MINOT -- The investigation into Mindy Morgenstern's death came under fire Thursday during the defense's cross-examination of law enforcement officials testifying during the Moe Maurice Gibbs murder trial.
The defense attacked the lack of an exact time of death and continually brought up leads that were not followed, such as testing that showed DNA found on two knives used in the slaying did not match Gibbs but two other men, and the finding of a light-colored hair in Morgenstern's left hand.
Lead investigator Mark Sayler testified that authorities had not identified the men or determined whose hair was found in Morgenstern's left hand. Sayler is a special agent with the North Dakota Bureau of Criminal Investigation.
Defense attorney Jeff Bredahl grilled Sayler about why there was no exact time of death for Morgenstern. After Sayler said a temperature of her body was not taken, Bredahl asked if the "sole basis" of determination was a missed cell phone call.
Sayler responded that investigators "determined that from 12:47 p.m. on she never answered a telephone call," which other witnesses said Wednesday was out of character for her.
Under questioning by Barnes County State's Attorney Brad Cruff, Sayler said computer records, Gibbs' cell phone records and the time people reported smelling Pine-Sol, which was dumped on Morgenstern's body, were also considered in estimating when she died.
The prosecution contends Morgenstern was killed about 12:30 p.m. on Sept. 13, 2006, in her Valley City apartment.
The defense worked to establish an alibi for Gibbs around that time, saying his then-wife Christina Judd sent him a text message at 12:33 p.m. asking him to bring her something drink.
John Christy, who works for Verizon Wireless, said he could say for certain what time that specific text message was sent and cited other text messages from that day that display a time that was off an hour from the company's records.
Sayler testified Judd originally told investigators she sent the text message at 1:33 p.m., but later said her phone showed she sent it at 12:33 p.m. He said she also told him Gibbs brought her water before 1 p.m.
Sayler also came under fire from Bredahl when he testified that testing for biological evidence was not conducted in Morgenstern's apartment complex, which Gibbs also lived in, until two weeks after her death.
"We didn't really think that we were going to get anything from the hallway anyway, but we thought we should try," he said. The testing did not find any evidence.
The prosecution entered several items from the crime scene into evidence Thursday, including a cinched belt found wrapped around Morgenstern's neck and a blood-stained blue polo shirt believed to have been wrapped around the knives.
Cruff held one of the two knives in two hands when he showed it to the jury because the large blade was com-pletely separated from the handle. The second, longer knife that was found protrud-ing from Morgenstern's neck was barely attached to its handle.
As Bredahl questioned Sayler about the knives, jurors looked at close-up images of Morgenstern's wounds that showed cuts to her throat and burns to her face from Pine-Sol.
BCI Special Agent Arnie Rummel also took the stand Thursday, testifying about injuries to Gibbs' hands, which the prosecution contends he received during a struggle with Morgenstern.
DNA found on scrapings and underneath Morgenstern's left-hand fingernails matches Gibbs, Cruff has said.
Sayler testified Gibbs told authorities he received the injuries while moving boxes and from his stepdaughter's car seat, but said Thursday he believed the injury to Gibbs' left hand looked more like a gouge from a fingernail. He said Gibbs is left-handed.
"In my mind, if he put his hand around her throat ... that would be the hand that he would use to choke somebody," Sayler testified, adding that Morgenstern reaching up "would cause that type of injury."
The wounds appeared to be in the process of healing, according to the photographs of the injuries that were entered into evidence. Gibbs was examined by two doctors who are expected to testify.
An inmate originally sched-uled to testify Thursday that Gibbs confessed to him did not take the stand. Rummel will continue testifying today.
During a short break in testimony Thursday morning, Gibbs laughed and joked with family members and supporters sitting in the courtroom.
Gibbs, 34, faces a Class AA felony murder charge in the death of Morgenstern, a 22-year-old Valley City State University senior.
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