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Expert: Victims suffered more than just wounds

January 18, 2012

Dr. Eric Very, forensic pathologist for the Pennsylvania State Police Crime Lab in Erie

BROOKVILLE — A forensic pathologist testified Tuesday that while gunshot wounds to the neck and trunk killed Wayne Shugar, there were also two areas of hemorrhaging under his scalp.

He also testified that Wayne Shugar’s wife, Vicky, died of a gunshot would to the trunk, and chipping defects on her fingernails were defensive wounds, suggesting that perhaps she was fighting off an attacker.

Dr. Eric Very, forensic pathologist for the Pennsylvania State Police Crime Lab in Erie, testified Tuesday for the prosecution of Steven P. Rebert’s double-homicide trial, saying that he serves in his position for 12 counties, including Jefferson.

Judge John H. Foradora accepted District Attorney Jeffrey Burkett’s request that the court recognize Vey — who has completed more than 4,000 autopsies and testified about 150 times in homicide cases — as an expert witness. Defense attorney John Ingros had no objection.

Vey said in performing autopsies in which the victim has been shot, he counts the number of wounds to keep himself organized; the numbering of the wounds has nothing to do with the sequence, he said.

About Wayne Shugar’s autopsy, Vey said not only did he suffer from three gunshot wounds — one to the left forearm, one to his left abdomen and through just below his left shoulder, and the killing wound, a shot that entered behind the left ear, penetrated the muscles of the neck and eventually cut his spinal cord — but he also suffered fractures to the front and left sides of his head.

“But there’s nothing specific as to how those two hemorrhages came about,” Vey said.

In further testimony, Vey said Wayne Shugar also suffered three direct localized fractures to three ribs in a row.

Burkett asked if the fractures could have been caused by a kick to the ribs, to which Vey said yes. However, when Ingros asked if the same injury could have been caused by a fall, Vey said that was also possible — but there was nothing exclusive through which to assign a reason.

Discussing the second autopsy, Vey said the gunshot that killed Vicky Shugar was a blow to her abdomen on the right, below her ribs, which passed up her left side, impacted where the sternum meets the ribs and through her heart.

Vicky Shugar’s hand also showed defensive wounds, which suggest that she was fighting or warding off an attack of some sort, Vey said.

He told Ingros that her nails were clipped and sent to the lab for analysis of traces of skin from a possible attacker.

The fingernails on her left hand showed chipping defects, Vey said, and a fingernail on her right hand had been bent back. She also had a bruise on her fourth right knuckle, he said.

Vey said her left ring finger also showed a contusion, a slight scrape and an abrasion on the other side.

When asked by Burkett if these injuries could be consistent with someone trying to pull a ring off that finger, Vey said yes, adding that she also had a dislocation on her ring finger, caused only by a substantial amount of force.

Vey said Vicky Shugar also had abrasions on her right arm and left hip as evidence by “parchment,” a yellowish-colored injury that forms after death.

He told Ingros that parchment abrasions could not be caused from a fall, but typically form as a body may be moved from one location to another.
Vey testified also that in both autopsies, fragments of food were found in both the Shugars’ stomachs, suggesting that their deaths occurred two to four hours after eating.

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