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Murder trial Blood stains found

Published January 14. 2012 09:01AM

A state police forensic expert testified Friday of finding several blood stains in the basement of a Lansford man charged with killing his estranged wife.

Trooper Phillip Barletta, of the Hazleton barracks, was the lone witness heard Friday. He was on the witness stand from about 9:30 a.m. until after 4:30 p.m. when Nanovic recessed for the weekend. The panel, consisting of 12 regular and four alternate jurors, will return Monday at 8:45 a.m. for a 9 a.m. start.

State police have charged Ernest Troy Freeby, 36, with killing his estranged wife, Edwina Atieno Onyango, 34, in the basement of his home at 207 W. Bertsch St., and then disposing of the body. Freeby had denied the charge. The body has never been found.

Barletta was qualified as a blood splatter expert by President Judge Roger N. Nanovic II, who is presiding.

Barletta said he was with a group of state troopers that served a search warrant at Freeby's home on Jan. 17, 2008. Onyango was reported missing by her family on Dec. 10, 2007, and she was last seen on Sunday, Dec. 9, 2007.

Barletta said the purpose of the warrant was to take photographs of the exterior and interior of the home as part of the ongoing investigation to determine what happened to Onyango.

He said when he entered the basement he immediately noticed that the area had been recently painted in green and he could still smell the odor of fresh paint.

He said as he took photos of what appeared to be a blood stain on the floor leading to the coal bin. He found another suspected blood stain at the door and on the step leading into the coal bin.

He also testified of finding a "substantial" blood stain in the coal bin near a wall. Some stains were also found on a two by four-foot wooded board, which ran from the floor of the bin to the ceiling.

Barletta said he did a field test on the stains he located and they indicated the stains were blood.

Barletta also testified that the stain found in the bin near the wall indicated to him, "you're dealing with a large amount of blood."

Barletta, during the course of his testimony, showed numerous photos of the stains and areas of the basement. He also found stains on the steps leading to the basement from the first floor, where he also found stains that tested positive for blood.

Barletta said he found cans of green paint which was used to paint the steps, the coal bin door and other parts of the bin.

He said on Aug. 21, 2008, a second search warrant was served in the Freeby home. He said noticeably missing was the two by four board from the coal bin. He also said it was obvious that dirt had been removed from the coal bin, including the large stain that had tested positive as blood.

Barletta said in his opinion the removal of the two by four and dirt was an act of covering something up.

He also testified that while further checking blood stains on a wall in the coal bin, he found some hairs that he gathered for testing.

He said several samples of the suspected blood stains he found and the hairs were sent to a state police crime laboratory for testing.

Further witnesses expected to be called by District Attorney Gary F. Dobias will deal with the results of the tests made on the blood samples and hairs found.

Barletta said two large thick blood stains were found on the coal bin floor and on the two by four piece of wood. He said in all, stains were found on the floor in the coal bin, wall in the bin, and the coal bin door. Stains were also found on the floor leading to the coal bin and the steps leading from the upstairs to the basement.

Barletta said it was apparent Freeby had cleaned the area during the second search.

Testimony from DNA experts is expected to say most of the blood found was that of Onyango.

Onyango, who is a native of Kenya, married Freeby in March 2001 in Allentown after they met at while working at a McDonald's restaurant in Whitehall. A time later Freeby returned to Lansford and began a relationship with another woman which produced two children.

Testimony this week has been heard by several family members of Onyango, all who said they had not heard from her since Dec. 9, 2007. Also testifying were two Lansford police officers who were involved in the initial investigation which started out as a missing person report.

The state police took over the investigation on Dec. 27, 2007, from Lansford police.

The trial is expected to last two weeks or more. With the current pace the trial might go into a third week.

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