Doctor can’t say when Martin Gareau died

Pathologist, DNA expert give evidence

Pathologist Dr. Bruce Hyma told the court last week that, after examining the body of Martin Gareau, he could say that the crime victim had been dead for days, rather than hours or weeks.

Testifying in the trial of Josue Carrillo-Perez, who is charged with murdering Mr. Gareau in May 2008, Mr. Hyma said the single accurate source of information in establishing time of death would be from an eyewitness and then from physical evidence outside the body.

With no eye witness, from a medical examiner’s point of view, the next helpful information would come from a visit to the crime scene. Mr. Hyma, who is not resident in Cayman, said he understood there was no medical examiner on the island in May 2008.

He explained that he came here from the US on 21 May 2008 to perform two autopsies.

Mr. Gareau’s body was found at his Beach Bay residence on Tuesday, 20 May, after the Discovery Day holiday weekend.

Questioned by Senior Crown Counsel Trevor Ward, Mr. Hyma said the kinds of changes he had seen in Mr. Gareau’s body would have occurred within one to three days after death. That estimate was based on the condition of the body alone and not knowing any other variables.

Justice Roy Anderson, who is hearing the matter without a jury, has already been told by Mr. Gareau’s cousin that there was a phone conversation between them around midday on Sunday, 18 May.

Mr. Hyma said cause of death was multiple blunt and sharp force injuries. The most serious was a constellation of injuries on the right side of the head, which included a skull fracture and tearing of the brain. He said death would have occurred within minutes.

Defence Attorney Anthony Akiwumi asked about factors such as body temperature and rigor mortis to help determine time of death.

Mr. Hyma said body temperature was not all that useful, since there were so many variables involved, including the environment in which a person has died, humidity, the amount of body fat the person carried and the clothing worn at the time. He said he would not have been assisted by a reading of body temperature at the time the body was discovered.

He said he did not make any notes on rigor mortis because any observations in the laboratory were irrelevant, since the body has been moved. Rigor mortis, he pointed out, is a chemical change in the muscles that causes the muscles to become stiff. In adults this will not be noticeable until three to five hours after death; it will begin to fade within 18-24 hours.

DNA expert Kevin Noppinger testified that blood samples recovered from the scene matched the DNA of Mr. Gareau. He did not find any DNA matching samples from Carrillo-Perez.

On Monday, 28 September, fingerprint examiner William MacKay was still giving evidence. He was preceded by fingerprint expert Clare Hassert, who worked with the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service 1996-2006. She told the court she was still living in Cayman in 2008 and was requested to conduct a fingerprint examination in this matter.

Both witnesses told the court that, in their opinion, a fingerprint from the crime scene and a print on a police evidence form in the name of Carrillo-Perez were made by the same person.