Wecht trial: A daily log
Share with others:
The trial of former Allegheny County coroner Cyril H. Wecht began in federal court on Jan. 28. The entries below provide a summary of courtroom activity each day.
For more about the case, visit our Wecht trial index page.
Federal prosecutors rested their case in the morning. Defense attorney Jerry McDevitt then rested his case without calling any witnesses and the jury was dismissed for the day.
• Mark Rohosky finished testifying about contacts he had with the coroner's office about the remains of his estranged late wife, Michelle Rohosky, whose body was sent to Carlow's autopsy program in 2005. He acknowledged he did not send a letter allowing the office to release his wife's remains until weeks after her death.
• Carol L. Baker, a funeral director for the Samuel J. Jones Funeral Home in the Hill District, testified that she handled the remains of Gretta Brown, a 71-year-old Hill District resident who died in November 2005 and was autopsied at Carlow University. She said upon discovering that Ms. Brown had been autopsied, she contacted the coroner's office to let them know the box indicating whether she had been autopsied was incorrectly marked "no." A revised death certificate to indicate an autopsy was then issued.
• David Donis, a funeral director for William Slater & Sons Funeral Home in Mt. Washington, testified about a 1981 letter Charlotte Kegel provided indicating she did not want her organs to be donated. When she died in April 2005 at age 93, her body body was sent to the Carlow program. Mr. Donis said the letter was an internal funeral home document that was never shown to Dr. Wecht or the coroner's office. He also said it was not the funeral home's practice to inform the coroner's office of instructions for funeral arrangements.
• Annabelle Vargay, the step-daughter of Lillian Takacs, whose body was the first to be documented by the government as going to Carlow in September 2004, testified that all she was told by the coroner's office was that her mother would be cremated but was given no other information about the handling of her remains.
• Nicholas Baich, son of Francis Baich, whose body was sent to Carlow in December 2004, said he was never asked by the coroner's office or gave permission for her body to be used for educational purposes and would not have because of his "Catholic beliefs." Mr. Baich testified he was estranged from his mother and had not spoken to her for five to six years before her death on Nov. 24, 2004. He said he did not claim his mother's remains because he could not afford to. Mr. Baich sent a letter releasing himself from all rights to his mother's property. Mr. Baich also said he did not visit his mother the night before her death when he was contacted by a nursing home saying she was gravely ill. He testified he was waiting to speak to a priest the next day about administering last rites when he learned his mother had died.
• Kay Sineway, the sister of Charles Dumont, whose body was taken to Carlow in November 2005, testified she never gave permission for an autopsy on her brother, nor was she asked by the coroner's office for permission. She said she contacted a Lawrenceville funeral home the day after her brother died to make arrangements. On cross-examination, she said she never had any direct contact with Dr. Wecth.
• Sister Grace Ann Geibel acknowledged that cadavers were routinely transported between the coroner's office and Carlow University, and said she trusted Dr. Wecht to conduct his business in an appropriate manner because "there was no one who would have understood the requirement legal, appropriate procedures, better than Dr. Wecht." She revealed she had signed onto Dr. Wecht's legal defense fund, created to defray his court expenses. Sister Geibel was shown a 1981 handwritten note by Charlotte Kegel, whose unclaimed body went from the morgue to Carlow, that read in part: "Please definitely do not make me a donor of any of my organs." Prosecutors Stephen S. Stallings asked Sister Geibel whether respect was shown to the dead in her case. "Anyone's stated wishes that are similar to what is before me here should be observed, of course," Sister Geibel said, as Ms. Kegel's note filled the monitors before jurors. Sister Geibel testified that she had never before seen Ms. Kegel's note and did not know if Dr. Wecht or anyone at the coroner's office had seen it. Mr. McDevitt indicated that the first person to see it was the FBI's lead investigator, Bradley Orsini, in January 2006, the same month Dr. Wecht was indicted.
• Crystel Gabrich, dean of Carlow's College of Arts and Science, testified that she oversaw the autopsy specialist training program. She said she was involved in October 2005 with creating an addendum to a May 2005 memorandum of understanding between Dr. Wecht and the school. She testified that she authorized payment to a livery service for transport of bodies from the coroner's office to Carlow.
• Walter Lyons, Greensburg police chief, testified about five parking tickets Dr. Wecht got in 2003 and 2004, apparently while testifying privately in homicide cases on behalf of the Westmoreland County district attorney's office. One prompted a mean letter from Dr. Wecht.
• Cora Stallworth, 60, said she contacted the coroner's office on behalf of her friend, Gretta Brown, whose body was autopsied at Carlow. Ms. Stallworth said she did not want Ms. Brown's body cremated and was not told her friend was used as part of an autopsy training program. However, she told defense attorney Mark Rush that no family members came forward to claim Ms. Brown's body and that the coroner's office abided by her wishes and did not have Ms. Brown cremated.
• Mark Rohosky testified that he did not want the body of his estranged wife, Michelle Rohosky, to be used for student autopsy training. He said his wife had been involuntarily committed to an institution because of mental illness and they had been apart for 25 years, during which time he had tried unsuccessfully to get divorced. "Michelle had suffered all her life and I wanted her laid to rest in peace," Mr. Rohosky said. "I did not think it was right for any medical experiments to be embarked when she was gone." Under cross-examination, he acknowledged to defense attorney Jerry McDevitt that he did not recall the year he and Mrs. Rohosky were married. He gave the incorrect year of her death. And he said he did not know where she was living at the time of her death.
• Joseph Dominick finished testimony after four days on the stand. Much of the questioning from both sides was related to his being targeted by the government in 2005 for possible prosecution, which led to an immunity agreement.
• Estelle Kokales, a Pittsburgh attorney, testified that she received through the U.S. Postal Service in 2004 a package with tissue slides in relation to a black-lung case she was handling. Dr. Wecht was the pathologist representing the coal miner's widow and she represented the coal company. Ms. Kokales identified a letter to her typed by Eileen Young. The return address for the package was Dr. Wecht's private office Downtown.
• Barbara Whitehouse, aunt of Amy Gray, who died from cancer in 2004, said she never gave permission for her niece to be autopsied at Carlow University. Ms. Whitehouse said she did not believe in "desecration of the body." Ms. Whitehouse testified that she never took possession of her niece's body and that the coroner's office cremated Ms. Gray, whose ashes remain in a funeral home across from Ms. Whitehouse's home in Elk County.
• Eugene Ogrodnik, president and chief executive officer of the Pittsburgh Institute of Mortuary Science, testified that in 2003 his group and Dr. Wecht ended an agreement for the former coroner to use lab space for his private autopsies at a reduced rate. He said they tried to launch a teaching program for autopsy technicians but the deal was never consummated because Dr. Wecht would not accept a change in his rent structure and declined to provide requested materials for insurance coverage and creation of the curriculum.
• Sister Grace Ann Geibel, former Carlow University president, said she never discussed, authorized or was approached about any deal to give Dr. Wecht free lab space for his private autopsies at the school in exchange for cadavers from the county morgue for an autopsy technician program taught by the former coroner. She agreed with defense attorney Jerry McDevitt that such a criminal charge was "reprehensible" and that she was "beside herself" at the accusation, since the government did not interview her before indicting Dr. Wecht in January 2006.
• Joseph Dominick continued under cross-examination, telling jurors that he believed at least 12 bodies sent to Carlow University from the county morgue were properly transferred under Dr. Wecht's legal jurisdiction over unclaimed bodies. He told jurors that he is testifying under an immunity grant that was secured after the government targeted him for possible prosecution following an initial grant of limited immunity. Mr. Dominick said a performance audit by the county controller's office in 2004-05, in which auditors had access to everything and everyone at the coroner's office, generated no red flags about Wecht details, Eileen Young's work for Dr. Wecht's private business on county time or chief histologist George Hollis's private work for Dr. Wecht using county resources. He said he was "taken aback" when he found out that Mr. Hollis was preparing his slides for Dr. Wecht on the coroner's premises.
• Bruce Hirsch, executive secretary for the Human Gifts Registry, an agency under the state Department of Health that coordinates donations of cadavers to medical and research institutions, testified that he is unaware of any agreement involving Carlow University and Dr. Wecht while Dr. Wecht still held public office. Although the registry has control over bodies and body parts sent for teaching and research in most cases, Dr. Hirsch acknowledged that in some instances his group's jurisdiction is superseded by that of county coroners. Dr. Hirsch said his group approved an application from Carlow University in March 2006 that was sent by Dr. Wecht acting in his private capacity.
• Joseph Dominick, former Allegheny County chief deputy coroner under Dr. Wecht, returned to the stand to testify about dozens of documents associated with 16 people the government contends were sent to Carlow to be autopsied as part of an alleged quid-pro-quo agreement between the school and Dr. Wecht. Mr. Dominick, who signed off on most of the death certificates that indicated no autopsy was performed, said he did so believing it to be true. However, many documents involving the embalming of the unclaimed bodies indicate they took a detour to Carlow for student autopsies. Mr. Dominick said Dr. Wecht informed him of the Carlow program and that it would involve unclaimed bodies for which family members either could not be found or were not interested, able or willing to handle funeral or cremation arrangements.
• Joseph Dominick, former chief deputy coroner under Dr. Wecht, testified that Dr. Wecht himself sometimes requested deputy coroners do errands commonly known as "Wecht details." Mr. Dominick also said that Florence Johnson, the secretary at Cyril H. Wecht and Pathology Associates, had both a parking space and an access card at the coroner's office even though she was not a row office employee.
• Bryan Hinds, the accountant representing Cyril H. Wecht & Pathology Associates, testified that he did not learn about Dr. Wecht's practice of having expense reimbursement checks cashed and given to him instead of deposited on the books of his private business until being notified in a phone call in 2005 by an attorney for the former coroner. Mr. Hinds said it was important to deposit such checks because they affect tax liability. In this case, Mr. Hinds said, Dr. Wecht filed amended corporate tax returns last year reflecting $100,000 in expense reimbursement income from 2001 through 2004, leading him to incur additional taxes.
• Diane Riggle, a paralegal for a law firm in Washington, Pa. Testified that she received autopsy tissue slides from Cyril H. Wecht & Pathology Associates through the U.S. mail in 2003 for a black-lung case. Ms. Riggle's law firm represented the coal company, Dr. Wecht represented the coal miner's widow. The firm was billed $520, and notice was sent by Eileen Young.
• Lori Peffer, a paralegal for a Pittsburgh law firm, testified that she received autopsy tissue slides for a black-lung case from Cyril H. Wecht & Pathology Associates. The slides cost $490 and she testified they came through the mail. Eileen Young sent the invoice.
• James Flynn Jr., Allegheny County Manager, testified that he never authorized Dr. Wecht to use his county car or county employees for private financial gain. He also testified about county policies prohibiting computer use for personal or non-county purposes and forbidding e-mail for "private business activities." The government has shown that Eileen Young used her county computer and e-mail extensively for Dr. Wecht's private business. Jurors saw documents signed by Dr. Wecht, Ms. Young and Kathy McCabe pledging to abide by the county's e-mail policies.
• Eileen Young ended her testimony after an emotional day in which she sometimes sparred with prosecutor James Wilson. At one point Ms. Young said her head was "spinning," and at another she said she was "under a lot of stress." Ms. Young sought to correct earlier testimony that among the incidentals Dr. Wecht told her to bill to his private clients under the heading of limousine expenses were toiletries. "That was me saying that. I apologize if anyone misunderstood me," she said. "He did not say that. Those were my words." She also stuck fast to her claim that her predecessor, Maribeth Blettner, told her to disguise her handwriting on the fake limousine receipts because she had done so -- even after Mr. Wilson presented a dozen limo recipts presumably filled out by Ms. Blettner that showed no discernible difference in handwriting styles. Ms. Young described the emotional toll of the investigation into Dr. Wecht, saying her attorney, Caroline Roberto, had forced her to cut off contact with Ms. Blettner, her close friend, and allowed her to meet only once with defense attorneys. She also testified that Dr. Wecht initially paid for her lawyer.
• Bryan Hinds, a certified public accountant who has worked for Cyril H. Wecht & Pathology Associates since 1999, began testifying this afternoon about handling the business's corporate tax returns. He reviewed a 1999 document showing that Dr. Wecht paid himself $540,000 that year.
• Eileen Young continued on the stand testifying under cross-examination about a variety of things bills for limousine charges, the move of boxes of Dr. Wecht's private files out of the coroner's office, FBI reports that she said failed to reflect favorable or exculpatory things she said about her onetime boss, the former coroner's work ethic, and significant expenses Dr. Wecht incurred to run his private business.
• Eileen Young, on the stand for a fifth consecutive day, finished her time under direct examination this morning with testimony about a stream of documents showing that Dr. Wecht made thousands of dollars in his private cases by handling conference calls while at the coronerr's office, including a 1 1/2-hour call in January 2004. Ms. Young testified that she regularly worked 12-hour days at the coroner's office to handle both the row office's affairs and Dr. Wecht's private consulting business, and then would work at home unil 1 a.m. The Wecht defense team finally got to begin its cross-examination of Ms. Young, going over numerous cases in which she billed private clients the correct amount for airfare or even undercharged them based on the expense information she was given by Dr. Wecht or his private business's secretary, Florence Johnson. She testified there was no scheme to defraud clients by overbilling for airfare.
• Eileen Young remained under direct examination for a fourth day. She testified that Dr. Wecht justified charging private clients for limousine rides he never took to cover incidental expenses he incurred while traveling, such as parking tickets, tolls and the purchase of toiletries while out of town. Ms. Young answered questions about the schedule she created and maintained for Dr. Wecht which indicated he often conducted lucrative work for his private clients while at the coroner's office during the regular workday. Ms. Young also testified about invoices sent to district attorneys in southwestern Pennsylvania for private consultations in which he billed for mileage when, in reality, he used a county car for transportation. Again, she said, Dr. Wecht said the reimbursement was really for incidentals. Ms. Young said she raised concerns to Dr. Wecht, but after explaining his rationale, "I felt that his answer was quite adequate, and it really made me feel better abot what I was doing."
• Eileen Young continued today under direct examination, testifying about sending bills to private clients in which she knowingly falsified limousine receipts for up to $90. Ms.Young said she was "ashamed" about what she did and realized she was defrauding Dr. Wecht's clients. Ms. Young spent much of the afternoon answering questions about overcharging her boss's private clients for airfare. Assistant U.S. Attorney James Wilson put Ms. Young on the spot several times by asking her to explain how the money billed for plane tickets was in some cases hundreds of dollars more than what Dr. Wecht paid for them. Ms. Young explained that she never saw receipts for the plane tickets, only handwritten notes from Dr. Wecht or one of the employees at his private business with prices.
• Donna Williams, a fraud analyst with US Airways corporate security division, culled travel information for Dr. Wecht in response to a government subpoena. She collected data for 152 flights, including itineraries, prices and any changes or upgrades. Ms. Williams today went over more than two dozen trips for Assistant U.S. Attorney James Wilson, comparing internal airline information about the route and price with statements from Dr. Wecht's American Express card. The government appeared to be laying the foundation for future testimony that will match travel invoices for the trips reviewed today indicating that Dr. Wecht overbilled his clients for at least some of those trips. The government interrupted the testimony of Dr. Wecht's former administrative assistant, Eileen Young, to call Ms. Williams out of turn. She traveled to Pittsburgh from Winston-Salem, N.C., and concluded her testimony this morning.
• Eileen Young returned to the witness stand, continuing testimony about using a fax line installed in her workspace at the coroner's to transmit information about political fundraisers and Dr. Wecht's private cases.
• Maribeth Blettner, Dr. Wecht's secretary from 1970 to 2001, continued on the witness stand this morning. Under cross-examination, she discussed travel invoices showing Dr. Wecht undercharged private clients for his airline tickets. But she also acknowledged to the prosecution one instance of using a fake invoice to overcharge a client by $700.
• Eileen Young, the executive assistant who replaced Mrs. Blettner until 2005, testified under a grant of immunity from the government. She told jurors that Dr. Wecht was "compulsive" about answering correspondence and described how she would take dictation during the workday ranging from thank-you notes to condolence cards to letters of recommendation.
• Joseph Thomas Rabickow III, chief histologist for the Allegheny County Medical Examiner's Office, described how his workload soared -- along with a backlog of county-related histology work -- because his predecessor, George Hollis, increasingly did private work for Dr. Cyril H. Wecht. Mr. Rabickow, who began working alongside Mr. Hollis in 1995 at what was the coroner's office, said Mr. Hollis handled ever more slides for cases marked "CHW" -- Dr. Wecht's initials. He was on the stand for about an hour.
• Maribeth Bletter, Dr. Wecht's secretary for 31 years until she retired in 2001 from the coroner's office, testified that she sent her boss's private clients bills for airfare printed on the stationery of a defunct travel agency. She also acknowledged billing clients for limousine rides that she knew Dr. Wecht had never taken. Ms. Blettner, who traveled from Florida to testify under subpoena, referred to Dr. Wecht as "Cyril" and said he was intimately familiar with travel arrangements and expenses. The government bolstered this contention by showing jurors a letter Dr. Wecht once wrote to a travel agency complaining about being drastically overcharged for a trip he and his wife took to Colorado. Mrs. Blettner said Dr. Wecht would dictate sometimes lengthy correspondence for his private cases from his county office, and that she would hand out checks on the premises from his private business to county pathologists for private work they had done for Dr. Wecht. She remained on the stand for the rest of the day and will continue under cross-examination when the trial resumes.
• Eric Buikema, a lawyer from Detroit, told the jury that Dr. Wecht testified for his clients in a wrongful death action in 2002. His client paid Dr. Wecht $11,139 for his fees and expenses on the case. Mr. Buikema told the jury that he never questioned any of the charges submitted by Dr. Wecht, and knew of no problems with them until he was contacted by the FBI six months ago. He said he was pleased with the services provided by Dr. Wecht and would hire him again.
• Myron Shapiro, a Miami attorney, testified that he, too, hired Dr. Wecht to serve as an expert witness in a wrongful death action. He said that he never questioned any of the forensic pathologist's expenses. However, he also said he was unaware of the discrepancy in airfare his client paid vs. how much Dr. Wecht actually spent on the ticket. Dr. Wecht submitted an invoice for a round-trip flight from Pittsburgh to Orlando for $1,218, though his credit card statement showed he paid $659 for the flight in 2003.
• Kathleen McCabe, an administrative assistant in the coroner's office, resumed her testimony from Wednesday and remained on the stand through the end of the day. Under cross-examination for the vast majority of the day, Ms. McCabe told the jury she often typed letters from Dr. Wecht in which he was responding to mail he had received. Going through more than 100 such letters, the defense pointed out that they were often notes of congratulations or encouragement. Ms. McCabe said she never met a harder working man, and that if she could pick a father, she would choose Dr. Wecht because he's such a good family man.
• Kate Creegan, an employee with Exxon Mobil Research. She testified about a trip Dr. Wecht took for her company.
• Peter Gordon, another employee with Exxon Mobil Research. He also testified about that trip.
• June Stimmel, the former owner of the Mercur-Lombardo Inc. travel agency in McKeesport. Ms. Stimmel identified more than 20 travel invoices Dr. Wecht submitted to private clients that were printed on stationery purporting to be that of her company. However, she told the jury that the invoices were not created by her, and that the travel agency actually closed down in 1999, and some of the invoices were dated after that.
• Eleanor Johnson, a medical secretary under Dr. Wecht in the Allegheny County Coroner's Office. She was only on the stand briefly.
• Janice Fawcett, a former histologist at Central Medical Center. She testified about performing private work for Dr. Wecht while working on hospital time. She stopped that work in January 2001.
• Theresa Cirelli, who works at Butler Memorial Hospital. She testified about an arrangement Dr. Wecht reached with the histology lab at the hospital in 2005 to process his private histology slides. His private business continues to use the facility for its work.
• Kathy McCabe, the chief administrative assistant at what is now the Allegheny County Medical Examiner's Office. She testified that she often had to type private correspondence for Dr. Wecht on county time. Among the letters she typed for the former coroner were solicitations for his private business; thank-you notes for campaign donations for both he and his son, David Wecht; as well as letters seeking campaign financing. She will return to the stand on Thursday.
• Dr. Omalu continued his testimony. Cross-examination began at in morning and Omalu remained on the stand through the afternoon.
• Ronnel Hamiel, a union leader who represented coroner's office employees, testified about a meeting she attended with Dr. Wecht in September 2003. She said that Dr. Wecht was unprofessional in the meeting, which was called to discuss a former deputy coroner's complaint that she was asked to run personal errands for the coroner during her working hours.
• Dr. Bennet Omalu, a neuropathologist who worked in the coroner's office from 1999 to 2007. He testified about performing private autopsies for Dr. Wecht in the Allegheny County Coroner's Office. Dr. Omalu, who is now the chief medical examiner in San Joaquin County, Calif., also testified that when he performed the private autopsies, Dr. Wecht's chief administrative assistant in the coroner's office would cut checks from Dr. Wecht's private business to pay him.
• Jessica Pikutis, who was hired as an autopsy technician in April 1999, told the jury that she became a deputy coroner in January 2000 and served in that capacity until she resigned from the office in November 2001. She testified that she quit because she felt by having to run "Wecht details," that she was doing "a thankless job."
"It troubled me because I didn't feel it was in the scope of my job description."
On one detail, Ms. Pikutis said, she was told to walk from the coroner's office to a Downtown sporting goods store to buy 12 cans of tennis balls for Dr. Wecht. When she bought a different brand because the store was out of the other, she said the former coroner was "irritated."
• Nicolette Romaniello Lupinacci, a former receptionist, worked in the Allegheny County Coroner's Office from March 2003 to September 2005. She told the jury that at a union meeting in 2003, deputy coroners complained that running "Wecht details," was interfering with them performing their work duties.
• Patricia Kurzawski, the chief autopsy technician in the Allegheny County Medical Examiner's office, testified for about an hour. Ms. Kurzawski, who has worked in the coroner's office since 1974, said that dissected brains from Dr. Wecht's private business were often stored in the county facility. She also said she once had to X-ray the body of a homicide victim from Fayette County for Dr. Wecht's private business on her lunch hour. For that, he paid her $50. Ms. Kurzawski also said that sometimes her autopsy technicians would be pulled from her to perform "Wecht details" if the deputy coroners were busy.
• Tiffani Hunt, an autopsy technician in the office, was hired as a deputy coroner in 1999 and served in that capacity until 2003, when she became an autopsy technician. Ms. Hunt said she switched to the technician position because she was tired of having her shifts changed on her as punishment. Ms. Hunt said that if deputies failed to perform -- or complained about -- "Wecht details," that they would be punished. Among the errands she had to run -- picking up theater tickets, driving Dr. Wecht and his family to the airport and delivering his mail.
"Did performance of the Wecht details impair your ability to do your job?" asked Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephen S. Stallings. "Yes," she said. She testified that Mr. Dominick had a "medieval" type of management style.
• Daniel T. D'Alessandro, the owner of the D'Alessandro Funeral Home in Lawrenceville, was called by the government and testified about the body of Charles Dumont. Mr. Dumont, who died Nov. 13, 2005, died of natural causes and was to be stored at the coroner's office until funeral arrangements were made. However, his body, the government contends, was sent to Carlow University for an autopsy by students there. Mr. D'Alessandro told jurors that Mr. Dumont's death certificate indicated no autopsy had been performed, when that wasn't the case. He complained to the state when the coroner's office would not reissue the certificate accurately.
• Richard Lorah, a forensic investigator with the Allegheny County medical examiner's office, testified about running errands known as "Wecht details," including shuttling Dr. Wecht and his wife to the airport. Mr. Lorah also testified that Dr. Wecht once wanted him to deliver mail to his son, Ben Wecht, who works at Duquesne University, instead of reporting to a fatal accident scene, in which a woman had driven her vehicle off the sixth floor of a Downtown parking garage. "The defendant said 'Just let them lay there, they're not going anywhere,'" Mr. Lorah said.
• Darlene Craig, a deputy coroner under Dr. Wecht who was hired in 1999, testified that she participated in "Wecht details," occasionally, driving the former coroner to the airport and shuttling his mail back and forth. Her most interesting testimony revolved around a death call the office received for a hanging in Plum. Before responding to the scene -- where the body was still hanging outside -- she was told to make three stops on a "Wecht detail," including at Dr. Wecht's private office, at Duquesne University and PPG Place. Ms. Craig admitted on cross-examination that she was told to make the stops by Terry Browne, assistant chief deputy coroner, and not by Dr. Wecht himself. Ms. Craig is now a senior forensic investigator in what is now known as the Allegheny County Medical Examiner's office.
• Curtis Williams, a deputy coroner, was hired in the Allegheny County Coroner's Office in June 1996. He works in what is now known as the medical examiner's office as a forensic investigator. Though he was called as a government witness, Mr. Williams praised Dr. Wecht and said that he was proud to work under the man. He did talk about running "Wecht details" that were assigned by former Chief Deputy Coroner Joe Dominick or Assistant Chief Deputy Terry Browne. Mr. Williams also said he was occasionally paid overtime by the county to complete the details. He compared Mr. Dominick's management style to "Hitler," and called Mr. Browne the "enforcer."
• John Smith, a deputy coroner under Dr. Wecht, was hired in February 1996 and also now works as a forensic investigator. Mr. Smith told the jury that he was once asked to walk Dr. Wecht's daughter's dog while he was on-duty in 1998. For that chore, Dr. Wecht paid him $25. Further, he said one time when he had to drive Dr. Wecht's son and daughter-in-law to the airport in the early morning hours, Dr. Wecht stopped by his desk in the coroner's office later in the day and dropped two $1 bills off to thank him. Mr. Smith said he was insulted by that. However, under cross-examination he told defense lawyers that he believed Dr. Wecht cared about him and that he was a good man. He also said that doing "Wecht details" did not impact his ability to fulfill his duties as a deputy coroner.
The government called:
• Edward Strimlan, chief forensic investigator, remained on the stand all day and testified under government questioning about two cadavers that were transported from the coroner's office to Carlow University for autopsies. He said that according to coroner's office protocol the bodies should have remained in the morgue awaiting communication from next-of-kin about disposition.
During cross-examination, defense attorney Jerry McDevitt, got Mr. Strimlan to admit that he did some of his own personal business from the Allegheny County Coroner's Office, as well, including selling T-shirts, known as "Reaper Wear," which included graphics of chalk-outlined bodies and slogans.
The government called:
• Edward Strimlan, chief forensic investigator for the Allegheny County Medical Examiner's office, testified about procedures followed in processing a body through the coroner's office (predecessor of the Medical Examiner's office). He spent the majority of his time on the stand explaining his role in working what were called "Wecht details," in which he (and other deputy coroners) served as Dr. Wecht's personal chauffeur and gofer. He described driving Dr. Wecht and his family on trips to the airport, to pick up theater tickets, and to political events.
Still on the stand when court concluded for the day, Mr. Strimlan will resume direct testimony Tuesday morning.
First Published January 29, 2008 11:43 am