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Carbon murder trial enters third week

Published January 24. 2012 05:01PM

Two more experts, one a DNA analyist and the other a crime scene investigations expert, testified yesterday at the Carbon County court murder trial of a Lansford man.

The two experts were called by District Attorney Gary F. Dobias in the case of Ernest Troy Freeby, 36, who is accused of killing his estranged wife, Edwina Atieno Onyango, 34, and disposing of the body. The body has never been found.

The day-long testimony of the two experts began the third week of the trial. The jury of 12, plus four alternates, was selected on Jan. 9 with testimony beginning the next day. So far Dobias has called more than 35 witnesses in the case, which is not expected to finish until sometime next week.

Yesterday, Dr. John V. Planz, associate director of the DNA Identity Laboratory at the University of North Texas Health Science Center, testified of testing his laboratory did on DNA samples submitted by the Pennsylvania State Police in the case.

Planz said he received DNA samples from three brothers of Onyango from the state police. He said his laboratory also received the results of DNA testing by the New Jersey State Police laboratory, which included blood stains and hair found in Freeby's home at 207 W. Bertsch St.

Police allege that Freeby killed Onyango, a native of Kenya, in the basement of his home, specifically in the coal bin. Blood stains were found on the basement steps leading from the first floor, on the floor near the entrance of the coal bin, and a large quantity in the coal bin. A piece of human hair was found in the cinderblock wall in the coal bin.

Prior testimony in the trial indicated most of the blood stains found in the basement matched the DNA of Onyango.

The hair strand was sent to the New Jersey laboratory because the Pennsylvania State Police lab could not find enough of a sample for a DNA profile. The New Jersey facility was recommended for the testing by the FBI, which can do such testing, called mitochondrial DNA analysis.

Planz said after receiving the data on the three brothers and establishing their DNA profile, he compared it with the New Jersey results on the hair sample. He said the result showed that the DNA secured from the hair sample matched the DNA of the three brothers.

Crime scene

Dr. Isidore Mihalakis, of Bethlehem, a forensic pathologist, testified as an expert in crime scene investigations. Mihalakis was formerly associated with the Lehigh Valley Hospital where he did autopsies and assisted in the investigations of deaths and also retired after 25 years as the medical examiner for Warren County, N.J.

Mihalakis testified that he studied photographs taken of the basement area of the Freeby home, along with the results of testing of the blood stains and the fact a human hair strand found in the coal bin matched the victim, he could make conclusions concerning if it was a crime scene.

Mihalakis said based on the amount of blood found, the hair strand in the cinderblock wall, he concluded that the victim suffered a significant injury and would have required immediate medical attention.

He also said based on the totality of all the evidenced gathered in the basement and the results of the various testing, he concluded the victim suffered a traumatic injury and violence occurred to the body.

Under questioning by defense attorney George Dydynsky, Mihalakis admitted it was the first time he has ever testified in a case where the body was never found.

The trial was to resume at 9 a.m. today with another expert on blood stains expected to be called. Indications are that the Commonwealth could rest its case sometime today or by Wednesday.

So far the Commonwealth has submitted over 55 exhibits.

The defense side of the case is expected to take up the rest of the week and into early next week.

President Judge Roger N. Nanovic II is presiding.

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