By DEN MCLAUGHLIN
Last month in Carbon County court modern technology used in crime solving came to the forefront in the trial of a Lansford man charged with killing his estranged wife and disposing of the body.
The trial had all the ingredients of a Law and Order or NCIS show with testimony given by expert witnesses concerning DNA analysis applying it to the evidence gathered and also expert testimony on bloodstain pattern analysis. Plus there was some good old school detective work.
The result of the trial was that Ernest Troy Freeby, 36, was convicted of first degree murder of his wife, Edwina Atieno Onyango, 34, a native of Kenya. The intriguing part of the trial and the challenge it presented the prosecution was that Onyango's body has never been found.
The trial also highlighted the dedicated work of the Pennsylvania state police, who investigated the case, which began as a missing-person report. As District Attorney Gary F. Dobias, who prosecuted the case, said in his opening, it was the tireless effort of the state police to find out what happened to Onyango and bring closure for her family that brought the case to trial. Many state troopers were involved in the case, headed by Cpl. Thomas McAndrew and Trooper William Maynard.
DNA evidence was used to established that blood found in the basement of the Freeby home was that of Onyango and that there was enough of it to show that a serious injury had been sustained by her. There was expert witnesses concerning bloodstain pattern analysis, which was used to confirm what state police believed what happened, that Onyango was killed in the coal bin in Freeby's basement. There was other expert testimony concerning DNA analysis presented from several experts in the field.
It was a trial for the ages in Carbon County. The trial lasted three weeks and one day, the longest criminal trial in at least 30-plus years, or perhaps longer. There were over 2,000 pages of evidence provided by the Commonwealth before trial to the defense team of public defenders Paul Levy and George Dydynsky. Both did a more that creditable job in trying to refute the expert testimony and in presenting a defense for their client. There were over 45 witnesses called and close to 100 exhibits presented.
The trial also was costly for the taxpayers of the county.
Every person charged with a crime deserves his or her day in court and is entitled to legal representation. But all this costs money.
Not included in the costs is the large amount man hours state police officers put in investigating and gathering evidence.
A preliminary financial report indicates the cost to Carbon may go over well $100,000. The figure includes expenses incurred by both sides in preparing their case. It includes cost of witnesses, testing and all other aspects of the involved case.
Add to it the costs is the jury panel of 16. It is estimated the cost averaged out to about $400 a day for the jury. And it isn't over yet. An appeal will be filed by the defense of the verdict.
It's a trial I won't soon forget as it was also the longest I have ever covered in the local court.