Cassie Jo Stoddart murder: Wounds detailed

From the Wednesday June 6, 2007 Idaho State Journal:

Cassie Jo Stoddart murder
Wounds Detailed
Pathologist: Stabbing injuries potentially fatal
BY JIMMY HANCOCK jhancock@journalnet.com
From the Wednesday June 6, 2007 Idaho State Journal:

Cassie Jo Stoddart murder
Wounds Detailed
Pathologist: Stabbing injuries potentially fatal
BY JIMMY HANCOCK jhancock@journalnet.com

POCATELLO — Jurors heard details Tuesday about each of the 30 stab wounds to the body of 16-year-old murder victim Cassie Jo Stoddart, including the 13 wounds a local pathologist called “potentially fatal.”
Dr. Steven Skoumal, a pathologist at Western Pathology Associates in Pocatello, described Stoddart’s stab wounds while testifying during the trial of Stoddart’s 16-year-old schoolmate, Torey Adamcik, accused in her death.
“In my o p i n i o n , vital structures were injured, and it did have the potential to be fatal,” jurors heard Skoumal utter after describing 13 of those wounds.
Stoddart was stabbed to death Sept. 22 while house-sitting for relatives in northeast Bannock County. Her body was found Sept. 24 when her relatives returned home.
Adamcik and Brian Draper were arrested Sept. 27 and charged with first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit first-degree murder. Prosecutors are not seeking the death penalty, meaning each charge carries a maximum sentence of life in prison for the teens.
Draper was convicted on both charges April 17 after a six-day trial and is awaiting sentencing.
As the Twin Falls County residents who comprise Adamcik’s jury listened to Skoumal’s testimony, they heard the pathologist give Stoddart’s official cause of death.
“The cause of death was stab wounds to the trunk,” Skoumal said.
During cross-examination by Adamcik’s attorney, Bron Rammell, Skoumal said he could not identify a killer based on his autopsy of Stoddart. In fact, Skoumal said he could not identify what specifically was used to stab Stoddart, saying that he classified the weapon as a sharp object.
Prosecutors contend the murder weapon or weapons could be as many as four knives found among other evidence in the Blackrock Canyon area where they were buried after the teen suspects allegedly tried to burn the evidence.
After continued questioning from Rammell about whether his autopsy could prove any of the four knives found at Blackrock Canyon and admitted as evidence in the case was used to kill Stoddart, the pathologist made a definitive statement.
“Sir, I can’t even say it was a knife,” Skoumal told Rammell.
Another pathologist who testified was more specific in his assessment of what caused the wounds. Dr. Charles Garrison, formerly an owner of Western Pathology who used to perform autopsies for the Bannock County coroner, testified Tuesday that he believes at least two knives were used to kill Stoddart.
Garrison examined Stoddart’s body Sept. 28, three days after Skoumal performed his autopsy. He brought a slideshow presentation for jurors through which he showed what he believes is evidence that one survival-type knife with serrations on the backside and another knife without serrations were used to kill Stoddart.
During the slideshow, jurors were exposed to closeup photos of several of Stoddart’s stab wounds while Garrison explained the characteristics leading him to the conclusion that at least two knives were used.
The cross-examination of Garrison by Rammell became a verbal dance of definitions, word usage and differences of opinions.
“I respect that this is your opinion Dr. Garrison, but it is that — your opinion — right?” Rammell asked.
Garrison said yes. Rammell then asked Garrison if his report conflicts with Skoumal’s autopsy report. “I think it adds to the report rather than takes from it,” Garrison said. After several questions from Rammell using the terms “reasonable person,” or “reasonable mind,” in the context of someone who may disagree with Garrison’s opinions, the pathologist questioned the attorney’s word usage.
“I hesitate to use the same terminology you use Mr. Rammell of reasonable mind,” Garrison said.
Many in the courtroom, including Rammell, laughed at Garrison’s verbal jab. The dance continued for several more minutes as Rammell questioned Garrison about procedures that should have been followed by law enforcement and Skoumal.
Rammell’s questions centered on whether the handling of Stoddart’s body at the crime scene and transport to the pathologist should have been handled by standards set forth from the National Association of Medical Examiners. They were similar questions Rammell asked of Skoumal earlier in the day.
Garrison testified Idaho operates a coroner system, not a medical examiner system, and the standards created by the National Association of Medical Examiners were established for states that use the medical examiner system.