The blows that killed James Gillette and Anne Dhu McLucas were delivered with "tremendous force" that shattered their skulls in multiple places and caused extensive bleeding, a pathologist testified Tuesday in a double-murder trial.
Both victims died of blunt force trauma to the face and skull, deputy state medical examiner Dr. Dan Davis said. James Gillette received more than 20 injuries in total, 10 of them to the head, and McLucas was hit in the head at least four times, he said.
Davis testified as the state winds down its case in the aggravated-murder trial of Johan Gillette, James Gillette's son. Johan Gillette is accused of killing his father and McLucas, his father's domestic partner.
The defense will begin presenting its case later this week.
At some point, Gillette is expected to take the witness stand and claim that he killed the pair in self-defense. His attorneys have said Gillette attacked his father when the elder Gillette reached for a gun during an argument and that he swung at McLucas when someone jumped on him from behind during the fight.
The two victims were found in the bedroom of James Gillette's home on Needham Road just south of Eugene, where Johan Gillette and his girlfriend lived in a nearby trailer. James Gillette was dead when they were discovered the evening of Sept. 7, 2012, and McLucas was mortally injured and died the next day in a hospital.
Davis, testifying in the trial's ninth day, said the head injuries the pair sustained caused major fractures in several different areas of their skulls. Judging by the shape of cuts to the skin and the underlying fractures, the blows were delivered with an object with at least one curved surface and some straight edges, he said.
Davis said some blows caused fractures that radiated out from the point of impact, shattering bone and damaging the brain.
"It's the kind of force I see in car accidents or in cases where people have been hit by pool cues or metal pipes or baseball bats," he told the jury.
Gillette allegedly told his girlfriend after the fight that he had killed the two with a wrench. That wrench was never found, and the prosecutor has suggested that Gillette may have left the house, disposed of it and then returned before the victims were found.
A wrench could fit the description of the object Davis said delivered the blows. Davis also said the same or a similar object was used on Jack, James Gillette's terrier, which he said had two solid blows to its head and one glancing blow to its snout.
The dog appeared brain-dead when police arrived. Officers suffocated the animal to put it out of its misery and still preserve it as potential evidence.
McLucas had one downward blow to her forehead that fractured the front of her skull and three blows to the back of her head that also caused fractures to spread out from the impact and were delivered with "a tremendous amount of force," Davis said.
James Gillette had a large fracture over his left eye, three on the left side of his head and four on the back of his head. He also had two lacerations with no fractures that Davis said could have been caused by hitting his head as he fell.
Davis said more than one of the blows to each person could have been the fatal one or that either victim could have died from tremendous blood loss from the impacts.
Earlier Tuesday, a forensics expert testified that blood evidence found at the scene indicates that the victims were lying on the floor when at least some of the fatal blows were delivered.
Traci Rose, a forensic scientist with Oregon State Police, testified that patterns of blood drops on the walls, doors and furniture in the bedroom where the killings took place show that blows were delivered after the victims had fallen down. Most of the blood was no more than about 3 feet up from the floor.
The pattern of the blood indicates that some came either from a direct impact by some kind of weapon hitting a bloody surface, or by blood getting on the weapon as it was used and flung off as it was swung, Rose said.
In his cross-examination, defense attorney Dan Koenig tried to cast some doubt on the science of blood spatter analysis and the way evidence from the scene was collected and analyzed. He pointed out that some areas of blood were not analyzed and questioned tests done on clothing that had what appeared to be bleach stains.
The bleach tests got particular attention. The shirt worn by Gillette the day he was arrested had what was described as a pattern of fading, apparently caused by a mist from a bleachlike substance, similar to heavier bleach stains found on McLucas' clothes and a small area of James Gillette's pants.
Bleach and a spray bottle were found in an adjoining laundry room in James Gillette's house, and the prosecution has implied that Gillette tried to destroy evidence of his involvement by spraying bleach around portions of the death scene.
But Koenig questioned whether comparison tests that Rose performed were valid science. Rose sprayed unstained portions of Gillette's and McLucas' clothes with the liquid in the spray bottle, the bleach bottle and another bleach bottle found in Gillette's trailer, and said they all produced a discoloration similar to what was had been found on the clothes when they were taken into evidence.
Rose acknowledged that she didn't test the substance in the spray bottle or do any kind of chemical analysis of any of the liquids or the fabric. But she said that for the limited purpose of her test -- to determine whether the spray bottle could cause a similar discoloration -- none of that was necessary.
"Just because it's not complicated doesn't mean it's not science," she said of the tests.
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