Court hears details of blood stain evidence in Magnotta apartment
Warning: The following story contains graphic material.
MONTREAL — Jacinthe Prévost watched the online video said to depict Jun Lin’s brutal murder before combing through the crime scene. So she wasn’t surprised when the bachelor apartment turned crime scene turned up countless blood splatters and smears, she told a Montreal court Tuesday, as Luka Magnotta’s first-degree murder trial entered its third week.
Prévost is the forensic biologist who examined stains found throughout the dingy apartment Magnotta had been renting.
On prompting of Crown prosecutor Louis Bouthillier, Prévost told the court what she remembered from the video. Among more graphic images, she said she remembered a body lying on the bed and a man wearing a hoodie who appears to be stabbing the one lying down, as well as photographs of body parts in the freezer.
The apartment was covered with DNA belonging to 33-year-old Jun Lin, said Prévost, who has 18 years experience in her field. His blood was on the bed, heater, sofa, walls, floors, bathtub, sink and fridge. His hair was in the kitchen.
Although some stains were smeared, Prévost said that was not definitive proof of an attempt to clean up the scene. The blood could have smudged, she said, if something brushed up against it.
Overall, she said, the blood patterns found and photographed around the bed matched what Prévost had seen in the online video. The court has not yet seen the film, but Bouthillier has said it will likely be shown to the jury this week. Prévost said she watched the video a second time while going through the pieces of evidence she would analyze.
Prévost told the 14-member jury she later analyzed some 94 pieces of evidence beginning May 31, 2012 while writing her report, including a toothbrush that had the DNA of an unidentified man. The rest of the DNA recovered in the apartment belonged to Lin and Magnotta, she said.
She first arrived at Magnotta’s emptied apartment May 30, 2012, and spent around 2.5 hours inside. During that time, she performed tests to determine the presence of blood and had a Montreal police officer snap photos of the drops, smudges and pools of blood, all of which she showed the court Tuesday.
Prévost explained to the jury how the shape of the drops can tell her the velocity and angle at which each hit a surface. One, shaped like an upside-down tear drop, hit a white door by gravity, she said. The dozens of tiny, circular drops on the heater standing near the bed, on the other hand, hit at approximately a 90-degree angle, the result of forceful blows. Looking at those stains, she determined the killing happened near the foot of the bed, she said.
Moving to the bed, Prévost said the brown sheet covering the mattress looked new, on account of the pronounced creases making it look as though it had only recently been removed from its packaging. Under the brown sheet, a burgundy shower curtain hid a large blood stain that soaked through the entire width of the mattress which, Prévost said, appeared as though it had been flipped, possibly in an attempt to hide the stain.
Because the blood had decayed, however, Prévost said she wasn’t able to pull a sample for analysis. That was not the only stain she didn’t test, she said. Although she noted and photographed every drop, she didn’t feel it necessary to test them all, believing she had enough to get a positive identification on the victim.
After analyzing the stains easily seen with the naked eye, she said she used the chemical Luminol, which glows blue when mixed with blood, to see whether there were any spots in the apartment with traces that had been cleaned or were on dark surfaces, such as a carpet.
Nothing more turned up on the walls, she said, though there were significant amounts of blood by the bed and on the sofa next to it, and on the floor near a table, in the kitchen and in the bathroom.
Prévost was the Crown’s 14th witness, who defence attorney Luc Leclair is expected to cross-examine Wednesday. Earlier Tuesday morning the court heard from the Montreal patrol officer who, along with his partner, was the first to enter Magnotta’s unit.
Peter D’Avola had been helping collect evidence from about 1 p.m. until 6:30 p.m. on May 29, when he was asked to go check out unit 208 at 5720 Decarie Blvd. — the unit Magnotta had turned into a crime scene and emptied out before fleeing to Europe from Montreal.
D’Avola knocked on the door, but didn’t get a response. He and his partner identified themselves as police, but still no answer. So they went in.
“I was struck by a strong chemical smell, mixed a bit with the smell of a cadaver,” said D’Avola, who had four years of experience and was a constable at the time.
Although he made some notes about what he saw in the apartment — a bottle of lemon juice and a blood smear on the table, that brown sheet hastily thrown over the mattress too small for it — his primary purpose was to see whether there were any people in the unit.
Finding neither a victim nor a suspect, D’Avola and his partner left the apartment, he told the court during his brief testimony.
He said he was familiar with the apartment building in the Cote-des-Neiges area of Montreal, having responded to a number — more than 10 — of drug-and alcohol-related incidents there.
Magnotta faces five charges including first-degree murder, committing an indignity to a human body, publishing obscene material, criminally harassing Prime Minister Stephen Harper and other members of Parliament and mailing obscene and indecent material.
He admitted to committing the actions of which he’s accused but pleaded not guilty. His lawyer said he intends to argue Magnotta was so psychologically sick, he wasn’t in control of his actions during Lin’s killing and dismembering.
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