DNA expert shares results in Fraga trial
WORTHINGTON — Resting in the trash basket of the Fragas’ bathroom was used duct tape.
In the first trial of Josue Fraga, that duct tape wasn’t deemed relevant.
However, in the re-trial of Fraga — who is facing murder charges in the death of his 2-year-old niece, Samantha — that tape has suddenly become important.
Last week, Fraga’s daughter testified to being taped to a chair in the bathroom and forced to watch as her father allegedly assaulted her cousin.
On Monday, experts from the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) testified about that tape.
Rebecca Dian, forensic scientist for the BCA, first examined the piece of tape and collected hair from it. Jennifer Kostroski, a latent print examiner, testified there was not enough ridge detail on the tape to distinguish a useable fingerprint. Josh Jorstad, trace examiner, said of the 110 hairs he received from the tape, only about 15 were suitable to send on for DNA testing.
Then, Alyssa Bance, another BCA forensic scientist, testified to the results of those hairs.
She said of the 15 hairs she received, only four of those were good enough to detect DNA. All four of the hairs had Samantha’s DNA on them.
A total of five people testified on Monday — the sixth day of trial — with Bance’s cross-examination yet to come. The state has at least three more witnesses left before it rests — something that could happen today. Retired Adrian Sergeant Brian McCarthy, Samuel Fraga — the defendant’s brother and victim’s father — and BCA agent Derek Woodford are expected to take the stand today.
Once the state rests, the defense will have an opportunity to make its case. Closing statements will follow before the jury will ultimately decide the verdict.
Before Monday’s proceedings began, the defense made a motion to prevent Samuel Fraga from taking the stand. He is expected to testify about Josue’s abuse when they were children. That motion was denied. Another motion to call a witness by the defense was also denied.
Lindsey Garfield, who was a member of the crime scene from the BCA was the first to take the stand Monday. She testified that her and Kris Deters were the two who were processing the Fragas’ trailer in Sungold Heights in Worthington the days following Samantha’s death.
She said because of the nature of the girl’s death, they were looking for items with blood or other bodily fluids on them.
Garfield said he found it “odd” that there was a roll of duct tape in the bathroom. However, they didn’t seize the roll because she considered it a house “artifact” and didn’t seem relevant at that point.
She also testified there was no feces on any of the garbage bags in the trailer. Garfield said she was informed that Josue said he got feces on his pants as transfer from trash bags as he was cleaning the bathroom.
Because the trailer had eight occupants — all of whom are related — Garfield said that would have an impact on what was collected.
Dian testified about all the items collected and where blood, semen and fecal matter were found on each item. That included items of clothing from Josue Fraga and his oldest son, and clothing and bedding from the trailer.
In 2011 — two years after the first trial — another item was examined by the lab. Pieces of duct tape found in the trash can in the garbage went for further testing. Hairs were removed and sent on, and swabs were taken for other DNA profiles. In all, three separate pieces of duct tape were examined from the trash.
However, no fingerprints were found on the tape. That could have been for many reasons, Kostroski testified.
“It could have been wiped away,” she said. “The person may not have had a lot of residue on their hands.”
Jorstad testified only a minimal amount of the hairs he received from the tape could have a chance to provide DNA.
“I determined these 15 hairs were head hairs and they were forcibly removed,” he said, adding that most of the hairs found were, in fact, head hairs.
“It took a certain amount of force to remove them,” Jorstad said, saying he could tell because they were still in the active growing stage.
Bance testified of the DNA results from all the samples collected. On the hairs, Samantha could not be excluded, but the others were because of their DNA profiles.
“The partial profile matched Samantha Fraga and did not match any of the other individuals I tested,” Bance said.
She had samples from other members of the Fraga family.
“They all had unique DNA profiles,” Bance said. “They could all be distinguished from each other.”
On the pieces of tape, Samantha’s DNA was also found. One of the pieces had a mixture of two profiles. Samantha and her aunt, Marisela, could not be excluded. On another piece, a host of family members couldn’t be excluded from the swab on the non-adhesive side. The adhesive side had Samantha’s DNA as the major contributor.
“With eight people living in a residence, it would not be uncommon to find DNA mixtures,” Bance said.
She testified no semen was found in the swabs taken from Samantha.
The trial continues today.