Wecht casts doubt on hammer attack description
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The Mt. Lebanon teenager charged with trying to kill his ex-girlfriend with a hammer stood up in court today and refused to take the hammer from his attorney, quivering slightly as it was extended to him.
Veteran defense attorney Patrick Thomassey was trying to get Robertino DeAngelis, 17, to model for his star witness, Dr. Cyril Wecht, what the victim said happened on Oct. 31, 2007.
The idea, Mr. Thomassey said, was for Dr. Wecht to be able to estimate how much force the defendant was capable of inflicting.
Sarah DeIuliis testified Monday that the pair were walking on a wooded path together when the defendant dropped behind and hit her in the back of the head with a hammer. She also testified that he struck her in the face several times with the hammer from above while she was down on the ground.
The defendant gave no statement as to what happened because he said he has no recollection of the events. He was injured when he ran into the path of a moving trolley after the attack.
Mr. Thomassey asked Dr. Wecht, the former Allegheny County coroner, to review police and medical records for the victim and offer an opinion as to whether her wounds were inflicted by a hammer.
Dr. Wecht testified he believed the gash to the back of her head would have been accompanied by a splinter fracture or a depress fracture, a dent or chip, to her skull and "if one were to be struck several times in the face while lying on the ground with this hammer I would certainly expect there to be many more significant and severe injuries."
The cut to the back of the head required staples and she had a fractured eye socket.
He said a teenaged girl has a delicate bone structure and if hit with a hammer by a 5-foot-9, 175-pound young man she would likely have more injuries to the soft tissues, lacerations and defense wounds on her hands in addition to the skull fractures.
Dr. Wecht also testified that given her description of the attack, he found it "unusual" that the county crime lab found nothing on the hammer that could be tested for DNA, no blood and no hair. An off-duty county homicide detective testified earlier that he was the first at the scene and evidence was taken into custody right away.
Assistant District Attorney Meghan Black then called Dr. Karl Williams, the current county medical examiner, to the stand as a rebuttal witness.
He testified that if the defendant were wielding the hammer from directly behind the victim and made contact with her head, "I would expect more damage." And if she was hit directly in the face, he said, "I would expect to see a different pattern." However, he emphasized that the hammer could have glanced the victim, especially if the angle was not direct. He also said that the victim's hair could have prevented any bleeding from making it onto the hammer to be recovered as evidence.
The attorneys were to present closing arguments this afternoon before Common Pleas Judge Kim Berkeley Clark, who is hearing the attempted homicide trial in juvenile court.
First Published August 26, 2009 12:54 pm