Prosecutors spent the full day Thursday presenting crime scene photos and physical evidence in the trial of Joseph E. Dixon, of Corning, who is accused of killing his former live-in girlfriend sometime around Thanksgiving 2011 in Gibson.
BATH | Prosecutors spent the full day Thursday presenting crime scene photos and physical evidence in the trial of Joseph E. Dixon, of Corning, who is accused of killing his former live-in girlfriend sometime around Thanksgiving 2011 in Gibson.
Steuben County District Attorney Brooks Baker called New York State Police Inv. Michael Lostracco, who investigated the scene of Dolores Warner's death.
Lostracco is a member of the Forensic Identification Unit based out of the state police Troop E Barracks in Canandaigua. The team has four officers covering a 10-county area.
He testified that he and fellow FIU members receive extensive training through the state police, FBI and professional development courses in identifying and preserving physical evidence including fingerprints, blood and DNA.
Lostracco also described the exacting process by which evidence is found, collected and catalogued.
The first part of that process is photographing every inch of the scene before anything is disturbed. The jury saw several dozen of those photos as Lostracco and Baker walked them through the crime scene step by step.
As the investigator described and the photos showed, most areas of the Gibson home had some sign of blood. Blood was also found on dozens of items throughout the house.
Before the jury was brought in Thursday morning, Dixon's defense attorney raised concerns about photos showing damaged and bloodstained lamps in the home. Attorney Terrence Baxter said jurors might conclude Warner was struck with the objects.
But Baker countered that the prosecution only alleges that Dixon bludgeoned and strangled Warner, without any specific theory about what he used to do it with.
Judge Peter Bradstreet agreed to allow the photos into evidence.
The photos also showed a house in total disarray, with papers, broken household items and clothing scattered on the floor throughout several rooms.
Lostracco pointed to evidence that seemed to indicate an attempt to clean blood from the scene.
Warner's body was also apparently moved from the main bedroom where investigators think the woman was killed, brought to a couch in the home's living room and covered with towels and clothing. Cushions from the couch in turn appear to have been moved to the bedroom.
Lostracco also noted in exterior photos where authorities allege Dixon tried to break into the home through a door and a window.
But on cross examination, Baxter called into question whether state police initially responding to the scene might have contaminated the evidence.
State police went to the home on Nov. 24, 2011 in response to a call from a concerned relative who hadn't heard from Warner in several days. Police said there had been a history of domestic disturbances when Dixon and Warner lived together.
The defense also suggested that something as simple as fans turned on in the house or airflow from many police personnel moving around the house could have disturbed or contaminated evidence.
Lostracco testified initially that investigators had tried to lift fingerprints from an exterior door they allege Dixon tried to force open, but that prints weren't clear enough for a solid identification. Baxter questioned why the state police didn't check more areas of the house for fingerprints.
He also called into question the level of control investigators had over the crime scene during the two-hour gap from the initial response until the FIU team arrived.
Lostracco said that response time is common, because of the large area the team has to cover.
The trial will resume at 10:30 a.m. today in Steuben County Court in Bath.
Baker told the judge he had only two more witnesses to call, but it's unclear how much time the defense will take to present its case. It's likely the trial will last well into next week.