First three witnesses testify in murder trial
WORTHINGTON -- Minnesota Assistant Attorney General Bill Klumpp began his opening statement aggressively on Wednesday by telling the jury he intended to prove Randy Leeroyal Swaney "brutally murdered Carrie Christine Nelson by beating her to deat...
WORTHINGTON -- Minnesota Assistant Attorney General Bill Klumpp began his opening statement aggressively on Wednesday by telling the jury he intended to prove Randy Leeroyal Swaney "brutally murdered Carrie Christine Nelson by beating her to death with a 12-pound rock so she couldn't testify against him."
The first three witnesses for the prosecution testified in Rock County District Court following the completion of jury selection Tuesday.
Swaney is accused of murdering Nelson in 2001 while she worked at the office of the Blue Mounds State Park. Shortly after the murder, a large rock that was missing from the office was found and determined to be the murder weapon. The case was unsolved for six years, until DNA results led authorities to Swaney.
Using the evidence left behind -- a watch, a pack of Doral cigarettes, a broken chair and DNA -- Nelson will tell us who killed her, Klumpp told the jury.
He intends, he said, to prove Swaney guilty on all seven charges filed -- three first-degree murder and four second-degree murder counts.
Evidence, he said, will show several palm and fingerprints belonging to Swaney were found at the scene. A watch with a fabric band carries DNA that Swaney and his wife cannot be excluded from, but 99.998 percent of the population can.
After both Swaney and his wife were questioned about Nelson's murder, he made phone calls to his wife, his father and his girlfriend, telling each of them he had never been to Blue Mounds State Park.
Defense attorney Louis Kuchera started his brief opening statement by agreeing that yes, Nelson had suffered a tragic and violent death, but Swaney had entered pleas of not guilty in her murder.
"The burden of proof," he said, "is on the state."
The areas that contained Swaney's finger and palm prints are open to the public, Kuchera reminded the jury.
"And there were at least 33 fingerprints at the scene that were never identified," he added. "Including one inside the safe, one on the cash drawers and one on a piece of paper found near the body."
After a noon break, the prosecution called the first witness -- Dr. Susan Roe, a forensic pathologist who performed the autopsy on Nelson's body. Roe detailed the injuries to Nelson's head and body while pictures were shown to the jury. Externally, Roe said, there was a lot of blood, bruising, abrasions and two chipped teeth. The majority of the injuries were to the head.
Internally, there were "massive head injuries," Roe said, listing off skull fractures, hemorrhages, brain swelling, skull compression and lacerations.
"How much force is needed to fracture the skull of a 20-year-old adult?" Klumpp asked.
"A great deal," Roe responded.
It is hard to determine how many times Nelson was struck, Roe explained, but she put it at a minimum of five times, adding that the actual number was probably quite a few more. The fatal blow, she said, was one to the right side of the skull, likely while Nelson was on the floor.
"In my opinion," Roe explained, "it was not survivable."
Using enlarged photos and a clear plastic overlay with a photo of the rock deemed the murder weapon, Roe showed the jury of five men and nine women how the edges of the rock matched the marks left by the blows.
The last two witnesses of the day to testify were two of Nelson's friends, who were both supposed to meet her after she got off work the day of the murder so they could go shopping together. When asked what brand of cigarettes Nelson smoked, one woman could not remember, but the other said she smoked Newports and sometimes Marlboros. The two women described Nelson as a happy, bubbly, loyal friend who was full of life.
The trial resumes at 9 a.m. today.