Pathologist: 'Very, very worried' about linking ex-councilman to 1979 killing based only on DNA

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A witness for the defense testified today at the homicide trial of Gregory Scott Hopkins that while it's possible the former Bridgewater councilman was near Catherine Janet Walsh when she was killed in 1979, other scenarios -- including the presence of another person -- can't be ruled out.

"I cannot say that based on anything that we've gone over here today, and the questions, that you can say that that is probable," said Michael Panella, a staff pathologist at Quest Diagnostics. "You can only say it's possible."

Today marked the sixth day of testimony at the Beaver County Courthouse in the trial of Mr. Hopkins, who is charged in the death of Ms. Walsh on Sept. 1, 1979. She was strangled with a blue handkerchief, her hands bound with a bathrobe rope, and was discovered that day by her parents in her Monaca home, lying facedown and covered by a bed sheet.

Dr. Panella testified today that while Mr. Hopkins' DNA was found on the back of Ms. Walsh's nightgown, the bathrobe rope and a sheet that covered her, a special light that can detect bodily fluids found other stains.

Those could include saliva and sweat, among other things, but because those areas weren't screened, Dr. Panella testified, it's unknown if another person's DNA was present.

Dr. Panella said linking Mr. Hopkins to Ms. Walsh at the time she was killed "based on just these areas of DNA alone" made him "very, very worried."

His statements contradicted those of forensic pathologist Dr. Cyril Wecht, who testified Friday that he found it "hard to believe" that Mr. Hopkins' DNA was found in those specific areas due solely to an earlier sexual encounter.

Attorney James Ross has said Mr. Hopkins' DNA was in those places because the two had sex in the bedroom three or four weeks before her death.


Molly Born: mborn@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1944. Twitter: @borntolede.


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