Novak trial: Forensic expert grilled

By Sharna Johnson: Freedom New Mexico

CANNON AIR FORCE BASE — Defense attorneys for a Cannon airman accused of first-degree murder used the expert testimony of prosecution witnesses Tuesday to show forensic evidence collected indicates nothing more than Edward and Kimberly Novak lived in the same house.

DNA found under Kimberly Novak’s fingernails was her own, according to Jeffery Fletcher, a forensic biologist with the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Laboratory. If Edward Novak’s DNA was found under her fingernails, it could indicate she struggled with him and scratched him.

Several witnesses have testified they observed a scratch on Edward Novak’s neck, a wound over his eye and a scratch on his arm the prosecution has characterized as wounds inflicted by Kimberly Novak during a struggle for her life.

The 20-year-old died of blunt force trauma to the head and neck Oct. 28, 2004 in the military housing unit she shared with her husband and infant daughter.

Her husband faces life in prison if convicted of killing her.

Fletcher said he also tested items of clothing believed to belong to Edward Novak, and found evidence of what was likely Kimberly Novak’s saliva. Fletcher said he has no way of knowing when the clothing was last laundered, worn or who wore it.

“You’d expect the DNA of a spouse on another spouses clothing?” Maj. Jeff Palomino asked.
“That would not be uncommon,” Fletcher said.

Washcloths and hand towels taken from the bathroom where Kimberly Novak reportedly died showed positive for the presence of small quantities of blood, Fletcher said, but there was not enough to determine whose blood it was.

The blood could have been deposited on the linens at any time and under any variety of circumstances, he said.

In other testimony, Dr. Peter Loomis, a forensic odontologist, testified that in his opinion, a wound on Edward Novak’s left wrist was probably a bite mark from Kimberly Novak.
Edward Novak told investigators he bit his own arm.

Loomis said he was fairly certain Novak did not bite his own wrist because the position of the wound curvature would have required him to twist his arm in an awkward if not impossible position.

Jurors heard the testimony of five prosecution witnesses Tuesday over a more than 10-hour period.

Testimony is expected to resume today.

Highlights from Tuesday’s testimony:
• Special Agent Juan Salas with the Air Force office of Special Investigations testified to collecting evidence in the Novak case.
Salas said on Nov. 2, 2004, he went to Muffley Funeral Home to retrieve a dental casting made of Kimberly Novak’s teeth from Cannon dental personnel and at the same time was given a dental casting of Edward Novak’s teeth.
Salas also testified he collected several washcloths and hand towels from the bathroom in the Novak residence the night Kimberly Novak died.

• Special Agent Kelley Siler testified about the investigation conducted at the Novak residence and subsequent investigation and interviews.
Novak was not a suspect the night his wife died until after the autopsy was performed, Siler said.
In a second interview on Nov. 1, 2004, Siler said he read Novak his rights and informed him he was suspected of his wife’s murder.
“He stated that things were getting fuzzy but he’d try to talk to us,” Siler said.
“I didn’t sugar-coat it, I told him he killed his wife,” Siler said when prosecutor Lt. Col. Dan Higgins asked him to explain how he told Novak he was a suspect.
Novak voluntarily showed him a bite wound on his arm and a scratch, saying he bit himself.
In regards to the processing of evidence, Siler testified he wrapped Novak’s body in a sterile white sheet to preserve possible trace evidence. The sheet is unaccounted for according to testimony from previous witnesses.
Siler also said he requested the Office of the Medical Examiner perform a sexual assault kit on Kimberly Novak’s body, which was never done.

— Compiled by Sharna Johnson