DNA expert: Shirt samples match Gibbs

By MINOT -- A DNA analyst called the circumstances surrounding the discovery of Moe Maurice Gibbs' DNA under Mindy Morgenstern's fingernails "very rare" while testifying Monday in his murder trial.

By MINOT -- A DNA analyst called the circumstances surrounding the discovery of Moe Maurice Gibbs' DNA under Mindy Morgenstern's fingernails "very rare" while testifying Monday in his murder trial.

DNA evidence in the case against the former Barnes County jailer has been heavily debated as prosecutors argue the findings link Gibbs' to Morgenstern's Sept. 13, 2006, death, while the defense contends the DNA is an innocent coincidence.

Hope Olson, director of North Dakota's state crime lab, said Monday that she found a mixture of DNA under scrapings and clippings from Morgenstern's left fingernails. The mixture consisted of an unknown male's DNA and a small portion of Morgenstern's DNA.

Olson called the discovery "very rare" in what she described as an "intimate" place to test for biological evidence.

Olson said the sample of Gibbs' DNA matched each of the 13 locations used during testing to the majority in the mixture under Morgenstern's fingernails.


Testing by an independent lab also matched Gibbs to DNA found on the front of the white shirt Morgenstern was wearing when she was killed, said Rick Staub, director of Orchid Cellmark, an independent DNA testing laboratory in Dallas.

"One profile by far and away stood out as the predominant profile," which matched Gibbs, Staub said.

However, other DNA found on evidence tested at the lab, including underneath Morgenstern's right fingernails and the two knives used in the slaying, matched men other than Gibbs, Staub said.

DNA found on a kitchen knife found in Morgenstern's neck matched at least two other men and testing on another kitchen knife, found leaning on Morgenstern's shoulder, matched at least one other man, Staub said.

He added the findings show small amounts of DNA present, which can make it difficult to be accurate.

Defense attorney Jeff Bredahl focused on the quantity of DNA found during his cross-examination, but under questioning by Assistant Attorney General Jonathan Byers, who is assisting the prosecution, Staub said he had no doubts about his findings identifying Gibbs.

When asked by Bredahl why further testing was not done to determine whose DNA was on th-e knife handles, Staub said he did not receive additional profiles to test against the results.

He also explained that DNA testing on a small light-colored hair found in Morgenstern's hand found no results.


Staub also addressed the transfer of DNA from household objects to a person, sometimes called "touch DNA."

The defense argues Morgenstern may have picked up Gibbs' DNA from the doorknob into the apartment building where they both lived, contending the finding of his DNA is harmless.

Staub explained his testing does not show how, why and when the DNA got onto Morgenstern's shirt and under her fingernails.

"It's really difficult to say with any degree of certainty how much touch DNA" a person will leave, he said.

A fingerprint analyst said about seven fingerprints were found in four different places in Morgenstern's Valley City, N.D., apartment, including the doorknob and on a porcelain dish with money in it.

Annette Anderson, with the state Bureau of Criminal Investigation, said none of the prints matched Gibbs or Morgenstern.

The findings weren't surprising because "most of our cases either come up with prints of no value or no identification made," she said.

Gibbs, 34, is facing a Class AA felony murder charge for the death of Morgenstern, a 22-year-old Valley City State University senior who was found dead in her apartment on Sept. 13, 2006.


Gibbs, who lived in the same building as the victim, faces a maximum sentence of life without parole if convicted.

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