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Expert says stains were human blood

Published January 19. 2012 05:01PM

Testimony in the murder trial of Lansford man ranged from an expert saying various blood stains found in the basement of his home are that of a human; and the mother of the defendant testifying she saw the missing woman on two occasions after she disappeared.

The two developments made for an interesting seventh day of the trial.

District Attorney Gary F. Dobias called Gordon Calbert, a forensic specialist in blood and hair anaylsis for the state police laboratory at Wyoming, who testified he tested various blood stains found in the basement of the home of Ernest Troy Freeby, 36, at 207 W. Bertsch St., and determined most of it tested positive as human blood.

Freeby, 36, is charged with criminal homicide and tampering with evidence. He is accused of killing his estranged wife, Edwina Atieno Onyango, 34, in the basement of his home on Dec. 9, 2007. Her body has never been found.

Yesterday testimony was also heard from Freeby's mother, Patricia Gordon, who claimed she saw Onyango in Easton a year after she was reported missing and twice in Lansford. That revelation came during cross-examination by defense attorney Paul Levy.

She said she was at a McDonald's restaurant and seated in a vehicle waiting for her daughter, who was inside getting food. She said that she saw Onyango in a white Porsch. She was a passenger and the vehicle was being driven by one of Oynango's brothers, Gordon said, but didn't know which one.

Gordon said she looked at Onyango and she claimed the woman saw her and said something to her brother, who also looked at her.

Gordon said she called police to report what she saw. She also testified to later seeing Onyango again in a vehicle near the Lansford football stadium and the community pool. Both times she was in a vehicle, Gordon said. She said she called state police but claimed she never heard back from them.

Under further questioning by Dobias, Gordon said she could not give a date, repeatedly saying, "I do not remember dates." Dobias asked if she tried to make contact with Onyango during the Easton incident and if she called police right away, knowing that Oynango was a missing person and her son was a suspect in the case.

"I was too stunned", Gordon said, adding that the sighting happened too fast for her to get a license number of the vehicle.

She said she later informed police that she saw the missing woman and also claimed she frequently went back to Easton looking for Onyango, but never found her.

Gordon also said she knew her son had kept from Onyango that he had children with Julie Snearly, a woman with whom he had a relationship after marrying Onyango.

Freeby and Onyango married on March 20, 2001, in Allentown. Sometime after that Freeby moved back to Lansford and started a relationship with Snearly, which produced the children.

Gordon admitted that her son at first told her not to let Oynango know that the children were his by Snearly, but instead say they were the children of his sister. However, Gordon said, Oynango learned the children were Freeby's during a Sunday visit to Lansford.

When asked how Onyango reacted to it, Gordon said "she was fine with it." She also said Onyango always visited Lansford on a Sunday.

Gordon also said she went with her son to Wal-Mart to purchase green paint. In earlier testimony, it was learned that when state police went to the Freeby home they discovered areas of the basement had recently been painted green, including the steps leading from the first floor to the basement, the coal bin door and certain walls in the basement.

She claimed the paint was purchased to paint her first floor bedroom. She also claimed she told Freeby to paint the basement steps because "we were getting splinters" when they walked on the steps.

She added that the color was picked because it was the same color as the eyes of her cat.

Gordon admitted telling state police that her son dug out dirt from the coal bin and threw it in the backyard. She said he also knew it was an area where a large quantity of blood was found.

She added that Freeby had dug out the coal bin because he planned on putting a bathroom in for her.

Expert testimony

Calbert testified in detail of his testing of each blood stain found in the basement area of the home during a Jan. 17, 2008, search by state police. He said some of the stains collected tested negative for blood but the majority was positive.

He also said he examined a piece of hair found in the coal bin of the home during a second search, on Aug. 21, 2008, and determined it was that of a black female.

He said some of the blood stains - the hair and two toothbrushes and a hat, believed to belong to Onyango - were all sent to a state police lab in Bethlehem for DNA testing. Results of the DNA testing will be brought before the jury later by the person who did the testing.

Other testimony was given by Trooper Floyd Hendershot, who said on Jan. 23, 2008, he went to an apartment in Allentown Onyango shared with another woman, and found a toothbrush in the bedroom where she stayed. He also found mail addressed to Onyango. He took the items and placed them in a evidence bag for future testing.

Trooper Eric Tenarantz testified he went to the home of Edith Schoch, in Bethlehem, the woman Onyango was employed as a caregiver and where she resided. Onyango had a bedroom in the home where she stayed.

Found in the bedroom by Tenarantz were a strand of hair on the bed, a knit hat along with another toothbrush. All the items were secured in evidence bags for further testing.

Dobias also called Geno Iannelli, of Whitehall, who knew Freeby and Oynango as the two worked at a McDonald's Restaurant near his home. He said he knew Freeby for about 10 years and Oynango seven.

He said he attended their wedding before a district judge.

Iannelli said he also knew Freeby had two children with Snearly but said he didn't think Onyango knew about it.

He also said he drove Onyango and Freeby to Philadelphia several times to the immigration office for hearings.

President Judge Roger N. Nanovic recessed the trial at 4 p.m. and told jury members to return today at 9 a.m. to resume hearing testimony.

The trial is expected to go into next week, its third week.

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