross-examination: Van Valkenburgh agreed Fuller could have written all of the items, and evidence could not positively identify the writing as Bedford’s.

Evidence introduced: Diagram with isolated photos of handwriting.

Dr. Michelle Barry
Relationship to case: Works at Office of the Medical Investigator in Albuquerque. Performed autopsies on Odis and Doris Newman. Has performed and supervised more than 700 autopsies. Designated as expert witness in forensic pathology.

Testimony: Barry said, “There is no question” the Newmans died as a result of homicidal violence, and pointed to the Newmans being in the trunk of the Lincoln Town Car that was burned. There was no evidence of blunt force trauma to either Odis or Doris Newman as a cause of death. The heat of the fire evaporated blood and other bodily fluids and destroyed skin tissue. Carbon monoxide inhalation was measured on both Odis and Doris Newman. Neither person inhaled enough carbon monoxide to die that way, though Doris Newman had carbon monoxide in her system consistent with somebody who smokes. Doris Newman was identified through X-ray records, while Odis Newman was identified through dental records. A fire with temperatures in excess of 1,500 degrees Fahrenheit, as described in previous testimony, would have caused a person’s air passages to close as a defense mechanism for the lungs and cut off air to the body.

Cross-examination: Barry’s original autopsy report said the Newmans likely died prior to the car fire, but Barry said she didn’t know at the time accelerants were used on the fire. Because the fire eliminated most evidence, Barry couldn’t rule out strangulation, blunt force to a now-missing body part, death from blood loss, death from shock or other causes.

Redirection: Scenarios other than death from the fire are unlikely, but there’s not enough information to change the death certificate to indicate thermal injuries as a cause of death.

Evidence introduced: Barry’s resume.

Debra Komar
Relationship to case: Anthropologist for Office of the Medical Investigator. Designated as expert witness in forensic anthropology.

Testimony: There are three types of identification certainty: tentative (based on information at a death scene), presumptive (everything points to person, but nothing proves it) and positive (from prints, DNA, etc.). Medical records led to a positive ID of Odis and Doris Newman. Age of a person can be determined by looking at the skull. A person at age 18 has 22 different bones in the skull, but the bones fuse together gradually until it is one bone at about age 48. The ages of the Newmans were found at 48 years plus. The height of the two could not be determined because of heat-induced bone fragmentation. Doris Newman had abdominal problems and Odis had back problems when they were alive, but those factors did not contribute to their deaths. Evidence does not point to blunt force, and any damage to bones is consistent with thermal change.

Cross-examination: None.

Evidence introduced: Skeletal diagrams of the Newmans.

Kevin Massis
Relationship to case: Crime scene investigator. Third time called to stand.

Testimony: When asked for his expert opinion on what happened, he said an attack on Odis Newman first occurred in the entryway of the Newman home. A subsequent attack took place on Roosevelt Road Z in Newman’s Ford Dually pickup truck. Newman was taken back to his home and put in the laundry room. He and Doris Newman were later put in the trunk of their Lincoln Town Car and throw rugs were placed over blood stains he left on the laundry room floor.

Cross-examination: No blood or DNA evidence of a struggle was found in the entryway. Damage at the doorway could have been caused by many items, not necessarily a pipe entered into evidence. There were no scratches or scuff marks in the entryway to indicate a struggle, and no blood was found between the entryway and where the truck was parked. There were no signs of forced entry into the home.

— Compiled by CNJ Staff
Writer Kevin Wilson