Pathologist testifies at Verma trial
Sep 12, 2013 / 7:03 pm
Warning: Graphic Content
The forensic pathologist that performed the autopsy on Brittney Irving’s body testified that she had been shot at least four times with a shotgun at close range, with each cartridge doing enough damage to be fatal on its own.
The crown contends that it was Joelon Verma, on trial for first-degree murder, who fired those shots and left her body in the woods off Highway 33 in East Kelowna.
Dr. Charles Lee, a former forensic pathologist at Vancouver General Hospital and now retired, says Irving’s body suffered five wounds, but believes one of which could have been a defensive injury.
She was shot twice in the lower back, once in the chest and once in the stomach. The fifth wound was on her left forearm and Lee believes that could have been caused by Irving crossing her arm over her stomach since it appeared to line up with another wound.
During his autopsy, Lee also found shotgun fragments in Irving’s body, including a flattened slug. Although no muzzle burn or gunpowder soot was found on her body, Lee also believes whoever shot Irving could not have been more than a few feet away.
The trajectory of the bullets suggests the two gunshot wounds to Irving’s back were fired while she was upright. The other two suggest the shooter was standing at her feet and fired while she was lying on her back, said Lee. Although he cannot say for sure what position her body was positioned, or that of the shooter.
Her body was found face up, and according to Lee’s testimony as an expert in his field, that is the same way she died and her body was not moved.
Another point that came up during Lee’s testimony was the state of decomposition on Irving’s body, as the court tries to determine the exact time at which she was killed. She was last seen April 6, 2010, but her body was not discovered until three weeks later on April 26.
Crime scene photos of the scene were displayed on a courtroom television, but Verma kept his head down, not looking in that direction as the first few photos scrolled across the screen. The cool temperatures of mid-April, coupled with the body’s location in a partially snowy area with little sunlight, led Lee to propose those details could have led to the slowing of decomposition. He also acknowledged that the wooded area and patch of snow found under her body may have aided in the absorption of Irving’s blood and why more was not found at the scene.
The court also heard that rigor mortis had almost completely passed through Irving’s body by the time the autopsy was performed the day after she was found, meaning she had been dead for at least a few days.
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