Abdi Ali Ahmed sustained a "devastating" brain injury before he died, according to testimony in the Leron Howard murder trial Friday.
William Massello, forensic scientist and the North Dakota state forensic examiner, described the blows to the head and stab wounds to the abdomen that were Ahmed's major injuries in Southeast District Court.
"He had blood beneath the surface of the skull on both sides," he said. "He could have been struck twice or struck on one side and possibly struck the ground or a wall."
The blows could have come by striking with a fist or kicking, Massello said.
Howard, 34, of Jamestown, is charged with murder and criminal conspiracy in Ahmed's death on April 30, 2011. His body was found in a road ditch near Spiritwood.
The charges are Class AA felonies punishable by life in prison without parole.
Massello also testified that Ahmed's body had other wounds.
"He had two stab wounds," he said. "One to the upper abdomen and one to the chest."
Massello said the chest wound was superficial.
"The abdominal wound went through the abdominal wall into the cavity where the organs are," he said. "Not deep enough to hit any organs but could have led to death over time. Something from a few to many hours."
Massello also pointed out two cuts near each wrist and one to the left knee area.
"These are consistent with someone in a defensive position when confronted with a sharp object," he said.
The body also showed abrasions from being dragged on a rough surface.
The autopsy could not determine in what order the injuries occurred or if they all occurred at the same time, according to Massello. The head injuries would likely have been fatal even with medical treatment.
"The brain injury was devastating," Massello said. "He could have died over days after being in a persistent vegetative state. The abdominal wounds would require surgery to close up any bleeding, then antibiotics."
During cross examination, Steve Mottinger, Howard's court-appointed attorney, asked Massello if the order in which the wounds occurred could be determined.
"The defensive gestures would be almost impossible after the head wounds," he said. "He would not have defended himself after the brain injury."
Massello also testified that the stab wounds were not the primary cause of death.
"He didn't bleed to death," he said. "But the stab wounds would make the other injuries worse. The stab wound increases the heart rate and blood pressure which could increase bleeding in the brain."
Massello's testimony was followed by more forensic evidence from the North Dakota Crime Laboratory.
Alexandria Gibbs, forensic scientist at the Crime Laboratory, confirmed reddish brown stains found on a shoe and a shirt were human blood. The shoes and shirt were found in a garbage Dumpster and identified as belonging to Howard.
Jennifer Penner, DNA analyst at the Crime Laboratory, testified the blood identified on the shoe and shirt was from Ahmed. She also said that a drop of blood found on a seat belt anchor in the backseat of Janelle Cave's car belonged to Ahmed.
Cave and Howard shared a home at the time Ahmed was killed. She was found guilty of manslaughter and criminal conspiracy in the same case in February.
Jennifer Nolden, a friend of Howard's, testified that Howard asked repeatedly if he could take out her garbage during a visit to her apartment on April 30, 2011.
Cory Ashland, a resident in the same apartment building, testified that he saw Howard place items in plastic bags in the garbage Dumpster behind the building.
Troy Kelly, Stutsman County sheriff's deputy, testified Thursday that he found items in the Dumpster that belonged to Howard.
Ron Harr said he found a cellphone, wallet and keys belonging to Ahmed on May 4. The items were found across the street from the home Cave and Howard shared.
Alexa Stoller, Cave and Howard's roommate, said the clothing found in the bags in the Dumpster belonged to Howard and Cave.
Scott Edinger, current Jamestown chief of police, testified he was a detective at the time of the incident and took part in Howard's apprehension. He was arrested on Main Street in Jamestown in what was referred to as a "felony traffic stop," with about eight police cars present. He described two knives found in the car during the arrest which were later determined not to be related to the crime.
The trial will resume with prosecution testimony on Monday. Cave is expected to take the stand on Monday. She is required to testify as part of her sentence for the manslaughter and criminal conspiracy convictions.
Judge Thomas Merrick told jurors to expect long days Monday and Tuesday but could possibly begin deliberation in the case on Wednesday.
Sun reporter Keith Norman can be reached at 701-952-8452 or by email at email@example.com