Jurors hear about death’s causeJurors learned Monday about what killed Abdi Ali Ahmed, 18, Jamestown, as testimony continued in the murder trial of Janelle Cave. The trial is in its second week in Southeast District Court with Judge Thomas E. Merrick presiding.
By: Keith Norman, The Jamestown Sun
Jurors learned Monday about what killed Abdi Ali Ahmed, 18, Jamestown, as testimony continued in the murder trial of Janelle Cave.
The trial is in its second week in Southeast District Court with Judge Thomas E. Merrick presiding.
Cave, 22, Jamestown, and Leron Lee Howard, 34, Jamestown, are charged with murder and criminal conspiracy in Ahmed’s death. Both charges are Class AA felonies punishable by up to life in prison without parole. Howard’s trial is scheduled to start Aug. 7.
“The injuries include blunt head injury and stab wounds to the abdomen,” said Dr. William Massello, forensic examiner for the North Dakota Crime Lab. “The most severe were the head injuries. The stab wounds made things worse and hastened death.”
Massello said Ahmed had bruises on both sides of the head. He said the bruises could have come from blows to each side of the head or from a blow to one side of the head with the other side striking on the ground or floor.
“This was a very significant brain injury,” Massello said. “This brain injury would have been very difficult to recover from.”
Massello said the injury would have fully developed in about an hour. During that time the victim would have been unconscious or would be confused if he regained consciousness. The area of the brain affected by the injuries controlled consciousness, reasoning and motor skills.
Massello also noted two stab wounds. One was considered superficial while the other caused bleeding into the abdominal cavity and could have been life-threatening over a day or more.
He also described cuts to Ahmed’s hands, wrists and arm.
“This is the type of wound the books refer to as a defensive wound because they often occur as people attempt to defend themselves,” Massello said.
Troy LeFevre, assistant Stutsman County state’s attorney assigned to question Massello, asked if he could establish the order in which the injuries were received.
“No way to know which wounds occurred first,” Massello said. “But he would have had to have his faculties to use his hands and legs to defend himself. The wounds on the extremities occurred before the head injuries or possibly the stabbing.”
During cross-examination court-appointed defense attorney David Ogren questioned if the defensive wounds could have occurred after the injuries to the brain.
“Would the body flex into a position where the arms would protect organs?” Ogren asked.
Massello said when the body flexes unconsciously after brain injury it moves slowly rather than quickly.
Several spots of road rash — scraps to the skin sometimes caused when motorcycle riders fall on the highway — were shown in photographs of the front of Ahmed’s body. Massello said this was consistent with a body being dragged, face down, across a rough surface such as a paved road.
Autopsy photographs of Ahmed’s body were shown using a projector on a screen. Other photographs, including photographs where portions of the skull had been removed during the autopsy process to reveal damage to the brain, were shown to the jury on 8- by 10-inch photographs.
Other witnesses included Alexandria Gibbs, forensic scientist, and Jennifer Penner, DNA analyst, from the North Dakota Crime Lab.
Penner testified that blood spots, which were found on shoes identified as belonging to Howard, came from Ahmed. She also testified that a blood spot removed from the interior of Cave’s car was from Ahmed.
“The match of the blood sample to the control was such as not to be expected to occur more than once in unrelated individuals in the world population,” Penner said.
Special Agent Arnie Rummel of the North Dakota Bureau of Criminal Investigation was the final witness of the day. He testified that shoe prints found in the mud close to the body matched the shoes on Ahmed’s body.
Testimony ended about 2 p.m. Monday after a conference between Merrick and attorneys. The jury and spectators were removed from the courtroom during the conference. Prosecution testimony will resume at 9 a.m. Tuesday in the case.
Sun reporter Keith Norman can be reached at 701-952-8452 or by email at email@example.com