Dispute over DNA delays former Bridgewater councilman's trial in cold case
Share with others:
The trial for a former Bridgewater councilman charged in the 1979 homicide of a Monaca woman will likely be postponed due to a dispute over use of a report completed by forensic pathologist Cyril Wecht.
Gregory Scott Hopkins, 66, was scheduled to appear before Common Pleas Judge Harry E. Knafelc at the Beaver County Courthouse on Nov. 26. He has been lodged without bond in the Beaver County Jail since January, when he was charged with homicide in the death of Catherine Janet Walsh, 23, who was found strangled in the bedroom of her first-floor duplex.
The Beaver County District Attorney office's case hinges on the DNA evidence found in seminal fluid left on the back of Ms. Walsh's nightgown, on the white bathrobe rope tied around her hands and the bed sheet that covered her body.
That DNA matches a sample taken from Mr. Hopkins, but his attorney, James Ross of Ambridge, has argued in court that Mr. Hopkins' DNA should be there, since he and Ms. Walsh, who was separated from her husband and lived alone, were having an affair that ended the summer before her death on Sept. 1, 1979.
Mr. Hopkins, through his attorney, has entered a plea of not guilty. He told police he was with friends preparing for a pig roast at the time of Ms. Walsh's death.
In his report, Dr. Wecht argues that the presence of seminal fluid DNA on the back of Ms. Walsh's nightgown and on the rope around her wrists places him on the bed on top of Ms. Walsh's back at or around the time of her death. He said it was unlikely that the seminal fluid was deposited in those spots earlier in the summer. Dr. Wecht also gave his opinion in the report that Ms. Walsh died due to strangulation during sexual activity.
But Judge Knafelc issued an opinion Nov. 5 declaring Dr. Wecht's expert report and testimony inadmissible because his conclusions lacked scientific basis, were "too vague and imprecise" and were "speculative in nature."
The district attorney's office has appealed the order to exclude the report and testimony to the state Superior Court.
Mr. Ross filed a motion Friday requesting a bond hearing for Mr. Hopkins while the prosecution's appeal is pending. A hearing date has not been set.
First Published November 19, 2012 3:58 pm