BOWLING GREEN — Friday morning saw a succession of secondary witnesses in the deprivation of rights trial against Barren County Sheriff Chris Eaton, deputy Aaron Bennett and Barren-Edmonson County Drug Task Force detective Eric Guffey in U.S. District Court Western District of Kentucky in Bowling Green. Blood and bruises were the main topics of conversation, as four witnesses discussed seeing blood at the scene of Billy Randall Stinnett’s Feb. 24, 2010, arrest and treating Stinnett’s injuries.
Harold Feese, a member and deacon at Calvary Baptist Church in Glasgow, arrived about 5:30 p.m. Feb. 24, 2010, to attend Wednesday evening church activities. Upon arrival, he saw police vehicles everywhere, he said, and a lot of people were leaving as the crime scene was wrapped up. Feese stayed at the church that night to cover the hole in the church building where Stinnett had crashed his van, and the next day, he said he decided to go back to the church and check out the grassy area where Stinnett was allegedly beaten by the defendants.
“I seen a lot of blood back there,” Feese said.
He saw a puddle of blood about the size of a large grapefruit on the ground, Feese said, and there was blood splattered on an air conditioning unit and the outside wall of the church fellowship hall.
No one from the Barren County Sheriff’s Office or other law enforcement had cleaned up the blood, he said, so it was still very fresh. He told Kelly Billingsley and some other men at the church what he saw, but he didn’t report it to an official agency.
Bridget Holbrook, a forensic scientist for the Kentucky State Police, was the second prosecution witness to testify Friday. Holbrook specializes in identification of body fluids, DNA analysis and blood stain pattern analysis, she said. She has worked on about 15 cases of blood stain pattern analysis in her career, Holbrook said, usually receiving about two or three cases a year. As she confirmed to defense attorney J. Guthrie True on cross examination, she works in her other areas of expertise much more frequently than in blood stain pattern analysis.
FBI agent Mike Brown contacted the KSP forensic lab and asked Holbrook to analyze photos taken of the scene of Stinnett’s arrest and compare the photos to witness statements about what may have happened.
Making the assumption, based on Stinnett’s medical record, that Stinnett’s head was the source of the blood, Holbrook wrote in a May 2011 report that if that were true then his head was close to the ground when an object made contact with his exposed blood, based on the spatter pattern on a nearby air conditioning unit and wall. Working with photographs, Holbrook said she could not determine whether the spatter was caused by one “spatter-inducing event,” or blow, or multiple blows.
When Holbrook visited the scene in August 2011, about a year and a half after Stinnett was arrested, she said one presumptive test for blood, luminol, indicated that blood may have been present in small portions of the area, but another presumptive test could not confirm the presence of blood. Based on the visual appearance of blood in the photographs, Holbrook testified that the spatter was consistent with Stinnett being hit while he was lying on the ground.
Luminol is not a definitive test for blood, as True discussed with Holbrook during cross examination. Luminol tests positive for things like potato juice, copper and some cleaning products, Holbrook said.
“So a luminol test can’t tell the difference between blood and potato juice, right?” True said.
The blood spatter could have been caused if Stinnett were hit once on the head after his head was already bleeding from another event, Holbrook said when asked by defense attorney Buddy Alexander.
T.J. Samson Community Hospital attending emergency room physician Dr. Lee Carter and Nurse Practitioner Mary Anderson were the final two witnesses to testify Friday morning, as two of the medical professionals who treated Stinnett and Bennett for injuries the night of Feb. 24, 2010.
Stinnett had a “medium-sized laceration to the scalp” from sustaining a blow to the head, Carter read from Stinnett’s medical chart from that night. Carter has treated hundreds of injuries sustained specifically from police batons or similarly-shaped objects, he said, and the linear laceration across Stinnett’s head was consistent with being hit with the shaft of a baton. Stinnett had a variety of abrasions on his knees, shoulder, back and elbow, including a large abrasion on the back of the shoulder that Anderson said she still remembers.
Stinnett’s injuries were consistent with being hit by batons and fists, Carter testified, but upon cross examination he stated that the injuries could also be consistent with a struggle in which law enforcement officers were attempting to apprehend a resistant suspect.
Bennett was treated for a broken bone in his right hand near the knuckle of his pinky, commonly known as a boxer’s fracture or a brawler’s fracture, Carter said. It is almost impossible to sustain that type of injury in any way other than striking a fist against a hard object. However, Carter said there was no way to tell at what point in the pursuit of Stinnett that Bennett sustained the fracture.